Why do my people perish?

I have been hacked! - One of the most commonly overused and misused words in the digital world.

Many times, we have heard of assertions and assumptions perpetrated by victims that they have been hacked. You will normally find posts – mostly by famous personalities – that their twitter, Facebook, or Instagram accounts have been hacked and that they are no longer in control. These victims will normally assume their perpetrator is a heavily funded tech-savvy individual punching 100wpm at a keyboard with a blue screen spilling endless lines of gibberish code.

Well, I'd hate to break it to you, but that's not quite what has been happening. The term hacking is sadly, and sometimes hilariously, the default word anyone would rush to proclaim when confronted with the possibility or reality that one or many of their accounts have been accessed by unauthorized parties. While this too is hacking, these incidences are mere scenarios where non-technical procedures taking advantage of victim’s gullibility are used.

Let’s therefore tone down the hacking cliché and melodrama. Instead, consider that you were just too careless or ignorant with your online activities.

Instance 1: A few days ago, while job hunting in the CBD, you entered a random cybercafé to download and print something from your email account. However, you let the browser you used such as Firefox and chrome save your password. A few days later, anybody with basic knowledge, or even the cybercafé attendant accessed the same browser and retrieved your password from the saved list of passwords. Now you are locked out of your email account. Is that a “hack” you fancied so much or is it ignorance?

Instance 2: You used a generic password across all of your accounts without regard for suggested password standards. Since you were too lazy to have a satisfactory password, you put “password123” or “wanjiku2021” as your password for Facebook, twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, etc. With a few lucky attempts, an outsider got wind of your password, effectively locking you out of your accounts. Isn’t this ignorance?  

Instance 3: In a hurry to the john, you left your phone or laptop unattended. Worse still, you left it unlocked. You may have entrusted the gadget to your friend for the few minutes. While your friend would likely snoop around but not steal your credentials, any other person in the vicinity of your unattended device may certainly take advantage of your absence. What would this be if not ignorance?

These are just some of the ways you are exposing your credentials. Many more online behaviors will continue exposing you to losses and blushes unless you take the necessary measures to safeguard your credentials. Always endeavor to have strong passphrases, refrain from reusing passwords, enforce basic physical security such as locking or shutting down unattended devices, and only use personal and trusted devices to access personal information. These tips, together with learning how to expose little about yourself online, will help keep your information secure. 

Let’s see if you get “hacked” next time!


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