Thursday, June 2, 2011


Grammar issues aside, yes. Yes I am.

So I'm getting ready to leave my office when I decide to check my email one last time. This is to make sure I don't miss any important messages, i.e. the wife has a dinner preference, or my dentist appointment has been rescheduled for the third time.

As it turns out, I have two important messages. One is a receipt from, informing me that I just purchased $300 in Amazon gift cards. The other is a notice from, informing me that my account has been shut down for "possibly unauthorized account activity".

My first thought was "No shit, Sherlock". My second thought was "Holy fuck, I've been hacked!"

What followed should have been immediate triage, but I had to get home to my own computer to do it, and I work an hour away from home. There are few things that will cause a man more stress than a one hour commute when his bank accounts are likely being mailed to Botswana. One of those things is having this happen when there's beach traffic.

Anyway. I made it home with my sanity intact, let the dog out in the backyard, and powered up my laptop. Step one was making sure that my bank accounts were intact: Amazon claimed that my credit card information hadn't been compromised, but could they guarantee that? No. Fortunately the only suspicious activity in my account was a test charge from Amazon for the $300 order, which disappeared before I even called my bank. I may end up cancelling my cards and ordering new ones on general principle, but for the moment my finances appear to be safe.

Step two was changing every password I could get my hands on, starting with my email account. Thankfully I did not use the same password for Amazon as I do for my email account. I shudder to think of the shitstorm I might have suffered if I did. On principle, I changed the password anyway, and updated some others to be a bit stronger.

At this point I started to relax. Then I remembered all the shit I have tied up in Amazon. I use Amazon Prime, so I may well be out $70 in annual subscription fees. My wife shares my Prime account, so she's screwed too. And I have a flipping Kindle! Do my eBooks transfer to a new account I set up? What about the 99 MP3s I just bought for 99 cents that are floating around in Amazon's cloud storage? Did I just lose those? What about my recommendations?

*huff huff*

I wish I had an answer for those questions, but right now I don't. I'm still waiting for feedback from Amazon on all of them. I'm also waiting to see if I'll need to use a new email address for my account - right now, all signs point to "yes", which annoys me no end.

Still, as ways to get victimized by a fucking criminal go, things could have been a lot worse. Amazon did a great job reacting to the threat, and I should come out of this with minimal losses. The hacker, whoever it was, was a fucking idiot - odds are I would have noticed the problem today regardless, but he could have been a lot more subtle and probably got something out of the attack. Instead he tripped an alarm immediately by being greedy. Finally, nothing else was compromised (so far as I can tell), and I've been retaught the three D's of passwords:
  • Don't use weak passwords.
  • Don't reuse passwords.
  • Don't forget to change your passwords.
So until Amazon gets back to me, I'm going to take comfort in an old saying that always brings me warmth and joy.

Burn his house down! Burning people. He says what we're all thinking!


Anonymous said...

Hmm, I'm wondering if there wasn't some major hack somewhere that wasn't publicly revealed. My wife's amazon account was just hacked yesterday and the MO was the same. They ordered $300 worth of gift cards and were promptly caught. I found another similar story here:

while my wife's password wasn't exceptionally good, it was fine....a Non-dictionary combination of letters and numbers. We're thinking it was obtained somehow other than brute force.

David said...

I had the same thought. I think my username and password combination was compromised a while back when someone broke into... well I can't remember now, but I think it was Gawker.

Password reuse: It'll bite you in the butt. I hope you all come out of this as fortunate as I did.