Chris Trotter writes about hackers:
LISBETH SALANDER is the archetypal hacker: a damaged outsider; phenomenally clever; contemptuous of society’s rules; but possessed of an unflinching, if somewhat quirky, sense of right and wrong. Without Lisbeth, the journalist hero of Stieg Larsen’sThe Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, Mikael Blomkvist, could never have brought the guilty to justice. In a world of mendacious millionaires, giant corporations and impenetrable public bureaucracies, the hacker provides the only credible means of moving the plot forward.
In mythic terms, Lisbeth is Ariadne, the Cretan princess whose precious linking threads allow the Greek hero, Theseus, to find his way through the impossibly complex Labyrinth and destroy the Minotaur – the monstrous, bull-headed man who dwells in its depths.
Maybe whoever hacked Cameron Slater is a Salander/Ariadne-like computer hacker, but most people carrying out this sort of activity have minimal technical skills. Here’s what usually happens:
- You set up your accounts with gmail, facebook etc, all of which are password protected.
- You set up an account at, say, Adobe, to download acrobat reader, or Apple or Ebay to buy stuff, and use the same password as your gmail and facebook account
- Ebay, or Adobe, or some other entity with your account credentials gets hacked.
- The hackers post the list of account credentials online where anyone can download them
- Someone decides they want to hack you. They download a bunch of these lists, find your name, use free, publicly available, easy to use software to crack your password and then try logging onto your gmail account. Since the passwords are the same across both accounts they succeed.
Obviously the people hacking the Apple database are technically skilled, But Slater’s email and Facebook could, in theory, have been hacked by anyone with the ability to download a couple torrent files.
The way to prevent this happening are:
- Change your passwords on your important accounts. Use different passwords.
- Set up two-step verification on your gmail so that only certain computers can access your account.