Guccifer, the alias of an infamous Romanian hacker whose real name is Marcel Lazar Lehel was sentenced two days ago for his hacking activities which involved many famous people including Steve Martin, Colin Powell, George W. Bush, John Dean, Mariel Hemingway, Lorne Michaels, Carl Bernstein, Rupert Everett, Eric Idle, Whoopi Goldberg and Julian Fellowes the writer of “Downton Abbey.” Guccifer was sentenced to a prison term that could be as long as seven years. Although Guccifer hacked into the email accounts of many famous entertainers and politicians, he did not exploited his hacking targets for financial gain even though the information he obtained would have allowed him to do so. Rather his goals, more often appeared to be to embarrass his victims and shake the world up a bit. Through hacking of his victims’ email accounts he gained access to and made public the final episode of Downton Abbey, months before it was aired. He also made public embarrassing information he obtained through his hacking efforts of politicians and celebrities on both sides of the Atlantic including allegations that former Secretary of State Colin Powell had an affair with a European Parliament member, Corina Cretu.
One technique Guccifer, a cab driver by trade, used was to get an email address of someone such as he did with media icon, Tina Brown, who has an extensive email address book. He then used simple techniques to answer his victim’s security question and change the password to the account whereupon he was able to take over the account and have access to all of the information stored there. Simple, publicly available information such as birth dates, schools attended and other such information provided the keys to answering the security questions of his victims. He also apparently used lists of the name of pets to answer security questions as well. And herein lies the lesson for us all. Even if you are not a celebrity, there is so much information about us all that is publicly available; sometimes the information is even provided by us through our Facebook pages and other social media, that it is an easy task for a hacker to get at our email accounts and other password and security question protected accounts.
Since protecting your email address is an impossible task, the key to protecting your account from being hacked is to have strong security questions and the key to that is to provide a question to which the answer can never be guessed by a hacker. So if your security question is “What is my favorite vegetable?” you should make the answer “electronic clock” or some other totally illogical response. Don’t worry about remembering it yourself because if the question and answer are as ridiculous as this, you will remember it.