My favorite phrase is “You can never have too many backups!”. I’m sure you’ve seen it mentioned time and again here on DCT and my wife says I often mutter it in my sleep. Why do we stress this? Things happen. Bad things. No matter what the damage a proper backup can negate most, if not all, of the damage that occurs when bad things happen.
I’m not going to continue preaching about backups. What I am going to do is introduce you to Mat Honan. Mat is an accomplished tech writer. He knows tech. He knows computers. He should know better. Mat experienced a series of “bad things” that set his life on edge. Mat’s Amazon, Gmail, iCloud, and Twitter accounts were hacked. Mat’s iPhone, iPad, and MacBook were rendered useless. In a period of 15 minutes Mat’s life was turned upside down. Years worth of pictures, work, and documents lost.
I won’t attempt to retell Mat’s entire story as it’s best to read the detains in his own words and I HIGHLY recommend you do! A 19 year old with a bit of knowledge about how Amazon operates was able to take control over Mat’s Amazon account, which was used to leverage control of his iCloud account, his Gmail account, his personal Twitter account, and finally the remote wiping of all data on his iPhone, iPad, and MacBook computer. Was the 19 year old after untold riches? Nope. All he wanted was control over Mat’s Twitter account without any regard for the collateral damage he caused.
Here are a few highlights from Mat’s story.
In the space of one hour, my entire digital life was destroyed. First my Google account was taken over, then deleted. Next my Twitter account was compromised, and used as a platform to broadcast racist and homophobic messages. And worst of all, my AppleID account was broken into, and my hackers used it to remotely erase all of the data on my iPhone, iPad, and MacBook.
Had I been regularly backing up the data on my MacBook, I wouldn’t have had to worry about losing more than a year’s worth of photos, covering the entire lifespan of my daughter, or documents and e-mails that I had stored in no other location.
I should have been regularly backing up my MacBook. Because I wasn’t doing that, if all the photos from the first year and a half of my daughter’s life are ultimately lost, I will have only myself to blame. I shouldn’t have daisy-chained two such vital accounts — my Google and my iCloud account — together. I shouldn’t have used the same e-mail prefix across multiple accounts — email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, and email@example.com. And I should have had a recovery address that’s only used for recovery without being tied to core services.
Please take a few moments and read Mat’s account of the circumstances at Wired. It is well written, easy to follow, and serves as a learning experience to all.