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Saturday, 31 October 2009

Handling the bad stuff when your Facebook account gets hacked into can make unsettling demands on you. At least, that's what I think has happened. It started last night when status updates I made began to disappear from my Profile page. Then I got logged out of Facebook. Then it happened again. And again.

Each time you are logged out, it may happen - as it did with me - that your password no longer works. It's hard to describe how disturbing this can be. It's sort of like when you wake up in the night in a hotel wondering where you are and it takes a few moments to remember. Having your password invalidated, and being repeatedly logged out of Facebook when under normal circumstances you use it for days or weeks without needing to log in, has a simlar, dark tone.

To check if it was really a hack, I changed my Twitter password to be the same as my Facebook password. Then I went back to Twitter and logged in. It refused to allow me through.

I telephoned the bank and got them to suspend transactions on my credit card. I had had no need, fortunately, to access my online banking interface. But I got that suspended as well.

It seemed just too perfect that these things should start to happen on a Friday night. There's no weekend-open branch near me, a fact I discovered when I drove over there this morning. I'm not happy with how things sit, but I feel a tad safer knowing that my transaction accounts are well under wraps.

Another thing that takes time is getting help from an expert. I live in a regional centre, so the usual crew of Geeks2U are out of scope. So I did a quick Internet search and discovered a couple of numbers and rang them. One guy refused to come out because I live outside his territory. The other gave me a spiel that seemed to promise a large account in case he did appear at my doorstep.

The first guy was helpful, though, and gave me details of free software that can help in situations like this. But it took a good 90 minutes to install the programs and, in the end, one of them didn't work as expected. You never know when you're a digital moron. Maybe it's OK, maybe not. Hope springs eternal.

Then I took a drastic step and called my brother in the United States to get some more of the good oil. He advised me to back up my data files and format the hard drive. If this turns out to be necessary, I'm in for a good couple of days' work right there.

I think someone is logging my keystrokes. This would account for the way the Facebook password keeps changing. What surprises me, however, is that my Facebook-registered email has not been changed. When I click to get a new login authorisation sent to my inbox, it duly arrives. Maybe the hackers are just stuffing me around, with no intention to presecute their advantage further than is required to frustrate, perplex and anger me.

Who knows. What I do know is that despite changing my password several times, my Facebook Profile page continues to lack a couple of status changes. Until this is cleared up, I won't relax.

Contacting Facebook is another thorn in the side of the unfortunate hackee. Once you arrive at the Help page and click through to the right page for reporting hacks, you must simply wait. It's not as though you can phone a customer service operative - as happens with telephone or Internet problems.

You just wait for the black box to spit out a resolution to the problem that continues to harass you as you try to go about the normal business of life online.

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