Monday, September 8, 2014

What happens after you've been hacked?

We hear about websites, email accounts and cloud information being hacked everyday.  What should you do if this happens? Firstly, you should take a good look at who your providers are and change to one that is more secure. There is no reason why your website should be hacked at all.

For this reason, I only use the Morphogine Cloud platform, which, ("touch wood") has never been hacked and is policed daily using an advanced software program to check for rogue code and hacking attempts. All my clients use this platform for this reason.

So where does that leave you? Recently a local Charlotte web design and hosting company was so badly hacked that it left 100's of its clients without websites for days.

1. Change your passwords REGULARLY. Like every 3 months at least. And have a complicated one. There are useful sites that can manage your passwords so you don't have to keep remembering what they are.

2. Try and avoid using free email addresses like gmail, yahoo, aol etc. They are the most vulnerable. Use a URL that is linked to your website and make sure that the host of the URL is secure and checked regularly. Also using a free account for business is not recommended. If you can't be tracked to your company, it just doesn't look very good from a credibility point of view. All hackers and scammers have these email addresses for this reason.

Do your homework and research the history of the company you place your business with. Being offline for even a few hours can be devastating to your business, not to mention your search capabilities. If your email address is also hosted by them - even worse damage can occur if you clients can't get hold of you!

Here are some useful tips to help you through a nightmare experience if you suspect someone has stolen your credit card info that is stored on many websites and in your purchase history:

1. Place an initial fraud alert with ONE of the three major credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian or TransUnion. (The bureau you notify, will advise the others.) With an alert on your file, a business will have to verify your identity before approving any credit card purchases. This alert is free and stays on your file for 90 days.

2. Order a full Credit Report. With a fraud alert in place you will be entitled to one free report from each of the 3 bureaus.  If you have had a credit card account hacked, contact the company by certified mail immediately. And call them up too.

3. File an Identity Theft Report with the FTC and print it out to use for your Identity Theft Affidavit to file a police report. Go file a Police Report. This is useful when you want to remove fraudulent information from your credit report.

And lastly, take control of your online life and business, before someone else doe sit for you!

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Oscar Pistorius in performance of his life

Photograph: PictureNet / Barcroft Media
As someone born in South Africa and who spent the first 40 years of my life living there,  I think I have some insight into how this will all play out on the world stage. The spotlight will no doubt fall upon Oscar and his defense team, but it will also fall upon the country and its horrific and violent daily crime that affects all South Africans, no matter what their race.

Even the small minority, some who are very wealthy and can afford expensive security and protection, just like Oscar, are not immune to this blight. But it's the very poor who suffer the most. Those who arrive home to find that their shack has been carted away - with all their worldly goods inside, or to find their child has been attacked, raped and murdered.  This is the reality of daily life in the South Africa that seemingly has "everything going for it" and is, in the words heard most frequently from South Africans, that it is "Still the best place to live in the world!" 

Piers Morgan interviewed some South Africans last night on his program about this crime scourge and it was amazing to me that people still don't believe this to be true.  Even after Alan Dershowitz explained how this level of crime and fear is the norm in SA and not the exception, some of his guests still poo-pooed it as nonsense. All I can suggest to them is that they subscribe to a few credible online SA media outlets for a few days to see what actually happens there all the time.

This trial might even make South Africans take stock of what an utterly unnatural lifestyle they live.  Whether or not Mr Pistorius intended to shoot his beautiful girlfriend with intent, the fact remains that anyone can fall prey to what happened to Oscar. It almost happened to me, or easily could have.

I awoke one night to hear noises and thought I saw movement in a section of my home that I could see from my bedroom window and balcony. I was at home alone with two very small children and I was simply terrified, in spite of the electric security fence on top of an 8 foot wall surrounding my house.  Neighbors had been hijacked and shot on my street and so I wasn't taking any chances. I grabbed the gun we kept up high in the closet in our bedroom, and readied it to defend my life and those of my children. Adrenaline pumping and fear in my heart, I waited to see if anything was going to happen. I was squeezing the gun gently to activate the red laser dot to enable me to shoot straight and I accidentally discharged the firearm.  Luckily there was no one on the property, and the bullet went into the swimming pool, but I was shaken for days afterwards and struggled to sleep. That is how easily this can happen to anyone living in these hideous conditions. I was not going to wait until a gang would descend upon me and deliver unspeakable acts of horror and violence on me and my children.  And I had both my legs intact.

