Part One: I was hacked.
Maybe I should have paid attention to the fact that I was suddenly obsessed with internet security? Information about hackers jumped out at me from old magazines in waiting rooms, from online news, from the feed on Facebook. IT was everywhere. I was anxious. I worried about how much I didn’t know that I didn’t know. I worried about identity theft. I asked around, quizzed a few friends.
But I didn’t do anything differently, and they got me.
This July, while I was in San Diego using the unsecured wireless network in my office building, my email was hacked into and appropriated by spammers. I thought the network was safe because I made sure to never buy anything while using it.
Yes. I really believed that. Despite intuitive promptings to the contrary, it would seem.
In consideration of having exposed you to this fine example of shrugging off a hunch, I would like to give you now the chance to unburden yourselves, as loudly and colorfully as you would like, of any reflections on my general state of mind for that moment. It will help you, I know that it will, because God knows I have spent the better part of the last three weeks ranting to the air and struggling to gain control of my emotions, stumbling and gesticulating through the stupor I have been in, a weary kind of trance that only repeated, violent, *facepalm*-ing can produce, whilst muttering to no one in particular NO NO NO NO NO ever more loudly, and stopping not quite short of berating myself with several vibrant synonyms for idiot.
Take as much time as you need. If you need prompting, start by wondering what the hell I was thinking. That should get you going.
I felt like I had been mugged. But unlike getting mugged, my presence was not required to be roughed up. I got robbed out there, in cyber-land. I didn’t even know it was happening, my mugging. And I probably didn’t even really exist to whoever did it to me. I was also out there somewhere to whomever who did it.
In the six weeks they had access to my email address they logged on as me 20,000 times.
This was a crime-at-a-distance crime. Remote crime. The e-thugs who do these things use our email addresses to send spam. They are the charming purveyors of all the illusions of happiness we still think can be purchased: weight loss, a better kind of sex, implants of one kind or another, energy formulas, employment opportunities, windfalls. 20,000 logins means either that no one’s biting or enough people are to make the whole thing some ridiculous comment on the truly miserable.
This is the challenge of the Information Age, Friends: we now have the means to truly connect with each other, to communicate, to reach out and learn about each other. It is an amazing time. But it doesn’t mean bupkis (this is the official spelling, I checked) if we still lack the ability to connect with each other. If we still justify harm by our own desperation.
It took several days to figure out what had happened. I became more and more exhausted from the work it takes to dig out one’s online identity from the bottom of a tin of mystery meat–resetting countless passwords, calendars, appointments, double- and triple-checking everything was safe, but still feeling more and more vulnerable each day, because I just couldn’t be sure my emails were landing. I was struggling for perspective. For relief from all the huge reactions I was having. Trying each day to observe them, and failing miserably over and over again. Apologizing over and over again.
I tried to cope by minimizing. Compared to the kinds of harm people all over the world are experiencing, wasn’t this just inconvenience? All it cost me is some time, lost resources, work hours ($), and the energy used in daily panicky hissy fits.
Actually, it sounds pretty horrible. What would cause somebody to do this, not just to me, but to anybody? My equanimity was shot through. I had been so dependent on the convenience of email, that I believed I had a right to my own expectations for each and every email I sent. But when my email address was stolen, it took away any illusion of expediency. Or control. Or true need, for that matter. Events flow in The Universe the way they are supposed to, whether I agree with the bends in the river or not.
And so for the past two weeks I have been stopped in my tracks. Very little of what I thought I needed to get done is getting done. But I am doing exactly what I am supposed to be doing, which is looking in the mirror at myself. I run smack into the image of myself each time a moment gets expanded into all its vibrancy, and I get to watch myself ruin all the beauty of it. Instead of experiencing the knowledge that I have everything I need at all times, letting moments ripen and nourish me, I watch myself get seduced by the familiar. I follow old thought patterns down the well-grooved channels they have cut over a lifetime, like a bowling ball magnetized to the gutter.
It hurts to constantly choose the power of an expectation over intuition, to choose to follow a certain script rather than really listening to what life wants. Most of all I see how deeply I’ve needed things to go the way I expect them to go to be at peace.
I had forgotten that mail doesn’t always arrive. Even snail mail. In the e-world, that works in favor of spammers. It gives them a “place” in your brain to hide undetected for a while: Who hasn’t sent a message that gets mistakenly caught in a spam filter? Who doesn’t sometimes delay responding to an email because they just can’t face for one more minute the onslaught of words and images that is their inbox, their Facebook page, their Twitter account, etc. etc. etc.? Who hasn’t gotten an email address wrong by just one character? Or sent email to an address that doesn’t exist anymore? Or accidentally deleted an important email?
If you’ve been hacked like me, by the time you figure out what has happened, that spammers have taken your email address, you are already one of them. Your name is on their product. You are your very own version of fake meat in a can. Most of your contacts’ providers will now catch you, and fling you far, far away into the realm of the blocked, the bounced, and the filtered.
Until you assume a new identity you will be kept from the people with whom you want and need to connect. And they won’t even know they aren’t seeing you. And you won’t either.
So, thank you Spammers. Thank you for making me one of you, so I could see what I was doing to myself. May I release every single attachment or expectation that keeps me apart from the ones I love.
May I always remember that all sentient beings suffer.
And now, for something completely different: Enjoy.
Next: Part Two, A Nice Story About Trees In Which No One Gets Hacked.