How To Survive A Hack Attack

by Joseph G. Lariosa

 

CHICAGO (jGLi) – My column is not all about the heart attack that felled my 73-year-old friend, Augurio Camu, Jr., better known as Jun “Bote” Bautista, a veteran Filipino (GMA- Channel 7) broadcast journalist, who died last Tuesday, Sept. 25 (Manila Time).

Former Sen. Aquilino “Nene” Pimentel, who now leads The Pimentel Center for Local Governance, a foundation to promote competent, ethical and innovative leadership in the public sector, emailed me the sad news of the death of Bote, who covered the Senate during the time that Nene was a Senator and even up to the time when Bote was in the hospital bed.

Senator Nene described Bote as a “newsman’s newsman. Innovative. Enterprising. Courageous.”

The Senator recalled that(in the 1990’s) he was roused from “bed in the wee hours of the morning to receive a report on the progress of the negotiations of the surrender of Col. Alexander Noble (who staged a coup d’état in Mindanao). Lo and behold, Bote was there waiting for me as I came out of the room. And despite my plea not to videotape my disheveled appearance and especially my shoeless feet, I was later on told by some TV viewers that they saw me almost au naturel.

“Bote, my dear friend, what else can I say of you?

“You were a newspaperman to the bone.”

I agree because even during martial law Bote would often irreverently mock the legalese choice of words of then, First Lady Imelda Romualdez-Marcos, in her speeches for using such expressions as “thereat, thereat” even if she were not a lawyer but her husband.

I told Senator Pimentel, I saw Bote last when I visited him at the Senate in 2005. Bote pulled me aside, “Pare (my friend), you broke the media protocol when you took the picture of Erap (nickname of President Estrada).” Since I just arrived in the Philippines from Chicago, I told Bote (who is also a Bikolano), “How would I know that picture-taking was not allowed in Camp Capinpin in Tanay, where Erap was detained? I just arrived. And nobody told me about the protocol.” Bote saw the picture I took of Erap on the front page of Manila Bulletin with my story.

May Jun Bote rest in peace!

I WAS HACKED

For sometime, I thought I could never be a victim of hackers – those who use their  programming skills to gain illegal access to a computer network or file.

I did not realize I would be the last to know.

While I have no time to read the “forwarded” e-mails that I get in my in-box or junk box, I still take a quick peek at them to find out if there is something amusing or interesting before deleting them.

But there are email messages that I routinely delete. Those get-rich pitches coming from Nigeria or other African countries that promise me to have a part of millions of dollars in their possession. Or scams that say they have millions of dollars in a bank that need my foreign bank account information to transfer such money to my bank account.

Or emails about religion or a certain politician whose stand on certain issues is hard to verify.

I am very picky when it comes to opening files or web links forwarded to me. I almost always delete forwarded messages even if they come from my relatives and personal and professional friends. I always believe hackers are using my friends and relatives to forward those messages to me.

One forwarded message popularly used by hackers is that with sexual contents, including photos or videos and web links. This is embarrassing if this message circulates among your relatives and personal friends as coming from your email account.

But popular message about the owner of an email account being stranded in far-off city and needs X amount of money gets a short shelf life if the recipient would immediately verify the message himself by phone with the stranded friend before responding to the email message. Of course, changing the password of the stranded email account holder will prevent the hacker from getting a response from the message.

HUNDREDS OF ‘FAILURE DELIVERY” IN MY IN-BOX

But on Tuesday (Sept. 25), when I accessed my email account, I noticed hundreds of email messages in my in-box with title “Failure Delivery,” bouncing back to my in-box sent out by my own email account to the email addresses listed in my own email account. Luckily, the message had no sexual content nor had asked money from a distressed email address owner. The message, which has a subject, “hey,” was about a website advertising an Internet job placement agency.

It was possible the “hey” message was forwarded to me and I never bothered to delete it from my in-box. It then attached to my email addresses’ list and forwarded by itself in the hours that I was away from my computer.

So, the first thing I did was to change the password of my email account and tweaked some of its settings, including the security questions and answers. I also responded to some email messages, telling them that my email account was hacked. I also called up some relatives, who did not notice that the email message they got from me was from a hacker. It took me two days to delete all my “Failure Delivery” messages.

According to a Washington Post article, it is possible hackers, who accessed my email account, are among those who launched the cyber attacks known as “social engineering.” They are con artists engaged in identity theft and spamming.

They trick people, using email, known as “spear phishing” or phony Web pages. They penetrate networks and steal information.

“SOCIAL ENGINEERING ATTACKS”

The Post said, “Social-engineering attacks revolve around an instant when a computer user decides whether to click on a link, open a document or visit a Web page. But the preparation can take weeks or longer.

“Serious hackers investigate their targets online and draw on troves of personal information people share about themselves, their friends and their social networks. Facebook, Twitter and other social media have become prime sources for the hackers.”

It says hackers deliver a trigger to their target. “Once malicious software code is delivered, it burrows in and hides in a targeted network. That code, known as malware, can lurk for years in intelligence or attack schemes that are sometimes known as “advanced persistent threats.” Eventually, the code reaches back out to the hackers for instructions, often cloaking the communication through encryption or masking it to seem like innocuous Web browsing by an employee.

“Social-engineering techniques, including well-crafted e-mails, in elaborate hacks that breach security, load “remote access tools,” or RATs, siphon off oceans of data from victims.” (lariosa_jos@sbcglobal.net)

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