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Scary hacking

March 20, 2014 - Jodelle Greiner
If you want to scare the crap out of yourself, read “The Scarecrow” by Michael Connelly — the hacking is truly frightening and I’m not talking about the horrific murders.

Reporter Jack McEvoy is on the trail of a big murder story, convinced the 16-year-old accused of the crime didn’t do it. When he tries to connect the murder to another murder with a similar MO, he finds his phone disconnected, his e-mail at the Los Angeles Times has been hacked, and none of his credit cards work because his accounts have all been drained.

How easily can someone who knows their way around inside a computer mess up your entire life?

Very easily, and what happens to Jack is just the tip of the iceberg as Connelly expands on that theme through the book.

Think about it — how much of your life do you put online? Your photo, where you live, your family and friends’ names, where you hang out. How hard would it be for someone, even a stranger, to find you at any time? Gain your trust by using knowledge they’d gotten online? Get you to go somewhere with them because you figured they’re a friend of a friend?

It’s just a book, you say, Connelly’s a best-selling novelist, of course he can spin a good story. Yes, but he also gets his facts straight: case in point is how he portrays the world of journalism and what’s currently happening in newspapers.

So before you think it’s all fiction, let me ask: does the name Edward Snowden sound familiar? He accused the National Security Agency of unlawful surveillance.

There’s a trial going on in Britain right now involving a tabloid newspaper hacking voicemail messages, including those of a murdered 13-year-old girl.

There’s a class-action lawsuit in California accusing Google of violating the privacy terms of its e-mail users. All those annoying ads that crop up alongside your e-mail are generated by words you type into your personal e-mails.

“For its part, Google has maintained it does not open and read people's emails. Instead, the company says its process is fully automated, and software scans for keywords to help it target advertisements to consumers,” according to the Associated Press.

But doesn’t someone have to be watching the machines doing the scans?

As Connelly has one of his characters say, “It always comes down to people, doesn’t it?”

Think about what you’re putting online; you never know who’s looking at it.


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