Lessons from a Hack
You may have heard about the Equifax breach, but have you heard about the equally frightening Randlett hack?
My son complained of his computer not allowing him access to the website where he completes his online classes. A fully functioning computer is a necessity when completing online school. I don’t consider myself technologically illiterate … until something goes wrong with the computer. I was at a complete loss for how to fix the computer. (If any given problem cannot be fixed by restarting the computer, I am out of options.) I suggested we enlist some outside IT help … a.k.a my brother-in-law.
Of course the difficulty came up in the middle of a work day so I excavated an old laptop from a closet where it had been gathering dust while we waited for our IT help. Unfortunately, as soon as I tried to access the website on the old laptop, a warning flashed on the screen. It appeared to be a message from Microsoft warning of a virus in the system. It looked like a legitimate website but, just to be safe, I refused to call the phone number in the dialogue box. I searched for Microsoft technical support and found a phone number to reach a representative. (This should’ve been my first clue to fraud. Everyone knows that it’s nearly impossible to talk to an actual human at Microsoft. The contact number was so readily available it couldn’t possibly be valid.)
The fake Microsoft representative at the number I called was very helpful in getting rid of the warning. He cleared the way for my son to access the school’s website on the old laptop and magnanimously offered to fix my son Kaden’s new laptop. I suffer from a condition called extreme and continuous multitasking. So I was working on printing Spanish worksheets for my older son during the time Fake Guy was rooting around Kaden’s computer. Yes, I invited him into Kaden’s laptop. He had complete control of his system. (Feel free to shake your head in disgust.)
In the midst of the conversation, Fake Guy brought up the Equifax breach and implied that a similar hacker was probably in our system. He asked if I had checked my financial information to make sure everything was safe. Thankfully, a tingle of awareness stopped my multitasking brain for a moment. I wondered, “If I check my bank balance, etc. on Kaden’s computer, won’t he be able to see what I’m doing?” I didn’t even want to check on my laptop since I admittedly don’t fully understand how wifi works. Could he somehow see what I was doing on other computers in the house? I wasn’t sure so I checked my financial information on my phone after I removed it from wifi.
“Everything seems fine,” I told Fake Guy. A long pause.
“Are you sure?” he asked.
“You checked it just now?”
“Yes.” Why does he care so much?!
I guess Fake Guy decided to take a different tack. He began to show me scary entries on the computer made from a hacker in Mexico. He even showed me a supposed Interpol picture of the hacker who had put a virus on Kaden’s laptop. Another prickle of warning paused my multitasking brain. How could Fake Guy already know who had hacked me? And why would he care? Wouldn’t he just want to fix my computer and move down the list to the next troubled Microsoft customer.
He typed an offer for a security service into a text box — 24/7 IT help for 3 years ($399), 5 years ($499), or a lifetime ($799). He was planning to transfer me to the security firm directly so I could sign up for their service without delay. Now the feeling of cold dread dropped to my stomach.
“Wait just a minute! That’s a lot of money to just fork over without any time to even think about it,” I said.
“As a special favor, we can discount it to half-price since it’s an online tool.”
“Even so, I don’t make decisions to spend hundreds of dollars on the fly. I’d like to research it and talk it over with my husband first.”
Fake Guy hung up on me. I was staring at my phone in disbelief when I noticed something happening on Kaden’s computer. He was opening the camera app. I put my finger over the webcam. I was still so flustered. This cannot be happening. What should I do?
That’s when I saw Fake Guy deleting all of Kaden’s files, photos… everything! He even deleted the programs needed to restore the computer to factory settings. (Thankfully, it was nothing my genius brother-in-law and a paperclip in a tiny hole on the side of the laptop couldn’t fix — look out, MacGyver.)
I don’t tell you this story to embarrass myself or scare you or make you feel bad for me.
How did I get myself into this mess? First, I am clueless about computers. I can use the programs I know with relative ease, but I have no idea how they work or how to fix them.
“Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.” (1 Peter 5:8 NLT)
As Fake Guy was able to take advantage of my complete lack of understanding for computers, so the enemy of believers takes advantage of our lack of understanding of Scripture. Our first line of defense is to know the truth so we can recognize the lies.
Second, I allowed the hacker to have free reign over Kaden’s laptop because I was busy with other tasks. When I stopped and paid attention, I became aware of the fraud even if only subconsciously.
“Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people.” (Colossians 3:23 NLT)
As believers, we can get so busy with our to-do lists that we lose sight of God in our serving. We need to focus our attention on Who we are ultimately serving.