Category Archives: Education

What happens when the computer nerd gets hacked?

Hackers are bad
Hackers are bad

I’m considered by most of my family and friends to be some sort of computer tech nerd. This means that I am supposed to know more than the average person about computer technology. So, imagine their surprise when I got hacked on Facebook a few days ago. Now imagine my surprise that I got hacked on Facebook a few days ago.

How I got hacked on Facebook

I have absolutely no idea how I got hacked. Obviously the bad guy(s) had to break through my – what I thought was strong – password. The password I’d used consisted of three joined words (comprised of both lowercase and uppercase letters), one random punctuation symbol, and four numerals. This adds up to a total of fourteen characters. Should have been safe, right? Unfortunately, no. 

It may have been easier for her/his computer hacking software (no hacker really just guesses your password) to decode my password because: 

1. I used a short phrase (e.g. “LongLiveTheQueen”). 

2. I used a popular punctuation symbol (e.g. “#”, “!”, “$”).

3. The numerical portion was a four digit combination (e.g. Such as a PIN number, or a year, like my birth year, wedding year, or birth year of a child).
 

So, what did I do about being hacked? 

Of course, the first thing I did was to change my Facebook password and apologize to all my Facebook friends for the appearance of strange Facebook Messenger texts, emails, and even phone calls from “me” asking that they become friends (strange, they already were friends)and then invest in some sort of financial scam. 

The second thing I did was to use a feature of my password manager (the software that keeps a list of my passwords) that can generate passwords that are truly random and secure. Something such as “8aE@6QQ$17+5&d”.  

This is not an advertisement for 1Password, but it could be

I’ve tried many different password managers over the years (since 1978). My favorite is 1Password. Here’s why:

1. It works on virtually every popular computer platform – Windows PC’s, Apple Mac’s, IOS (iPhones, iPads, etc.), and Android. 

2. It allows you to access all of your passwords from all of your devices with just one “master” password.

3. It synchronizes all of your passwords and user information to all of your devices.

4. Email support is extremely fast and exceedingly friendly if you have a question or problem.

5. It provides 1GB of on-line storage to securely store your documents.

6. It works with most modern web browsers.

7. It works when you are offline.

8. It has an easy to use “app” on Windows, Macs, and mobile devices (such as Apple or Android).

9. It keeps a 365-day history that allows you to restore deleted items and passwords.

10. It’s reasonably priced, at $2.99 per month for individuals and $4.99 per month for families (up to five people).

1Password keeps track of passwords, Social Security numbers, software licenses, driver’s licenses, passports, bank account numbers, credit card numbers, and many other things. Their method of security is essentially bullet proof. Agile Bits, which owns and develops 1Password, scrambles your information on their servers so no prying eyes (theirs or the bad guys’) can get to it.  Check out 1Password at the Agile Bits web site: 1password.com

My family uses it so that we’re able to have access to all of our confidential information on any of our devices by simply having to remember a single password. 

Here’s my plan to remain immune from hackers 

Beginning today, I will go through all of our on-line passwords and change each to be truly unique using the random password generator of 1Password. No more using simple, easy-to-remember passwords. 

I’m starting with the important ones first (bank and credit cards, Social Security, passports, etc.), and then on to department stores, social media sites, and the rest. 

In this digital age, $4.99 per month for security is pretty reasonable, considering that most of us spend substantial amounts on computers, smart phones, and tablets. 

A final note

Secure unique passwords are only part of the not-getting-hacked story. Strong hardware and/or software firewalls and up-to-date anti-spam and anti-virus software are also part of securing your computer and mobile devices. 

I’m an autodidact.  Are you?

  

A phrase that I hear often from a senior in regards to learning about new technology is “I’m too old to learn a new thing.”

That’s crazy thinking.  Most of us are autodidacts (sort of pronounced “auto-die-dact”)  What the heck is an autodidact?

