Somewhere in the latest WikiLeaks e-mail dump there's probably something about our family.
A real bombshell: On Aug. 27, we ordered paper plates with a tennis theme. How do I know it's there? Let me back up a bit.
Last week my wife got an e-mail from Amazon. Seems they'd found her name and password on a list of purloined credentials, and had disabled her account. Wife asked if this was real.
Don't know, I said. I get those all the time. Usually you can tell they're fake, because they sound like this:
"Hello, This is from the Apple. We are to inform you sorry about your account, and you must enter the money numbers for to be happy again. Yours, the Apple Team."
I check the links, and they always go to some bogus site. The idea, it seems, is that I will be alarmed that my "Apple Account" has been closed, and I will click the link, go to a site that sells Mexican Viagra, and be flooded with relief.
The hackers have apparently figured out a way to scam credit card numbers from people who think Apple sends e-mails that read like English-language instructions on the hand-dryer in a Beijing bathroom.
These hackers are the laziest criminals in the world, but they're not as bad as the people who call you pretending to be the IRS, threatening jail. One of these fake IRS rings was recently cracked in India, and the paper ran pictures of them so you could scratch their faces with a fork.
People fall for this. Old, vulnerable people, who are the last people in America to trust the landline phone. Or answer it, for that matter.
Anyway. I checked the links on the e-mail my wife got. They went to amazon.com. Not amezon or amaxon, but the real thing.
Huh. This could be real.
But if you click on the link your computer fills with digital fungus, the next thing you know your computer is slow because it's being conscripted into a robot army controlled by a Bulgarian teen who uses it to crash airline reservation systems for amusement.
So I went to another computer, tried to log in to her account.
The password didn't work.
I went through the joyless process of resetting it, including two-step verification that sends a number to her phone, which you type into your browser so you can log in and buy a book.
Imagine what this would have been like 50 years ago: You try to buy a copy of "Forever Amber," the hot new novel everyone's talking about. Sorry: Your home address was discovered on a list in a basement in Budapest. You'll have to reset all the keys to your house, and then we'll send you a telegram with a number you can enter by flashing a Morse lamp at our store.
It's ridiculous, and the reason we have to go through this is twofold:
1. The modern world is full of shoplifters with keyboards who should be smeared with meat and dumped in a lion pen.
2. Companies have their customer data stored in a file called MONEY with the password "Password."
It's possible the hackers figure out the passwords with social engineering, though. Eighty-six percent of all passwords are named after a family pet, so the hacker could just call up the president of the company and say "Hey, I think I have your dog."
"You have my — what? I didn't know he got out!"
"Yeah, must have burrowed through the foundation in the basement. But just for security purposes, could you tell me the name of your dog?
"Hmm, that's not what I'm seeing on the tag. Could you tell me the name of the dog you had 15 years ago, when you were on AOL or Hotmail?"
"Oh, that was Trixie. My daughter named it."
"That's the dog! I'll have him sent over by UPS."
Of course, the password for the MONEY file at the big company isn't Trixie. It's Trixie15, because the IT department made him change it once a year.
If they could just not let everyone see our e-mail and passwords, that would be swell.
Yahoo said it actually saw an increase in e-mail usage after 500 million accounts were hacked.
No doubt. People were reminded that they had an account, and called it up to delete it for good.