Monday, December 26, 2011

James Fallows -- what happens when six years of Gmail is hacked and deleted?

James Fallows is a national correspondent for the Atlantic Monthly, who, in addition to award winning coverage of national and foreign affairs, has been using and writing about information technology for thirty years. (Check this 1982 article on WordStar and what word processing meant to a journalist).

This month in the Atlantic, Fallows recounts the hacking of his wife's Gmail account and the way Google dealt with it.

Everyone in her address book got one of those "I was mugged while in Madrid, please send money" messages and all of her email was deleted. After the account was restored, Fallows visited Google and interviewed security folks there. Here is one quote from the article:
At Google I asked Byrant Gehring, of Gmail’s consumer-operations team, how often attacks occur. "Probably in the low thousands," he said. "Per month?," I asked. "No, per day."
That should get your attention.

I recommend this article -- it is a harrowing story with some practical tips.

It is also a good introduction to James Fallows. If you have not read him, you should.


  1. This goes to show that trusting only the cloud is not a good idea. Storing information on spare hard drive or machine is a good back up.

    As we move more in to the digital age I feel that more and more attack will occur. Companies should really strengthen there security to further protect there information. Things change rapidly so next year maybe attack wont be in the low thousands but it in the high thousands.

    Users should also take steps to lower there chances of being attacked. A quote from the article states "...if a password can be found in a dictionary, that password is not safe". User should change there password constantly to avoid attacks.

    Both companies and users should take security measures.

  2. Brian,

    Probably the safe thing to do is to keep an extra local copy and a copy online. Local copies can be lost to -- for example in a robbery or fire.

  3. Your are right professor. Someone trying to steal information digitally, can do it physically as well i.e robbery as you mention. Backing up information in the cloud and a hand held device is the safe way to go. In case one method fails, the second one is there to back it up.