Max Christoffersen: Last Saturday started like any other.
It's always an early rise to check if my column has made the paper along with a cup of tea and a quick talk with the cats in the kitchen.
It's always a thrill to see how the Waikato Times team have laid out my column and last Saturday was no different.
I take a quick read to see if it reads better now it's in print than it does on my laundry office PC. And it does. I praise the names of the Waikato Times crew that put it together and then I'm off to check my email.
While I wait for it to load I'm wondering who reads my columns and what next Saturday's one will be about.
I was about to find out. This Saturday morning was going to be different from all the rest.
On this Saturday morning, my cyber life was about to change.
First email at the top of the list was addressed to Kiss-FM. I get them regularly. Rockers send me music for my radio station (kissfm.co.nz) or distant emails seek confirmation a Norwegian Death metal band played at 4.44am NZ time.
Laughing out loud to myself, I think, "Those Euro rockers … they love their death metal … great to have them listening from so far away."
For the first two or three seconds, I think nothing of it until I read into it. And then the real intent of the email from far away becomes clear;
"I know ******** is your password. Let's get straight to the purpose. Not a single person has paid me to check about you. You may not know me and you're most likely thinking why you are getting this email?"
OK, you've got my attention … that is my password, although it's an old one and no longer used. So how did you get it? Intrigued, I read on.
"Let me tell you, I actually installed a software on the xxx streaming (sexually graphic) website and there's more - you visited this site to experience fun (you know what I mean). While you were watching videos, your web browser began functioning as a remote control desktop with a key logger, which provided me with accessibility to your display screen and cam. Immediately after that, my software collected your entire contacts from your Messenger, FB, as well as email."
The writer goes on to demand a $2000 donation in Bitcoins or the evidence from my web cam will be sent to everyone I know.
Only there's a problem. I don't have a web cam or Facebook and other small details give it away as an online scam.
"Ohhh … it's one of these ones." I say out loud. "It's online blackmail."
I thought about having some fun with my wannabe blackmailer like asking for lay-by or Paypal or direct credit or cash in person.
I feel like sending them an email suggesting they need to go to blackmail school – first do some due diligence to see if your intended victims have the cash they're after.
Instead, I ignore it and head immediately to Netsafe where it's confirmed many New Zealanders are getting the exact same email threatening to expose their online porn habits. They call it 'Fake-tortion'.
Netsafe says it is likely my password and email account were collected in one of the numerous data leaks that have occurred to major online services.
Reading further and it appears it's a worldwide scam with slight variations in the written threat, but it's the same thing: Pay up or we'll expose you.
It's a bit like the other scam people around the Waikato have been getting with someone cold-calling to fix their PC. I lead the foreign callers on until I tell them I don't have a PC. 'I use Apple.' **CLICK**
What my experience with this scam has taught me is not to be complacent with PC passwords and security on tablets and mobile phones. Later that day I took the step to update all passwords and put PIN numbers on my mobile devices.
Netsafe recommends checking through its site to see if email and password details have been hacked.
What lingered from my cyber blackmail was the sense of intrusion. Our Chedworth house was burgled twice and the sense of someone in your private space lasted longer than the time it took to replace the items that were taken.
So after my recent exposure to online scams, I am smarter for the experience.
Today will start like any other Saturday.
I'll rise early to check if my column has made the paper along with a cup of tea and a quick talk with the cats in the kitchen.
It will be a thrill to see how the Waikato Times team have laid out this column and I will praise their names once again.
Then I'll check my email and get on with life, ignoring any cyber threats from afar.
And so should you. - Stuff