Tips From Mat Honan After the Hack That Brought Down His Cloud

BY Hari Sreenivasan  August 7, 2012 at 4:45 PM EDT

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Mat Honan has lived through a difficult reminder about the precarious nature of our digital identities. The technology writer, who contributes to publications like Wired and Gizmodo, painstakingly detailed how a hacker stole and then deleted many things, including priceless family photos of the first year of his daughter’s life and images of his now deceased in-laws.

According to Mat’s conversation with one of the alleged hackers who caused such mayhem, the goal of hacking was just to gain access to his three letter Twitter account, @mat. In the process, they deleted his Gmail account and wreaked havoc in his iCloud, deleting data shared on multiple devices, including his iPhone, iPad and MacBook.

As Honan attempts to recover what data can be salvaged, the NewsHour asked him what he would have done, in hindsight, to prevent a hacking like this. If it could happen to a technology writer that practically lives on the Web, are there lessons the rest of us can learn?

Yes. Here are some of Honan’s tips, in his own words:

  • I should have been regularly backing up my MacBook.
  • I shouldn’t have daisy-chained two such vital accounts, my Google and my iCloud accounts, together.
  • I shouldn’t have used the same email prefix across multiple accounts (e.g. first initial, last name).
  • And I should have had a recovery address that’s only used for recovery, without being tied to core services.

In regards to recovery, Honan recommends two-step authentication for all Gmail account users. Here is a video that explains:


Here are some more tips from Honan:

  • If you are Gmail user, I recommend turn on two-step authentication. That requires second password anytime new device connected.
  • If you are an iCloud user, I would turn off ‘Find My Mac,’ the feature which gives you the ability to remotely wipe out your computer.
  • I would advise make regular backups of your machines and system.
  • If using email account as backup for another, in my case used .mac for gmail, have one email that is dedicated as a recovery email address.

Honan admits, “All these things are a pain. If living in a cloud-connected environment, these are steps people need to take for now. “