DotI – Defense of the Identity

Well the last week has been a bit of a scare for me, but then everything new and mysterious is bound to be somewhat scary. Just a quick summary: I had my computer keylogged for a while (obviously because I was snooping around on the Internet for “stuff” and out of bad luck had my computer infected with one of ‘em spyware programs). This lead to my main e-mail account being stolen, my PayPal account stolen and a few other tid bits which caused a bit of worry for me. Let’s divide my report by date.


February 26

This was the day that the keylogger (guy) slipped into my PayPal account and managed to transfer about $500 AUD from my bank account into various other places. At least I think it was him but if it wasn’t then this was just a stand alone incident. Anyway, I had $500 mysteriously disappear from my bank account, which I didn’t notice until 28th February. I was paying off my bills for buying uni textbooks when I noticed my account had less money than usual. And then I found 7 PayPal transactions for varying amounts which got me very worried. Checked my PayPal account and found an extra 4 transactions which PayPal had managed to stop (the last 4 I presume), resulting in them limiting my account because they “finally” detected suspicious activity.


I filed a report to them to have them give me back my money, which they did after a day or two.


March 6

This was the main day of the attack, although I hadn’t noticed it immediately. He had decided to steal my e-mail account around noon here, and after doing so, proceeded to steal my PayPal account at about 2pm. After I checked back, he had deleted 4 e-mails which were all PayPal e-mails regarding how to reset my password – geez does he really need to reset my password 4 times? Anyway I was still on msn that night so he must’ve changed my password later. He also changed my security question, although I wouldn’t have remembered the question or the answer anyway. He also changed my alternate e-mail to his so I couldn’t retrieve my password.


After stealing my PayPal account he didn’t really do anything with it. But he also did steal my Twitter account, I’m not sure for what purpose but over the next few days he had bought a couple of pokemon cards, over some site. Perhaps that was just to spite and taunt me. It was funny because a couple of people thought that those purchases belonged to me; and it’s just coincidence that buying pokemon cards was not something too farfetched for me.


March 7

I only realised all of what happened on Saturday like at night. And the bad thing was that I had a suspicion at about 4:30pm when I tried to sign onto MSN, it said my password was wrong. But before I could investigate more, the door bell rang and the kid I was tutoring had arrived; so I decided to leave things later. After tutoring, so around 7:00pm it finally sank in that there was a keylogger on my computer. After desperately trying to log into my e-mail account, I immediately went through my computer and scanned it for anything weird.


The stupid thing was that I had ignored a couple warnings before, which obvious were about the keylogger; I should’ve done something about those warnings huh? Basically, a keylogger is a spying program which can “log” everything you type, and perhaps the websites that you visit. It’s not as serious as a virus because a keylogger has these three features, which anyone can deal with whether they have an anti-virus program or not:

  • It’s stored as an executable file on the computer – mine was “winlog.exe”
  • It’s visible as a running process in task manager
  • It’s located on the list of programs that start up when the computer is turned on

So getting rid of it can be done manually and easily, for the more basic ones I guess. I managed to get rid of it, hopefully. But even today I still hope I did manage to get rid of it, otherwise the battle may still be on.


I immediately changed my password for everything else, or everything else I could log in to. It was then I realised that my PayPal and my Twitter were hijacked as well. But I took quick defensive measures and changed my password for everything else. I filed a report to Hotmail to have them reset my password for me; they said it would be about 24 hours before they would reply.


March 8

After growing a bit frustrated from the previous night’s incidents, I somehow managed to reason that my losses weren’t too big. My PayPal account could be closed if he tried to spend any of my money. Twitter I’ll just scrap, and Hotmail, I’ll just change e-mails. Of course I wasn’t willing to just let him win like that; and the bad thing was that my $500 refund from PayPal from that previous incident was credited to my PayPal account, and not back into my bank. So now my hijacked PayPal account was sitting on $500, there was a reason to fight now haha.


It’s funny though. I now realised just how important our “identity” is over the Internet. We are all represented, in a sense, by our e-mail accounts funnily enough; that is our identity (as opposed to character and personality). We are known by our e-mail addresses, which act as our virtual mailboxes for people to find us. Having your e-mail account stolen would be like having something take over your house. Our e-mail accounts play quite a huge role in the things we do over the Internet. They’re linked to important things, like online banking/shopping, our hobbies, Facebook especially. Everything we do on the Internet requires an e-mail and so if you control someone’s e-mail, you control everything they do on the Internet. I have back up e-mails, yes, but I won’t use them unless it’s absolutely necessary.


I used my backup e-mails to trying and act as a safehouse for my other online accounts, like my blog and Facebook. That wouldn’t have worked so well because once I managed to get my e-mail account back, I found all these e-mails about me trying to change the contact e-mail (for Facebook, etc) and that he could’ve easily clicked a link in that e-mail saying that the change was a mistake and then I’d be back at square one. So having backup e-mails might not be as helpful as they could be.


At night, I took another preventative measure and called up PayPal to have them lock my account. I wonder if I supplied information to them that only I would have; I mean if anyone did their research well on the person they were stalking, they could easily pretend to be that person and regurgitate some personal details that they memorised about them. Same for “proving” your identity over the Internet


There was no reply from Hotmail, so more than 24 hours had elapsed. The guy bought a Gyarados.


March 9

I filed another report to Hotmail in the afternoon and posted on their forums. Apparently, Hotmail has a backup retrieve account system where you can fill in a form with as many details as you can about your account and use that to prove your identity; no-one knows your account better than you do, yeah? That, or the stalker did their homework and passed with flying colours.


Around 6:30pm someone finally replied to me and sent me a link to reset my e-mail account, and very frantically I re-established control over my e-mail account; reset the password, changed the security question, changed my details back, including the alternate e-mail. I found out that the guy lives in Morocco; and I also have his alternate e-mail – which I sent a message to, saying that I had won; he taunts me, I taunt him back.


I immediately got my Twitter account after that and removed those stupid tweets; he had bought a Zapdos earlier that afternoon; but neither of those purchases were with my PayPal account, not that he could link it anyway; it doesn’t display my bank account number or credit card number.


I phoned PayPal the following night and immediately transferred my money back into my bank account. Match over?


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