Hacked and Jacked

Nov 14,2012

There are times when I really, really loathe the Internet and long to go back to the technology level of my childhood, when no one had an answering machine and even functionally illiterate people wrote letters to each other.

Two days ago I made the mistake of accepting an invitation to connect and share pictures from a man I know in a different prefecture, and since I've ended my relationship with Facebook, I thought this would be a relatively harmless way to connect. I'm proud to say I've rarely been so wrong about anything in my life.

The network is called Zoosk, and I'd never heard of it, but I think it's okay in this case to say a brand name on this site because I'm not promoting anything but rather performing a public service announcement to anyone who might accidentally become involved with said network. As soon as I joined this man's circle, my mobile telephone immediately lit up with a message from...me.

To say it was creepy would be an understatement. I looked over at my computer screen, and the same message arrived in my TPIEF inbox and was posted to the Tottori Exchange: Tremain Xenos wants to share pictures with you.

Oh. Oh. Dear God. This can't be happening.

I posted an apology to the Exchange right away, but meanwhile knew that this spam must have now reached every, and I mean every, address to which I ever sent a message from gmail. Fortunately, most of my friends know me well enough to ask if I'd been hacked, but a number colleages and coworkers came up to me the next day and apologised that they couldn't see my 'pictures'. I hastened to explain that there are no pictures, and they should definitely not click that link. A number of people to whom I mentioned it somehow knew it was spam right away by the look of it and simply deleted it without thinking twice. Its the rest that I worry about, and I'm talking about thousands and thousands of individuals, businesses, organisations and academic institutions with which I've dealt since signing up for a gmail account a decade ago. I wish there were a way to warn all these people, or at least apologise to them all, but alas, there is not even a record of the addresses to which it was sent, and I have no list of every address I've used in the past ten or so years. All I can do is apologise to each person who responds, one by one, and wish social networking sites had never been contrived.

I'm still on LinkedIn, but I'm not joining any others. For better or worse, when you're not on Facebook, you can't post a notice about things like this on your wall for everyone to see, and people also forget you're in town when they plan events and aren't automatically reminded that it's your birthday. Who is this idiot who wants to send me pictures?

As the saga continues, and is likely to continue for weeks at least, I'm reminded that HRH The Prince of Wales, who turns 64 today, was caught on film muttering, 'I can't bear that man, he's so awful', so in perspective we mere mortals surely shouldn't be so upset or embarrassed by our own mishaps. But we are.

Happy birthday, Your Highness, and don't do anything you don't want the rest of us to know about.

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