What I Learned From Being Hacked

A few weeks ago, my wife and I both found ourselves on the bad end of some outgoing e-mails.

Both of our primary personal accounts had been hacked.

It was about as mild of a hack as you could ask for.  Everybody on our address lists received a spammy type email from us.

The e-mails actually came from the account as they were in our sent folder.  We both got alerted as we saw messages from each other arrive, followed by a slew of ‘undeliverable’ messages for address book entries that were out of date.

by dampeebe, on Flickr

I think one of our home machines had been compromised somehow, which I’ve since corrected and ensured shouldn’t happen again by making sure to do regular scans, but it taught me a few things:

  • Yahoo stinks – Even though the messages originated from my actual account, the message content and volume should have, in my opinion, triggered something to prevent the outflow of e-mails or at the very least, alerted me to a potential problem.  Outside of a few people e-mailing me back saying “Um, I think you have a problem” nothing ever got done.
  • Hotmail does too – My wife used Hotmail and ditto goes for that.
  • Gmail is pretty awesome – I had a Gmail account that it also happened to, and the reason I think that Yahoo and Hotmail should have prevented the flow of emails and locked the account is because Gmail did exactly that.  They also have a link on all Gmail pages (bottom right) where you can see exactly where and when your account was accessed.  Turns out that someone in Jamaica was the one having fun.  I was able to verify that this was in fact not a welcome login, which hopefully allowed them to flag the location and IP address to avoid other attacks.  After all this, my wife and I both ceased use of our Yahoo and Hotmail accounts, and moved to Gmail
  • Computer security is key – I had gotten lax on making sure that the computers were up to date.  From out of date virus definition files to spyware sensing software that hadn’t been run in over a year, we were not in good shape.  Every machine now updates and scans automatically, and I do a forced scan on every machine monthly.
  • Password updates are key – We hadn’t changed our passwords on e-mail accounts in a long time.  I’m talking years.  I now change all my e-mail and other key passwords monthly.
  • Password differentiation is key – We got lucky in that nothing worse happened.  It could have.  After all this happened, I realized that my password on my e-mail was the same as it was on my credit card account as it was on my bank account.  The usernames were different but only slightly.  This means that a more determined hacker could have likely done some serious damage if they did indeed have actual credentials.  Lucky they didn’t, but I now make sure my passwords are different across sites so that if someone gets their hand on one password, it doesn’t open the door to other access.

Have you been on the wrong end of a hack?  Was your hacker determined or was the damage minimal?

Copyright 2017 Original content authorized only to appear on Money Beagle. Please subscribe via RSS, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or receive e-mail updates. Thank you for reading.

What Are The Alternatives To Netflix?

I was talking to my wife about Netflix and told her about last weeks announcement that included the statistic that over 800,000 subscribers quit last quarter and how their stock has fallen around 75% since they started messing with their pricing and other ill-advised strategies that have riled up their customers and sent investors panicking.

She asked me “What are people using instead?”

Good question.

Here are some of the Netflix alternatives I can come up with off the top of my head.

  1. Redbox – The kiosks are at many grocery stores and other common shopping places around town.  They’re cheap (though I heard they just raised prices too?) but you’re limited as to whether they have a movie in stock that is of interest to you.  We’ve never used Redbox.
  2. Video store – You could still go to your corner video store.  If this even exists.  Most of the video stores within a five mile radius of our house have closed within the last two years, with the latest victim a Blockbuster.  We haven’t rented a movie from a video store in years.
  3. Cable – We get Starz as part of our Digital cable package.  They have movies On Demand that we sometimes watch reguarly.  You can also ‘rent’ movies from the ‘On Demand’ service as well as Pay-Per-View.  We’ve never done that but many movies are $2.99 so it could be well worth it.
  4. The internet – I’ve watched a few things streaming but only on a laptop or desktop monitor, which is admittedly a step backward if you ask me.  We don’t have our TV hooked up to the Internet, but I know Roku boxes these days are dirt cheap, and you can find shows to watch for free or for a low cost subscription (such as Amazon Prime).  I’ve been tempted but haven’t gone down this path yet.
  5. Library – Our library gets a good selection of videos.  Renting movies from the library has been our main source of substitution since we put our Netflix subscription on hold at the beginning of the year.

I think Netflix blew it because they assumed that once they ‘beat’ Blockbuster, they had cornered the market on video services.  Except, as it turns out, there are more options turning up that customers are happy to deal with.

What options do you use alongside or in place of Netflix?  Did I miss any big ones off my list?

Copyright 2017 Original content authorized only to appear on Money Beagle. Please subscribe via RSS, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or receive e-mail updates. Thank you for reading.

5 Emotional Stages Of Your New iPhone (Or Other Gadget)

Attention, all you proud, new iPhone 4S owners, let me just say congrats on your new purchase.  Siri sounds like a great new feature, and I’m glad you have that, as well as bragging rights on just about any tech product out there.

I’ll also say this: Enjoy it will it lasts.

Because it won’t.

I know you don’t want to hear it, but it’s true.  Look around at your old iPhone.  Look at the flat screen TV over in the other room.  The iPad.  The laptop.  The desktop.

They were all your new ‘Ohmygod-lookatmenow’ gadget at one time or another.  They’re not anymore.  And one day, neither will your iPhone be!

