By now you’ve probably heard about the case of how technology writer Mat Honan was hacked, thanks to a combination of ill-considered security policies on the part of Amazon and Apple. The hacker turned out to be a 19-year-old whose goal was to take over Honan’s three-letter @mat Twitter account; he thought it would be funny to post racist and homophobic tweets from Honan’s account. The hacker also used iCloud to perform remote wipes on Honan’s iPhone, iPad, and MacBook, and while Honan was able to restore the iPhone and iPad from iCloud backups, he ended up paying nearly $1700 to DriveSavers to restore some of the data from his MacBook, which he had never backed up.
In the end, it appears that Honan has managed to restore most everything to pre-hack state, he has learned the importance of backups and online security, and he has published some good stories out of the experience, so it wasn’t all bad. But he was also lucky — the hacker could have caused much more damage, and in most cases of online identity theft, lost data is accompanied by financial repercussions from stolen credit card numbers, compromised bank accounts, and scams aimed at friends and relatives.
Many people — us included — have found this story tremendously unsettling. Although similar hacks happen to people all the time, Honan has done such a good job documenting what happened — from Amazon’s and Apple’s mistakes to his own significant lapses of judgment (not even Time Machine backups, really?), that it’s easy to imagine yourself in his shoes. Since Honan’s story first appeared, we’ve been talking internally about it, trying to figure out how vulnerable we’d be, what we could do to reduce the chances of this happening to us, and what we should recommend to you, our friends and readers.
Now we’re bringing that discussion to you, in our next TidBITS Presents event — “Protecting Your Digital Life.” It will feature Rich Mogull, who is both our security editor and a principal at the security firm Securosis, and the polymathic Joe Kissell, who has penned both “Take Control of Passwords in Mac OS X, Second Edition” for us and the “Mac Security Bible” for Wiley (both of which are several years old). We’ll be focusing on the best practices for ensuring that, even if one of your online accounts is compromised (which can happen through no fault of your own!), your entire digital life can’t easily be laid bare for these virtual vultures to peck through.
So please join us live on Wednesday, 22 August 2012, at 12:00 PM Eastern (9 AM Pacific) at the TidBITS Presents page (if you’re in another time zone, check out the Every Time Zone site to convert to local time). Or, here’s a .ics file you can import into your calendar. The presentation is open to everyone — we’re not limiting live participation to TidBITS members this time, but please, if you’d like to see us do more of these live presentations, which take a lot of work to put on, chip in a few bucks to support our efforts. We’ll be trying to keep the main discussion to 30 minutes, and we’ll take questions from the live chat at the end for another 30 minutes. If you can’t make it live, you’ll be able to watch the recorded presentation afterwards at your leisure.
We continue to learn about the best ways to use Google Hangouts On Air, so be sure to scroll down and read the FAQ at the bottom of the TidBITS Presents page before the presentation. See you at noon on Wednesday!