Imagine getting unknown phone calls every hour, blocking your flow of work or a peaceful night of sleep. Imagine strangers calling you from around the country and come knocking on your door after they heard you were giving away your old Lamborghini for free.
Imagine getting endless food deliveries that you didn’t order. Imagine a police car pulling into your driveway in the middle of the night because someone from your mobile number texted and reported a murder.
Imagine losing your job because someone sent a hateful, abusive and borderline-racist email to your boss and colleagues. Imagine the look of shock on your parents’ faces because they received an email from your email ID, confessing that you are working for terrorists.
These aren’t just some possibilities. These are actual nightmares that I lived through after my data was compromised by an online hacker.
The Beginning of my END…
You and I can recall countless instances of people crying their hearts out on the social media because of being hacked. As naïve as I was, I always thought these things only happened to grannies, senior citizens or the completely technology challenged.
Unfortunately, I am probably what you would call a moderate-to-experienced internet user and still, I was a victim of a digital trap setup by a shadowy figure. I have no idea how and when it all started, all I know for sure is that it started just weeks after I dumped my cheating girlfriend. She knew a lot about me as we had spent 2 years together and her knowledge about me proved to be the last nail in my coffin.
Anyways, I do remember changing all my passwords the day after we broke-up. I changed my social profiles’ passwords, the code on my home security system, password of my mobile, passwords of my bank accounts and password of my work email. What I forgot was to change the password of my pass-pack. Back then, I did not have concrete proof that it was her who destroyed my life and career. But she was definitely my first suspect.
Anyways, it was a usual dull Monday morning when I reached my office. I was 15 minutes late. As I entered the office, I felt hate and anger in everybody’s eyes. I wasn’t even able to settle on my desk when the phone buzzed. I picked it up only to be greeted by the voice of my furious boss. I thought it was because I was late and had no idea about the tornado heading my way. As I let myself into her office, she screamed, pointing her finger at the laptop screen asking me “What the hell is this?” I had no idea, as I wasn’t able to see what’s on the screen. It was an email from my personal email ID to my “BOSS” with a subject line “C*** eating black B****”. I had instant goose bumps all over my body as I proceeded to read the email further. I didn’t have a word to explain as I was in utter shock.
Later, I found out it was not only my boss who received such email from my ID. My HR head, my manager, creative head and even my PA received the same kind of hate-filled emails. I did my best to prove I am innocent, but I was fired.
I returned home completely depressed. My phone buzzed, I picked up the receiver and somebody on the other side started yelling at me. She was cursing me, abusing me and threatening me with my life. Before I could even ask her “Who she is” and “What I have done to her”, she hanged up the phone. This was only the start, after every hour I received the same kind of a call. Irritated and dejected, I switched off my phone.
I tried to log in to my Facebook account to relax myself. As I punched in my credentials, it took me to the screen which said “Incorrect Email or Password”. I tried and tried again, but the same screen appeared every single time. I checked my twitter and LinkedIn profile; both showed me the same result as my Facebook account. I checked my personal email ID and it was “Blocked”. With the deepest fear, I logged into my bank account and got in. I was happy at least one of my profiles wasn’t hacked. But wait; I immediately hit rock bottom when I saw what was displayed on the screen. My account balance had gone from $17,670 to $70 only. I was fired and robbed on the same day.
That darn Monday somehow passed, and came Tuesday with 12 food deliveries, which I certainly did not order. I had to pay for half of them. My refrigerator was filled with Italian, Chinese and Thai food, all which I hate. I was puzzled, irritated and really depressed about everything that was happening to me. I had no idea who was behind it and how that person was doing it.
Later that day, my younger brother showed up at my home. He was upset and angry with me. He grabbed me by shoulders and dragged me to the car. He didn’t say a word; just gave me a freezing look. He had to come all the way because my phone was switched off and I wasn’t replying my emails. He told me to get in the car and away we went.
After driving for half an hour, he finally pulled the car in a Hospital parking lot. I was literally scared, I begged my brother to tell me what the hell was happening. He again gave me that cold look and said: You emailed mom and told her how you were embracing the terrorist ideology and were going to blow yourself up. Because of all this, mom went into a cardiac arrest. Apparently, at 5:00PM my parents got an email from my personal ID, stating my terrorist intentions. My mom took it seriously and had a nervous breakdown. She was in the ICU.
I started to cry like a baby. My head was spinning and the next thing I remember is that I hit the floor. When I opened my eyes, I was on the hospital bed and my father was sitting next to me. I took his hand in mine and told him everything. He believed me.
My father reported the incidents to “Cyber Crime Cell”. The day I was discharged from the hospital, all my fears started to haunt me again. I didn’t want to experience the same things I did.
I was hacked by a 17-year-old guy who lived in my lane. He used the same DSL Internet as I did. He hacked my system over the weekend when I was sitting in a coffee house using a hotspot. He gained access to my laptop and installed a malware in it. Later, when I connected my laptop to my DSL internet which is also connected with my home-phone, he gained access to my phone.
He used my “Pass Pack” account to get a hold on all my passwords. He tapped my phone line and used it to make fake calls to his schoolmates, threatening their parents, who in return called my number and abused me. He was the one who called and ordered all the food. He was the one who sent all the emails. He was the one who got me fired. He was the one who robbed me. He was the one who destroyed my reputation. And the sad part is, he did it all as part of an elaborate prank.
After going through a trial, the Cyber Crime Cell was able to get me my money back, but the pain and suffering I have been through cannot be compensated. For next 6 months after the incident, I did not touch any technology. I completely cut myself off from all cyber-social activities and all sorts of devices that are somehow connected to the internet. I lost my confidence and my trust in technology.
As I got my way back to normal life and started using the internet again, I researched a lot on how to keep myself safe on the internet. I found one thing common in all of them and that was a VPN. I am sharing my story with all internet users just to give them an advice.
Always be careful with technology, especially the internet, because a simple hack can ruin your life.