On the John
Once you get hacked, you never go back
Originally completed March 10, 2011
Ricky and I were seated at a table watching General record mixtape tracks when the first text came in: “I think ur email has been hacked,” it said, followed by another – “Yo, looks like someone is spamming from your live.com email.”
We were at a new studio, this one roomier and more relaxed, but still with absolute silence required during recording. Silent images flashed from a projector onto the wall – when I walked in, the screen was showing a clan of ugly rich people teaching their 12-year-old daughter/sister to work the pole, and I switched out the DVD in favor of Back to the Future Part II on the grounds that we needed something visually stimulating while creating music. (“I was plenty stimulated,” G said from the booth.) Recording resumed, and then came the texts.
I started responding rapid fire, my thumbs twitching on the screen, the only silent communication at my disposal not currently compromised by hackers. Those first two texts came from my roommates. I sent them my password and asked them to change it. I checked my email. Shit. 27 unread… subject heads like “Delivery Status Notification (Failure)”… others reading “Was that last e-mail real?” and “Are you okay?” and one just with a question mark. I tried to respond, but the flooding continued.
From a camp friend: “What’s this email I just got from you? The subject is ‘hi’ and it says it’s sent to (mutual acquaintance).” And then from my mother: “Did you email Jillian and Dad about being on TV? Or is this a scam?”
I was texting furiously with my roommate Rob when Ricky checked his phone and then whispered to me, “What is this email saying you were on TV?”
“God damnit,” I whispered back.
“Name of first pet?” Rob texted.
“Killarney,” I responded. “Yes? Yes?”
“WINNER!” I text-exclaimed.
“New password is FuckHackers1,” he responded.
And so it was done.
More emails arrived, and I was pleased to see that I had such danger-savvy friends. Nobody berated me for inadvertently destroying their hard drive. Many simply wrote back, “Spam?” One said: “Is this really from you? Didn’t seem like an email you’d send. I didn’t click on the link. The poor grammar and lack of proofreading seems suspicious… I suspect foul play.”
Another said: “I’ve identified this as something fishy because: 1. I’m pretty sure you’re not all of a sudden financially independent. 2. I don’t think you would ever spell ‘financial success’ with an underscore and misspell ‘success.’ 3. The URL of the link is suspicious.”
So that was pleasing. Not only can my friends spot spam on sight, but they trust my editing process and personal grammar standards enough to know when something is rotten in cyberspace.
But then I started getting emails from the over 50 crowd – friends of my parents, a woman I worked with on a political campaign, an old professor.
“That’s great, and thanks for sharing. Keep up the good work.”
“Are you posting internet links and making money from an e-kit like the lady in this article?”
I started writing back: “Thank you for the congratulations. Unfortunately, it’s unearned: I was hacked! Hope you didn’t open the link. I’ll be sure to contact you when I have actual success.”
By this time, G had steamrolled his to-do list, recording six songs in five hours. Back to the Future Part II was over, Arnold was yanking the bug out of his nose in Total Recall, and the hack panic had ended. Well, almost…
“Hi Jack,” wrote one of my mom’s friends. “Congratulations on your success. Those who know you always knew you would make us proud.”
Jack M Silverstein is a freelance writer covering music, sports, and community in Chicago. His first book, “Our President,” is available at Amazon.com. Say hey at twitter/ReadJack, and follow him at ChicagoNow.