We hear about various hacks through the news, and most of the time, we only tend to remember the statistics about how many accounts were affected, what details were leaked, and how much loss the company faced in the form of dollar bills. But honestly, these stories don’t hold much of a human appeal—and they should. Because the emotional effect of being victimized by a hack and the person cost it creates are all-too-real.
Let’s hear narratives about people who’ve encountered hackers:
A Hacker Sends Nudes
A reader from the Atlantic talks about the time a hacker accessed her email and began sending nudes to two of her male colleagues. The hack began weeks before she noticed something strange was happening to her email. In fact, she only found out that her account had been compromised by a male friend. The victim then discovered that the hacker had been sending batches and batches of her nude photos to her family members. The reader originally sent those nude photos to her boyfriend but the hacker made sure it reached most of her contacts.
After the breach, she stopped using email for personal matters and mainly used it for business matters. She also enabled two-factor authentication in order to protect her privacy.
Man Seeking Hackers
Joel Stein, a millionaire, wanted to protect himself from hackers. His method, however, is counter-intuitive. Instead of investing in cybersecurity solutions, he challenged hackers to hack his accounts. Initially, he challenged three self-professed hackers on the Internet to perform the task. However, they seem to be disinterested in a willing victim. Joel then approached random people including a journalist to do the hacking. They all bowed out even the journalist who wanted to study the case to make sure there will be no legal fallout in hacking Joel. Finally, Joel reached out to two hackers who worked on hacking him for three weeks. Joel was largely unconcerned and confident that the hackers will find no dirt on him because he lived a clean, honest, and politically-correct life. Three weeks later, the hackers gave him an 18,000-word document about the many lapses in judgment he committed in an email. He talked about one of his relatives in a negative light and the ensuing revelation was enough to embarrass Joel and make him see that privacy and security were worth protecting.
Documentary series host Kevin Roose challenged hackers attending Defcon in Las Vegas to hack his accounts. The hackers can only use a phone and a computer to commit the hacks. One hacker, Jessica Clark, used social engineering to get to his email account by pretending to be his girlfriend and fooling a customer service rep over the phone. She was able to block Roose from his own email. Another hacker, Dan Tentler created a phishing email in order to capture his personal information. Roose fell for the trap and Dan gained access to a lot his credentials. Dan could have made Roose homeless by draining his accounts and sabotaging his relationships with his workmates. Thankfully both Jessica and Dan were ethical hackers so Roose was safe.
As you can see in these three anecdotes, hacking exacts a heavy toll on people that are deeply emotional as it is costly. If there’s any lesson to be learned here, it is to value privacy, learn good cybersecurity hygiene, and know the many ways a hacker can get into your account.