I am often saddened that South Africans insist on buying into the lie that it is still the best place to be and the best lifestyle in the world.  How can that possibly be?  I think I have the answer.....
South Africans are incredibly proud of what has been accomplished there in the last 25 years and  believe deeply that things can be great and wonderful, and often won't hear anything about what the reality continues to be.  And yes, things can be great and wonderful, but they are few and very far between. The wealthy and not so wealthy, actively cocoon themselves in a bubble of wellbeing, telling themselves repeatedly that everything will be fine and is fine, and try valiantly to live by that. They live behind massive walls and electronic gates and electric wires on high walls, cosset their children at expensive private schools to continue the "great colonial lifestyle" and look out from their expensive imported cars at the millions with no work or future, that overflow the streets everywhere.

They put up with the most appalling service, sky-high costs of living and food, lack of regular basic necessities like water and electricity, very poor public education, poor internet service and blatant corruption and theft - on a daily basis. And the never ending violent crime, that has not changed or improved in the last quarter century.

I found that when I left SA and travelled to a civilized country, I went into a funk when I got back there, as the reality was so stark and depressing.  But like a lobster in a slowly boiling pot, I quickly got used to it again.

So when they get a superstar up on the international stage like Oscar, they rally even harder. But the conflict I am hearing and seeing there right now, is "was his behavior justified?" or " Is this a true reflection of what South Africans experience every day?" The answer has to be a resounding - yes.

Maybe in a strange way - this trial will bring forth a change for SA - one that is a safer, more gentle society that benefits everyone.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Educational and social media campaign needed for addiction

As tragic as the news has been these last few weeks, with an ever increasing list of famous and not so famous people dying from overdoses and addictions, what is equally alarming is the reaction to these events in the media and on social media.

Media just want to find someone to blame and comments from people on social media are horribly ignorant of the origins of addiction and the causes and symptoms. Like the AIDS epidemic of the 80's that was shrouded in secrecy and shame, so has the disease of addiction fallen foul to the same malaise.

Comments like, why would he choose to take this stuff, or why didn't she think of her children, or  why didn't someone save him.......confirm my suspicions that people just don't understand this disease at all. They clearly don't know that its a largely genetic cerebral condition, completely out of the control of the addict and not something they CHOOSE to do. It chooses them and they go along unwillingly for the ride. Sufferers need intervention, real help and real treatment.

I believe that mental health issues and addiction has has for too long been ignored and swept under the carpet. Our jails are filled with mental health sufferers and addicts, who have have tried to self-medicate themselves. Family members are desperate as to how to deal with these sufferers. There just is nowhere to go, unless you are hugely wealthy and can afford longterm rehabilitation to ensure a more likely successful outcome. One month stints here and there, just don't work.

There is little or no infrastructure or safety net anywhere for ordinary people to access. Churches, Community rehab organizations and Counsellors seem to be the only resource for many. Churches who host AA and NA meetings at their facilities, are often the only option. Victims arrive at the ER at deaths' door and there is nowhere for them to go after that. Most end up on the street. Or worse.

Like the obesity issue, this issue needs to take front and center stage, through media ads, educational films and widespread assistance of how to help these people. Its a federal epidemic with national consequences and it needs a federal intervention. Maybe that would limit or even stop these violent shootings we see every few weeks, as well.

Unless you have known someone who has suffered with this illness or mental health issues, you have no business passing judgement on them.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Pretty Grimm if you ask me! Great lesson in how not to speak to the media.

One doesn't have to be a PR professional to know that Rep. Grimm's (R-NY) behavior towards a NY1 TV Reporter immediately after the State of the Nation on Tuesday, was ridiculous and stupid in the extreme.

It will do immense harm to his media relations going forward and his poor staff will have their work cut out for them if they want anyone else to interview him anytime soon. No one wants to be threatened with bodily harm, even if this is acceptable behavior in a New York borough. Rep. Grimm's future image is grim to say the least.

My New York friends have said - ah nah, move on, its just a New York thing. Well actually, its not. It's rude and I think it will harm him a lot come re-election time. At the very least, he might need some anger management intervention if he loses his temper that easily.

Even though he apologized to the hapless reporter the following morning and it was tacitly accepted, his outburst spread around the world like wild fire. Even the UK press reported on the out of control Congressman from NY!  Watch his 'performance' here. Glad I don't have to pick up those pieces.