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Meet the Columnist

Columnist, Sheila Moss, is humor writer from  Tennessee. She writes  a weekly human interest column about daily life and the funny things that happen to everyone.

   She has written for  the Daily News of Kingsport,   Griffin Journal, Oakridge Now, Atlanta Woman Magazine, Aberdeen Examiner, Angleton Advocate,  and Smyrna AM, a supplement of the Murfreesboro Daily News Journal. She has been published by Voyageur Press, McGraw Hill, and the good folks at Guidepost Books.  Her articles have appeared in numerous anthologies and other publications, both in print and online.

    She is a former board member and past  Editor of  the, website of  the National Society of Newspaper Columnists, the oldest and largest professional organization for columnists. She is the Web Editor of Southern
  and  a founder of the Southern Humorists writers' organization. She is writer, editor, and webmaster of

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Doing Damage Control....

Doing Damage Control

What do Mitt Romney and I have in common? Probably you are thinking "nothing." I'm not running for President and I'm certainly not rich. But there is one thing that we do have in common.

Like Romney, my email account has been hacked.

It has been all over the news that Romney's personal g-mail account was hacked. Of course, he is a famous person and there could be compromising information in his email. It was probably worth hacking to someone who wanted to use it politically to prove a point.

But, I'm not a famous person. Who cares what is in my email? Most of what I have to say is public anyhow. If I was targeted, it was for some unfathomable reason, or else my recipe for chocolate chip cookies.

I found out when friends began emailing me. "Did you send this email?" or "I think your email account was hacked." If you are among the people I correspond with, you most likely received my junk mail too and wondered if I had turned spammer. It will relieve your mind to know there is no "Kit that changed my life."

There is, however, a hacker that changed my life, at least for one evening. I've had my address ripped off before. Most email programs let you send an email using a different address. And the great thing about that, from a spammer's perspective, is that the email bounces go back to the person whose address was stolen. The thief doesn't even have to deal with his Internet Service Provider blocking his email address due to SPAM.

This time it was different. Someone got into my address book and sent junk mail to the addresses of private contacts, editors, and reporters. Imagine my embarrassment. I avoid putting very many people in my address book and use web mail instead of Outlook because it is so frequently the target of email viruses.

It was not a virus. I updated my virus definitions and ran another full scan just to be sure. No, this was done by someone who knew what they were doing. Technical articles tell me there are a many ways that web email can be hacked: by guessing your password, by guessing the answer to a security question, by using spyware when you sign into email on an insecure computer.

In Romney's case, the hacker admitted he guessed the answer to a security question that was too easy. He was quite proud of his devious act. Some people think the question might have been, "What is your favorite pet?" His answer: "Seamus," the name of the widely publicized pet who was tied to the top of his car.

My password was probably too easy. You should never use common words or phrases found a dictionary. You should also not use the name of your spouse, child, or your pet whose picture is posted in Facebook. I, a writer, didn't put enough thought into originality.

I've tried to secure my account now changing passwords and such. I have a feeling it is like your home, though. If someone really wants in, they will get in regardless of bolts, locks, or burglar alarms. If necessary, they will kick the door off its hinges - or use software that tries millions of passwords until it finds the right one.

The email to contacts was the tip of the iceberg. A ripple effect occurred when it went to groups that I subscribe to with hundreds of members, and was syndicated to Facebook and Twitter. It was a nightmare trying to delete public posts and explain private ones.

Maybe I didn't use to be famous, but I'm becoming more famous all the time. First it was for being plagiarized and now for being hacked. Sarah Palin's account was infamously hacked in 2008. Maybe I should put in a bid for Vice President since Romney and I have so much in common now.

Copyright 2012 Sheila Moss

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