Saturday, August 04, 2012

Alvina Lopez Shares Hacker-Foiling Secrets

My Twitter account was recently hacked and by someone who spews white supremist hatred. It's been time consuming, expensive, and a regular pain in the you-know-what. I hope this guest post from Alvina Lopez will help you prevent the same kind of disaster. I'm sure you'll agree she has provided some excellent resources.

And if you know of a way to reach Twitter by letter or by phone, please let me know. None of their online support is working for me!

How Authors Can Protect Themselves from Hackers

By Alvina Lopez

Back in June, the popular corporate networking site LinkedIn reported that 6.5 million userspasswords had been exposed by hackers, in one of the worst security breaches in the short history of the Internet. In a world where we all put so much stock in the personal data we allow companies to store about us online, this should serve as a serious wake-up call.

Writers and other creative professionals have reason to be especially concerned about online security, because we make a living off of our intellectual property. While most hackers are ultimately looking for ways to leverage personal information into cold hard currency (and God knows writers don’t generally have a lot of it, so they’d be better off skipping us), there is the whole issue of digital piracy to contend with.

For instance, superstar author J.K Rowling has had to contend with Bittorrent leaks in the past, and is worried about being preempted by them again for her first foray into adult fiction this fall. While, let’s face it, your own manuscript may not have the black-market draw of a new Harry Potter novel, it still pays to be cautious. Fellow writers have been known to poach things from each other’s unpublished works, and now that e-books are beginning to eclipse the relatively copy-proof dead-tree variety, the risk of piracy is greater than ever.

How can you protect yourself? Follow these tips:


1. Back up what you write on the cloud, but do it carefully.

There are a variety of online storage platforms available where you can save copies of your work. I use Google Drive myself, but many other people are partial to Dropbox, CX.com, Microsoft SkyDrive or Apple’s iCloud. All of these are perfectly reputable and good for both personal use and sharing with confidants (more on which below).

 Use whatever service you’re comfortable with, but make sure you don’t leave all your data locked up on your hard drive! In that case, when your laptop breaks or gets stolen, you’ll have no recourse.

2. Only use strong passwords.

 A strong password is not just a “secret word” you choose, like Groucho Marx on You Bet Your Life. Rather, it should be as random and unmemorable a combination of letters and numbers as possible (there are tradeoffs here, obviously, but security ultimately trumps convenience).

Many sites will have a little meter on the sign-up page that indicates whether your password is weak, medium, or strong -- often representing these with red, yellow, and green, like a stoplight.


3. Make all of your passwords different.

In a case like that of LinkedIn, the real damage isn’t done by the leak of your LinkedIn password (how much can any hacker do with that, after all?) but by the possibility that all your OTHER passwords (think, email, bank, etc.) can be deduced from that one.

 So even though it’s a pain, you’ve got to have a different password for every site. Keep a log of them on paper (ah yes, old-fashioned wood pulp, remember that stuff?) and file it away somewhere secure in your home or office.

And as sentimental as you may be, don’t use any variants on pet names or anything else close to your heart that could be guessed by an acquaintance wanting access to your information for any reason.


4. Choose your readers carefully.

 All writers need friends and colleagues who can help look over our manuscripts, people whose opinions we value and can offer feedback or editing suggestions. Keep this circle narrow and trustworthy. Indicate to them the importance of not spreading your work around second-hand, even with good intentions. This is a conversation worth having with agents, research assistants, and even loved ones. One degree of separation is perhaps enough to reach someone with ulterior motives.

 There’s no need to be too paranoid about all this, but follow these common-sense guidelines and you’ll be a step ahead of pirates, hackers, and other ne’er-do-wells.

 ~Alvina Lopez has freelanced about education throughout her career. As technology and education converge, Alvina hopes to guide her readers as they search for online college programs that have the potential to jumpstart their careers and change their lives. She primarily contributes to www.accreditedonlinecolleges.com. She welcomes feedback at alvina.lopez@gmail.com.

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Carolyn Howard-Johnson, author of This Is the Place; Harkening: A Collection of Stories Remembered; Tracings, a chapbook of poetry; and how to books for writers including the award-winning second ediction of, The Frugal Book Promoter: How to get nearly free publicity on your own or by partnering with your publisher; The Frugal Editor: Put Your Best Book Forward to Avoid Humiliation and Ensure Success; and Great Little Last Minute Editing Tips for Writers . The Great First Impression Book Proposal is her newest booklet for writers. She has three FRUGAL books for retailers including A Retailer’s Guide to Frugal In-Store Promotions: How To Increase Profits and Spit in the Eyes of Economic Downturns with Thrifty Events and Sales Techniques. Some of her other blogs are TheNewBookReview.blogspot.com, a blog where authors can recycle their favorite reviews. She also blogs at all things editing, grammar, formatting and more at The Frugal, Smart and Tuned-In Editor . If your followers at Twitter would benefit from this blog post, please use the little Green widget to let them know about this blog:

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