Category Archives: Technology

The strange dissonance of having one’s email hacked

I was driving up to the Catskills for an overnight with the family when, apparently, my email started spewing spam. I didn’t get into range of a wi-fi until several minutes passed, at which time I was greeted with 95 “mail undeliverable” notices and many tweets, of which these two were the first:

Hoo boy.

Naturally, I changed my password on the spot, but roughly 45 emails were sent to 300+ recipients. (Obviously, there were a fair number of old addresses in there.) The emails contained links to various sites, none of which I clicked on. Later that evening, I sent emails to those affected to urge them not to click on said links. Ideally, they’ll also retrieve my email address from the doomed depths of the spam folder.

The emails themselves were pretty dumb. They were a link and a silly quote and…that’s it. Of course, each email was sent to several recipients, meaning that private email addresses from authors were mixed in with my mortgage lender, my friends from college and a number of fine customer service folks from places like United, the Gap and DharmaCrafts. (What? I contain multitudes, yo.)

Email is, in a way, an extension of my voice, and it was dissonant to see someone else pulling those strings. No, I’m not saying I’m lost without my email, because I rather enjoy being unplugged when I can swing it. But it’s one of my chief ways of talking to other people these days, and having someone come in and send crap around in my name is just strange. I don’t feel violated or anything because, well, I have some perspective on my life. But it was weird. 

Thankfully, most folks saw right through it and recognized it as spam, including this Twitter correspondent:

I like Scott.

Anyway, you can learn from my mistakes. For one, I hadn’t changed my password on my email account since 2010 — and even then, I think all I did was to add a digit or two. It was stupid-simple, and in retrospect, I’m surprised it went as long as it did without getting compromised. So switch up your passwords.

I also turned on Google’s two-step authentication. Now, when I log in from computers not my own, it’ll require a code sent to my phone. At first I’m all like, “What a pain in the ass.” But I quickly realized that A) I always have my phone on me, and B) I just got hacked, so shut up. Two-step authentication for the win. I also created a unique email password for my phone, too. So that’s good.

Lots of folks suggested a variety of ways and systems to keep passwords secure and squared away, and I’ll be checking those out as well. I’ll also be keeping an eye on my bank account and credit history for a while, because while I’m fairly careful about transmitting such things via email, who knows what tidbits someone might glean?

Anyway, it’s a relatively minor annoyance for now. I reached out to folks to apologize and correct, and that’s that. If you got one from me, I’m sorry about that and I’ve tightened up my security. I’m doubly sorry about the private email addresses that got broadcast, and doubly appreciative how much folks have been understanding and helpful. Thanks to Wes and John and about a dozen others who were quick to notify me. You guys rock.

 

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What’s in a name? What if it’s Enterprise?

https://i2.wp.com/upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/6/67/Enterprise_Cruising.JPG

The now-retired U.S.S. Enterprise. For all who served aboard her over the past half-century, thank you. (Wikipedia Commons)

I noted with a bit of nostalgia and sadness that the United States Navy aircraft carrier CVN-65 was deactivated on Saturday. You may recognize her name: U.S.S. Enterprise.

Since a certain television show took to the airwaves in 1966, the name Enterprise has been synonymous with adventure and a variety of traditions, including a few hardly envisioned by the first to christen a vessel as such. Yet between the fictional and the historical, Enterprise has become an immense cultural touchstone — and for me, as an author of both science-fiction and alternate history, it raises an interesting question.

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Why explore Mars?

As I write this, the Twitter feed belonging to the Mars Curiosity rover has reported “feeling” the tug of Mars’ gravity and is just 34 hours away from touchdown. Of course, the rover isn’t Tweeting from 352 million miles away; that honor probably goes to NASA’s social media department (which is doing a fabulous job, by the way). But it’s pretty cool to think that this car-sized, man-made object is communicating with Earth from such a distance.

I’m a sci-fi/fantasy author, so as you can imagine, I’m rather excited about the Curiosity mission. The rover already makes a cameo appearance in The Daedalus Incident (as does the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter), so I do hope it makes it there in one piece. I’d hate to edit out such an ambitious and exciting mission.

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Trick out your iPhone, Star Wars style

“It’s taking forever to download Angry Birds on this thing.”

Let’s face it. I’m a geek. Lord of the Rings (books and films), Star Trek, Firefly…pick one and I will go to town. But I have a real soft spot in my heart for Star Wars. It was my first real experience with science fiction, at the tender age of five, and I’ve been hooked since. There’s no doubt that Star Wars had an influence on my book Spacebuckler — an epic tale in a fantastical setting that harkens back to the mythic hero’s journey.

I take pride in my fandom, and to that end, I decided to trick out the one thing I carry with me 99.9% of the time: my iPhone. And in the spirit of geeking out, I thought I’d share how I did it.

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Steve Jobs and human evolution

Back during the dot-com days, when I was covering Microsoft in Seattle for ABCNEWS.com and The Associated Press, there was one sure-fire way to get the Microsofties going during interviews — mention Steve Jobs and/or Apple. It was like winding up an old mechanical toy and watching it go. This worked particularly well on Steve Ballmer, I might add.

I’m not one to use the word visionary lightly, because I’ve seen it applied too many times to too many people who didn’t deserve it. But I think Steve qualifies. Now, let’s be clear. He didn’t cure disease or fight poverty. He was a sharp, shrewd businessman who wanted his company to succeed. But he was still a visionary when it came to figuring out how you and I should interact with our computers, our devices and our data.

And in doing so, he may very well have had the greatest impact on human evolution any single person could have in one lifetime. Continue reading

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