Brooks Duncan of just sent out an email to his subscribers with a link to the Wired story of Mat Honan:

In the space of one hour, my entire digital life was destroyed. First my Google account was taken over, then deleted. Next my Twitter account was compromised, and used as a platform to broadcast racist and homophobic messages. And worst of all, my AppleID account was broken into, and my hackers used it to remotely erase all of the data on my iPhone, iPad, and MacBook.

Mat points out, “In many ways, this was all my fault. My accounts were daisy-chained together. Getting into Amazon let my hackers get into my Apple ID account, which helped them get into Gmail, which gave them access to Twitter.”

And Brooks suggests some ways to avoid suffering a similar fate. Most of these are tips that Brooks has been suggesting people to use for years, and many are included in his excellent guides to going paperless (Click here to read more about the Paperless Document Organization Guide   Diclosure – I belong to Brooks’ affiliate program; buy Brooks’ guides after clicking through here and you will be buying me a drink.)

Brooks points out, “even though this particular situation happened to a Mac user using Amazon, Google, and iCloud accounts, the hacks involved could happen with any online service.”

    1. First tip: Email.

      The center of many, many hacks is your e-mail account. You might think “I don’t care if someone reads my e-mail”, but that’s not the point — if someone can get in your e-mail, they can generate password resets for other online services that you use. (my emphasis)

      How to solve this? Use a password-generator that can create highly complex and unique passwords for you, and store them securely. I have used Access Manager for years, and am perfectly satisfied with it. It has a free version, but I coughed up for the professional version and find it well worth the money. It requires the Microsoft .NET Framework and only runs on Windows.

      Here’s Brooks suggestions for email security:

      1.  Use a super secure password for your e-mail account. Even better, use software like 1Password (that’s what I use) or LastPass to generate really secure passwords that you don’t even need to memorize.
      2. Use Two-Factor authentication in your e-mail. This is especially true if you use Google services. Macworld has a good article with how to set that up, even if you don’t use a Mac. (Personally, I found this article rather confusing; do you know a better overview of this?)
      3. In this case, because he used the same account for both his Apple and Google password reset accounts, he was extra vulnerable. It might be worth having those two totally separate.
    2. Next tip: iCloud: Brooks suggests that, if you use a Mac and iCloud, you turn off the option “Find my Mac”. He thinks the risk of someone accessing his Mac and wiping out his computer is higher than that of being unable to remote-erase his files on his Mac if he ever loses it. He also suggests encrypting your sensitive files (watch his video on how to do this). One thing I like about Brooks’ videos, as I’ve said before, is that the explanation is clear and doesn’t assume you know a whole lot of computer jargon.
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    3. Tip #3: backup your computer. Brooks has a video on this, too (watch in HD for best results).

He has 3 backups, one local, one off-site, and one in the cloud. Backup tips are included in Brooks’ excellent “going paperless” guides (Click here to read more about the Paperless Document Organization Guide)

If you are thinking of going paperless but have not yet taken the plunge, I do recommend you get Brooks’ FREE 7-part email course on going paperless. You can sign up for this free email course on Brooks’ home page at Try this first before buying any of his paperless guides.

Finally, let’s go back to Honan’s Wired article. Here he points to  a flaw in Amazon’s and Apple’s security systems. If you have any kind of customer account, but especially an Apple account and an Amazon account, you might want to read this:

But what happened to me exposes vital security flaws in several customer service systems, most notably Apple’s and Amazon’s. Apple tech support gave the hackers access to my iCloud account. Amazon tech support gave them the ability to see a piece of information — a partial credit card number — that Apple used to release information. In short, the very four digits that Amazon considers unimportant enough to display in the clear on the web are precisely the same ones that Apple considers secure enough to perform identity verification. The disconnect exposes flaws in data management policies endemic to the entire technology industry, and points to a looming nightmare as we enter the era of cloud computing and connected devices.