Dear readers, Wednesday Music is on hiatus this week due to some very strange happenings around here. First, I had no internet over the weekend, when I usually schedule my blog posts. That was inconvenient, to say the least. To add insult to injury, it went out the day I paid the bill on my internet account (that’s just a mean twist of fate, if you ask me) and I got a notification for next month’s bill the day it came back on. I think I’ll call the billing department and as for a reduced bill this month since I spent four whole days without the internet. It’s not actually that much money per day if you calculate it, but it’s the principle of the matter!
The next event that disrupted my blogging was even stranger than an internet outage. I’m almost embarrassed to admit it. You see, I’m very good with cybersecurity, but even the best of us mess up at times, right?!? 🙂 On Sunday night, I became the victim of hackers. And not just any hackers, but Russian hackers.
I woke up on Monday morning to messages on my iPad and iPhone that said these devices were locked and “Dlya polucheniya parolya, napishite email na [redacted email address].” Of course, there was a real email address there. I don’t want to give it out quite yet, not until I have a little bit of fun with it. Yes, the words were written in Latin characters, and yes, they are clearly Russian. The message says, “To receive password, send an email to…” You get the point. For those who haven’t experienced it, the lock screen on iOS allows you to enter a password. Obviously, nothing I tried worked since I had not set this password!
So anyway, I had no internet at home, no devices, no way of contacting the outside world. It was somewhat frightening. I went to work early and researched the issue. Unlike a lot of people, I didn’t care about the data on either device because it was backed up. I went into my iCloud account, changed my password, beefed up the security even more, and took control of my phone. I remotely wiped it, thus disabling the security. Then, I connected to the network at work and re-synced all my data. All I lost were some text message conversations, and those were due to be deleted anyway.
The iPad was trickier. Somehow it had disconnected from WiFi and would not reconnect. Locked mode doesn’t let you do anything, so I couldn’t select a WiFi network or anything. I ended up doing an emergency reinstall through iTunes. I downloaded a file from Apple’s servers and ran it to completely reinstall my operating system on my iPad. I was forced to update to a system I hadn’t previously wanted, but the good news is it’s actually working out rather well. I like it and most importantly, these Russians no longer hold my devices captive. I never even considered paying the “ransom money” for them. I would actually rather buy entirely new devices than ever pay extortionists a dime!
I spent a lot of Monday improving the security on various online accounts—including this blog! One thing’s for sure: I don’t want this to ever happen again. You see, they got into my devices using the “Find my iPhone” feature. The GPS is so accurate that it pinpointed the location of my devices with near-exact accuracy. My address was right there on these people’s screens! That’s actually the creepiest thing about this whole situation, if you ask me. The only saving grace is they probably hacked a ton of accounts at once. Based on what I know about what email addresses and passwords I use online, I am very certain this hack came directly from a breach at Apple. Apple won’t officially admit it—as they won’t officially admit a lot of things, like how their devices perform a lot better with periodic operating system reinstalls—but it’s the only thing that makes sense. The email address and password used in this hack have only ever been used with my Apple ID/iCloud. I am very certain of this. So if you have an Apple account, change your password before the Russian hackers get you!
Coming next: some tips on how to improve the security of your online accounts.