Being hacked is a beautiful thing
7 min read
09 March 2017
Last week, a beautiful thing happened as I found my LinkedIn account being hacked.
Indeed, I received a message from the company stating that another email address had been applied to my account and that I should remove it, if it was unauthorised and transpired I was being hacked.
Alas, the message did not state how I might accomplish that task, given my own email address had been compromised in the process of being hacked. Every effort to log in was disabled.
My email address was not recognised by LinkedIn. I had no way to contact the company directly as there was no 24-hour hotline proudly emblazoned across its website. There was, no doubt, a method to potentially resolve the issue of being hacked, if I managed to navigate the labyrinthine help pages, but I had neither the time nor the patience to do so.
Consequently, I signed up as a new member with a completely different email address and password after being hacked and bumped into myself along the way. There I was, profile intact, photo too, all articles I had written present and correct except I was now Johnny No Mates.
The rogue emailer had stripped every single one of my contacts but, rather like an opportunistic burglar, took everything in immediate view and left the valuable stuff behind.
Do you really want all my 828 connections, many of whom are not real connections, not offline connections? Be my guest. I don’t know who most of them are.
I estimate perhaps 20 per cent are those with whom I would like to build a meaningful long-term relationship. Some I know anyway, offline style, in the real world. Less is more.
Frequently, random users would ask to connect with me. If I liked the look of them or they had an interesting story to tell, I would typically accept, regardless of whether I perceived a direct benefit.
I ignored the majority as I tend to apply a rule in which I envisage myself observing people in the foyer of a hotel. Most might just receive my raised eyebrow or tilt of the head, as a tacit acknowledgement, but there are always a select few with whom I think I might wish to enjoy a quiet drink in the bar.
If the bond is especially strong, I might even, in exceptional cases, invite them to my room but there are plenty more I am delighted to wave off from the lobby on a long road to nowhere in particular! That rather reflected my LinkedIn experience, which is truly a mixed bag.
A couple of years ago, my old iPad finally expired and has gone to its eternal rest in mobile heaven. As I had only intermittently backed it up, virtually all content was wiped clean. But I discovered that my email accounts were alive and well and my articles were retrievable too.
The only thing that was lost without trace was my address book with some 900 contacts. You might think disaster but I thought opportunity.
How many of those 900 were truly valuable to me? I concluded that roughly one-third represented people I knew and liked, all close friends and associates, a second third those with whom I enjoyed an intermittent relationship while the final group comprised people I either could not remember or never much cared for in the first place!
Rebuilding my address book from scratch proved very cathartic. The top hundred were easy to determine, the second hundred slightly less so, the third more problematic. I congratulated myself on my emphasis on quality over quantity but, almost inexorably, my contacts sailed through the 500 mark and beyond.
Whisper it quietly but it is now well over 1,000 and I feel another cull is due, this time by my own hand. One of my cousins revealed a couple of years ago he had over 7,000 names, many of which were replicated, so his address book was morbidly obese.
I suggested no more than ten per cent of those names were required to forge healthy business relationships. You would never find a real address book of that magnitude unless it was the size of War and Peace.
Managing your contact base online should encourage a certain tact. Nurture relationships with care and handle those that matter with courtesy.
This may seem a rather quaint approach to many but it is of critical importance. When Jennie Churchill, mother of Winston, invited George Bernard Shaw to lunch he telegraphed back “What have I done to provoke such an attack on my well known habits?” to which she replied “I know nothing of your habits but hope they are better than your manners!”
Equally, I recall my four year old son making a beeline for a curly wurly at the newsagent and, when asked to show the shopkeeper his appreciation, stated “Thank You, Mr Man”, a sentiment I echo by saying “Thank You, Mr Hacker Man!”
Five offline lessons to surviving being hacked:
(1) Unless you are fanatically well organised, managing your connections requires real discipline and care. It’s survivable if you do.
(2) Your online persona is an adjunct to your relationships in the real world, not a replacement.
(3) Write down annually on a sheet of paper all those people, in business and beyond, who are important to you. It may surprise you as to who you remember and, indeed, who you forget!
(4) Jan/Feb was the warm up act for 2017. Now you are into your stride, what courtesies and generosity of spirit may we expect from you over the remaining months?
(5) Being hacked is an invisible and corrosive threat, not easily countered. The best antidote is to ensure you keep salient information in your head and embrace an offline life in an age of digital dominance.
Howard Lewis is the founder and director of technology-free networking experience OFFLINE