I think there are five emotional stages that we all go through when it comes to the cool techie electronic things.

Right now, all you iPhone 4S users are in the midst of stage 1.  But check this page back in six months or a year and let me know where you are.

1. The ‘Love Boat’ phase

What this means: “Exciting and new” is the only way to describe this.  You’re going to pull that iPhone out of your pocket for any reason possible.  If someone so much as looks at it, you will be in their face showing off the cool features.

If it breaks: If you’re in stage 1, and your item breaks, you would consider throwing yourself from a bridge in depression.

2. It’s pretty cool!

What this means: You still love your iPhone, but you’ve now noticed that so many people have one that you no longer show it off as much.  You still love it but are now comfortable enough with it and have had it long enough that the ‘wow’ factor of all the new features no longer thrills you.

If it breaks:If you’re in stage 2 and your item breaks, you will get it replaced as quickly as possible, but you’ll no longer kill or maim anybody that stands in your way of getting it replaced.

3. It’s cool.  Really, it is.

What this means:: For most people, this is the longest phase that we spend any amount of time in.  We really like our gadget, but it’s not new anymore.  We try to hide the scratch or scrapes that have suddenly appeared.  By now, there are grumblings when we have to re-start it occasionally, and we will swear at it regularly when it does something stupid.  If someone asks us how we like it, we’ll tell them how much we do, but our voice might raise an octave involuntarily as we try to make ourselves believe we still ‘love’ it.

If it breaks: You’ll get it replaced.  Chances are you’d be great with the same model of what you have.  But, you will take a look ‘just to make sure’ that there isn’t something else you like better.

4. Peeking around the corner

What this means: When the iPhone 5 comes out, millions of people will instantly catapult into this phase.  They’ll still be OK with using the 4S, but at this point, they’re itching for an excuse to upgrade.  End of contract? OK, time to move on.

If it breaks: You’re most likely getting something newer, better, and faster.  If your only option is to get it replaced with the same model, you will be disappointed.

5. Not. Another. Single. Minute.

What this means: You can’t stand to spend another minute with this item and will pay any amount of money to get away from it.  Today.

If it breaks: You’ll be scraping the pieces off your shoe as most items that reach this phase will not die simply because they remain functional only to torture you.  At this point, you will refuse to believe, even if presented with video evidence, that you were ever in the ‘Love Boat’ phase about it.

Personally, I can tolerate a lot of time in the 4th phase.  I’ll use items that no longer give me any charge and that I know are way out of date compared to what’s available, but it will often take a catastrophic failure before I love to the final, replace-it-now phase.

Consider that I have:

  • A fourteen year old TV that serves as the primary television for family viewing
  • A 6-7 year old desktop computer that I still use regularly
  • A Blackberry
  • I  even avoided getting a new laptop at work for months even though I was way eligible for a new phone

So, it’s obvious that I can live with obsolete technology for longer than most.

How quickly do you move through the five emotional stages of technology?

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Steve Jobs Knew What Was Best For You

After graduating college, a buddy and I rented an apartment that became the de facto hangout spot for our group of friends.  I don’t even know who started using it, but the phrase “I know what’s best for you” became a popular catchphrase around the apartment, as it was used to convince others to do something that they might not be 100% on board with (nothing illicit, just stupid fun for guys in their early 20’s).

“What do you mean you don’t want to get tickets for that concert?  C’mon, I know what’s best for you.”

“We’re going out.  Get ready.  I don’t care if you’re tired, I know what’s best for you.”

You know, stupid stuff like that.

As everybody knows by know, Apple founder Steve Jobs died the other night.  He was a genius, but what I was always most impressed by was not his technical genius.  Don’t get me wrong, the ideas he pioneered were quite amazing.  But, what impressed me the most is that his ideas sold because he was able to convince millions of people that he knew what was best for them.

Apple store

In many cases, such as the Apple II or the iMac computer, he took a product that already existed, made improvements on it, and sold it at a higher price that what his competition was selling it for.  And people bought them up!

Every time Apple came out with something, the competition soon followed.  I always waited for the Apple hype to die, as people would surely realize that you could get the same features at a lower price.  I waited and I waited and I waited.  And, while many (like me) did buy the cheaper stuff, people still turned out in droves for the Apple products.  The higher priced Apple products?


Because Steve Jobs knew what was best for you. 

See, he didn’t just sell the technology.  His legacy, in my mind, is not the technology that he came up with, for the simple reason that the technology itself will be diminished in importance as time goes on.  What won’t be diminished and what he will ultimately be remembered is how he could sell the idea that the technology….no that HIS technology, was what you needed.

He knew what was best for you.

Apple surely has enough product in the pipeline to thrive for the near future.  They have enough engineering and creative geniuses that will surely be able to push them ahead for longer than that.  But, Apple still lost a lot because they lost the one guy that I’ve seen be able to stand up and say “I know what’s best for you” and have tens of millions of people believe it.

Here’s my dirty little secret: I don’t buy Apple products.  I don’t make a habit of going in Apple stores, and if I do, I don’t spend too much time in there.  It’s not because I don’t think the products are cool.  I do.  It’s not because I don’t want the products.  I do.  It’s that I know once I got the first Apple product in my hand, I’d be sucked in.

The ability to bring you in and keep you hooked is what Steve Jobs created.  Steve Jobs was able to do this simply because he knew what was best for you.


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