A dictionary would describe an autodidact as:

“A person who has learned a subject without the benefit of a teacher or formal education; a self-taught person.” (For more information click here Dictionary.com reference).

By the way… Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Malcom X, Benjamin Franklin, David Geffen, Jane Goodall and John D. Rockefeller are all autodidact’s.  That doesn’t mean you can drop out of school – or not go on to higher education. There are simply two (or more) ways to become educated about a particular subject – formal (school) and informal (self-taught.)

Two things that as a geezer (look that up!) I missed out on in college were – learning about (1) stocks and bonds, and (2) information technology.  The first, even though I was a business major, I simply didn’t take in college – it was offered.  The second, quite frankly, wasn’t offered because it had not been invented yet!  The two Steve’s (Jobs and Wozniak) had not invented the Apple personal computer in 1969 when I graduated from college.

It is often said that the things we have the strongest feelings about are the ones that we are curious and passionate about.  For me that is absolutely true.  As a kid I was “into” CB and Ham radios, kits that let you build electronics, photography and gadgets of almost any kind.  I was always reading books like “How Stuff Works…” My dad bought me subscriptions to Popular Science, Popular Electronics, Popular Photography and Popular Mechanics.

When the two Steve’s started Apple (1976) and invented the Apple Computer I had to have one of the first ones (the Apple ][ in 1978.)  My passion for gadgets and electronics and reading everything I could on the new subject of personal computing has led to a forty year love affair (the only one my wife lets me have) with digital devices.  As a baby boomer (1946 – the leading edge of that movement – yikes I’m almost 70 years old!) I’ve got a leg up on most folks my age when it comes to knowledge of personal computing.

My point of all this is that I’ve never taken a formal high school or college class on computing, photography or electronics.  But I AM a autodidact – a self taught person who has read thousands of magazine articles, DIY (do-it-yourself) books, and Internet on-line “webinar’s.”  In addition I’ve simply pushed myself to learn personal computing by “doing.”  Trying new things by pushing buttons, opening programs, and just plain exploring the hardware and software that I’ve owned.

I’m not sure that we are ever to old to learn new things.  If we have a curious mind, and a high degree of interest about something new I think it is possible to learn about something that previously we didn’t know too much about.

As my last official “job” (before retirement) I worked at Barnes & Noble for six years. The first three years I sold music and videos.  The last three years I sold, serviced, supported and trained mostly “oldsters” (fifty plus years old) how to use Barnes & Noble “Nooks” electronic book readers.  The oldest person I trained during those three years was a 94 year old woman who had a passion for reading and wanted the immediate gratification of being able to buy electronic books that were cheaper than paper ones, and that she could do at home.  If she could do it, so can you!

My advice?  You are not getting any younger!  If you haven’t bought your first smartphone or tablet do it now.  Don’t buy a desktop or laptop computer – for what you will be doing 95% of the time a large screen smartphone or tablet will be easier to learn and to use. My preference is Apple.  Why? – read some of my past blog articles.  After you purchase a device sign up for an adult class at your local high school or library or the Apple Store.  Next go to a Barnes & Noble, Schuler’s Books, or any good bookstore and look for books about the device you have just purchased.  Look for titles like: “iPad’s for Seniors.”  Open the first few pages and look at the published date.  If the book is over 1-1/2 years old – look for a newer one (yes, things change that fast.)  Look for books with lots of pictures and drawings and not page after page of just text.  Look at the index in the back – make sure it’s several pages long.  Now after all that you are NOT going to read it cover to cover.  You are simply going to stick it on a shelf and use it as a reference book when you are “stuck” and can’t remember how to make text larger, or make text bolder or ??? (whatever.)

Last, you are NOT going to learn how to use your new digital gadget in a day, or a week, or a month – not even a year.  I’ve been using digital devices since 1978 and I learn something new almost every day!

Happy computing older person (myself included)!  You are also an autodidact – and darn proud of it!

– Tom Gordon, the iTechGeezer