You’ve probably heard about Mat Honan by now. He’s the Wired staff writer who had his entire digital life wiped out by a bunch of teenagers.
I feel bad for the guy, I really do. But all the coverage has centered on Apple and Amazon’s supposed security failures and creating as much panic as humanly possible. Gizmodo’s especially is guilty of this — my personal favorite moment of their coverage being the bit about how trolls could, like, totally ruin your credit score with the credit cards on your Amazon account. Protip: Under American law, you’re liable for precisely $50 of that, and it gets taken off your credit report. Do your research, guys.
All of this ignores the fact that Mat Honan is heavily, heavily at fault. In fact, he opened his breakdown of how exactly his digital life got erased by explaining just how he screwed up.
This is the opening of his article:
In many ways, this was all my fault. My accounts were daisy-chained together. Had I used two-factor authentication for my Google account, it’s possible that none of this would have happened.
Had I been regularly backing up the data on my MacBook, I wouldn’t have had to worry about losing more than a year’s worth of photos, covering the entire lifespan of my daughter, or documents and e-mails that I had stored in no other location.
Those security lapses are my fault, and I deeply, deeply regret them.
So, basically, he was asking for it.
Look, I’m not trying to let Apple or Amazon off the hook here. There was a problem, they knew about this problem, and they were too lazy to fix it. That’s something that they need to be called on, although I’ve got to ask why anybody thinks megacorps give a crap about your information security. Similarly, the trolls who hacked him are responsible for their actions and they’ll probably get some jail time for it once they’re inevitably tracked down.
But Honan didn’t need to do two-factor identification. He needed to use different credit cards for each network he’s on. He needed to use different passwords for each social network he was on. He should have backed up everything he wanted to keep on local storage. And above all, he shouldn’t have linked his accounts. That’s why you don’t link any account you want to keep.
I don’t claim to be perfect. What happened to Honan could likely happen to me and probably in just as much time. But you know what? I’d have it coming too.
We all make choices between security and convenience, and we generally err on the side of convenience. But every time we make that choice, we put ourselves more at risk. Honan is an abject lesson in that. And we shouldn’t let him, or ourselves, off the hook just because we don’t want to admit that’s what we’re doing.
We’re as safe as we choose to be. We can reasonably expect large corporations to seal their security holes but we can’t really expect them to save us from ourselves. So, make your choice… and deal with the consequences.
Image courtesy _e.t. on Flickr
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