The Day My Identity Got Stolen (Sort Of)

Yesterday, I was having a nice Sunday afternoon snack in Greenbelt 3 when a text message from my good friend Mae went to my inbox. Mae alerted me that someone was using my Plurk account on the AIM Library terminal and that person was not me. (For the uninitiated, Plurk is a micro-blogging tool similar to Twitter). I got worried when another text message came saying that the person was threatening to do nasty stuff with my account. (View the transcript of their Plurk chat here)

My initial thought was that my account was hacked because I was pretty sure that I only used Plurk on my personal notebook. I hurriedly went to the AIM Library (Greenbelt 3 is a 5 minute walk to the Asian Institute of Management) and I saw this young guy who was probably in his early 20's in front of a computer. Undoubtedly, he was using my account to post micro-blogs as I saw him from a unobstructed vantage point.

I immediately called his attention and asked him to log-off using the account. He explained that he was just meaning well when he posted a message to remind me that I should log-off next time I use Plurk on a public terminal (I hear the idea of me just using Plurk on my personal laptop crashing and burning in my mind). I told him that I understood his position, but I maintained that if he really wanted to help, he should have logged off after he saw the account was still logged in. Apparently, he posted messages and added himself to my "friends" list and this was the main issue my friend Mae had.

The guy and I had a rather heated discussion inside the library and thanks to the guy's dad (who happens to be an AIM alum) and the security personnel at that time, cooler heads prevailed. The guys and I eventually shook hands thanks to the mediation of calm folks.

I was still a bit riled up from the incident, but good thing I attended the 6pm mass at the Greenbelt Chapel. I was able to reflect on the events that just transpired and made some realizations:

  • I should have remembered to log off my account (and remember when I use a public terminal). Had I logged off, the whole thing could have been avoided. (Yeah, I admit it was my negligence that spurred the whole thing)
  • My friend Mae really was concerned about the security and sincerity issue-- if the guy was really genuinely concerned, he should have logged off immediately and should not have done anything with the account.
  • The guy really meant well, it's just that he wanted the world to know of his good deed by posting. He probably wanted a pat on the back, but he got something else instead. He also should have known better than to "play god" with my account and threaten a friend.
I looked at the situation further and realized the the folks who were at odds (my friend and the guy) did have good intentions but ended up having a flame war on the web. I guess that's what you get when you have too many people with good intentions. :P In a way, I'm thankful that this was the only outcome. (Heck, it could have been MUCH worse).

So what's the takeaway from all this? ALWAYS remember to log-off in public terminals. I guess I took this for granted because I'm used to secure browsers when I browse the web. Also, it would be a good step for the Information and Communications Technology group of AIM to install more secure browsers (like Mozilla Firefox or Google Chrome) on the library terminals.


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