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16 Million Email Addresses and Passwords stolen

They knew since December, but decided to tell us today. Investigations into a huge botnet turned up 16 million stolen email addresses, complete with passwords, half of them ending in .de - Germany.

I found out that my oldest email address, which I have been using for almost everything in the past 15 years, is one of them. I had almost expected that, given my level of exposure online, and I wasn't really concerned about any consequences, because I have been doing enough to protect my computers, and online accounts, and identities.  

Just in case you want to know what I'd recommend for your protection - and peace of mind:

  • For your online activities use an email address that does not contain your name
  • Use a unique, different password for every online account
  • Create complex passwords, using a system that is easy for you to remember
  • Change your passwords for everything every three months, or even more often
  • Keep your virus protection and firewall on all your computers up to date.
  • Scan all your computers for malware with multiple, different programs a least monthly
  • Turn all your computers off when you are not using them




Back in the Saddle again

Honda2013.jpgEleven days ago my motorcycle suffered considerable damage due to no fault of my own. I was on my way to work, stopped at a traffic light, when some guy in a burgundy car rear-ended me.

The bike jumped forward a foot, then fell over onto the left side. As I crawled out from underneath, the driver got out of his car to see what he'd done. He asked if I was OK, said he was sorry, and helped me pick up the bike.

When I inspected the rear end and realized, that this was not going to be cheap, the man told me he didn't have insurance (!?). There was a traffic jam forming around us, so I agreed when he suggested that we pull over, onto this parking lot, out of danger, to negotiate how to proceed.

He got in his car - while I realized my clutch lever was bent from the fall, so I couldn't drive. It took me a minute to bend the lever straight to make it operable again. That was enough time for my opponent to drive away.

I don't fully remember how I rode to work after that.

After I had filed a police report, called my husband, and contacted my insurance company to start a claim, it dawned on me that I had made at least three mistakes in handling this incident:

  • I should have called 9-1-1 immediately
  • I should have taken a picture with my cellphone
  • I should have wrote down the car's license plate number

Surprisingly enough, despite all these mistakes, the whole thing went really well after all!

I was just a little sore for a few days; my insurance company handed me a check for the repairs (minus my deductible) within six days; and the repair shop had my bike fixed today. 

You wouldn't be able to tell that anything ever happened!



Flying mattress

My plans for a relaxing evening working out at the YMCA were abruptly cancelled by a mattress flying off a truck two cars ahead of me. The traffic light at the intersection of Washington Center and Coldwater had just turned green. Everybody was close behind each other and accelerating when a queen size mattress fell off the back of this truck. The driver ahead of me barely managed to stop right before the mattress. I slammed on my breaks as hard as I could, but still bumped into the back of that red Dodge. The SUV behind me didn't stop quite as quickly and rear-ended my van hard.

Nobody was seriously injured. Just my back now hurts a lot due to the blow from behind. The car in front of me got a small ding in the back fender and some paint scraped off where my front hit it. The plastic part of my front fender is cracked. The back door of my van is bent so much that it doesn't open anymore, and the back fender will have to be replaced too. The car behind me was leaking coolant and had the entire front badly smashed. He needed towing. 20100916_0001.JPG

The person who lost their mattress never even bothered to stop.


Nancy passed away

My mother-in-law lost her final battle against cancer today at 3:53 p.m.
When her time came to say good-bye she did so gracefully, in peace, and with dignity. She had a smile on her face and was sitting in her favorite recliner at home, surrounded by her family.


Thief at Work

I'm still not sure whether to feel traumatized or extremely lucky. Today while I was enjoying the perfect sunshine outside, walking for my lunch-break, somebody entered the office, opened my desk drawer, took the wallet out of my purse, and went to buy a whole bunch of stuff with the two credit cards in it.

I found out about four hours later, when I got ready to go home, and got my glasses out of the purse. There I noticed the wallet was missing. Just the wallet, nothing else. That wallet contained only two credit cards, my health insurance card, the library card, a few stamps, and about $20 cash. There are other things in my purse that I consider more valuable, but those things are still with me - which is why I'll probably end up feeling extremely lucky.

When I got home and called the credit card companies, I found out that one of the cards had already been reported to the bank as found, about half an hour after being stolen, by some lady not too far away from Indiana Tech. Later on I went to meet with that woman. She told me how and when and where she had found my card and gave it back to me.

From now on I will have to keep my desk drawer locked at work.
That's sad. 

update 4/5/2010
the truth is partially out

I reported the incident to the police. During the investigation I found out more details, and I realized that my initial assessment was not completely correct.

My wallet had been stolen between 9:40 a.m. and 9:57 a.m. already, not during my lunch walk. The person who did this had done the same thing last year at other businesses downtown. My stolen credit cards had been used by two different people, who must have gotten them from the thief. One of the people using my cards didn't even spell my name right when forging my signature.

There's a good chance that the two users of my cards will go to jail.
Hopefully the thief will go down too, sooner or later.

update 4/22/2010
it happened again!

Today, around 8:15 a.m., the same thief walked into another building on campus and stole a colleague's wallet out of her purse, out of her closed overhead bin, out of her office. She found out quicker than I had, before the thief even had a chance to use any of her stolen cards.
Too bad, that knowing what the thief looks like doesn't help you to catch him. You would have to see him actually stealing something. Just suspicious behaviour, documented on surveillance video, doesn't count in court.