Bush email hacking a wake up call on privacy

Saturday, February 9, 2013 - 9:12pm

When news broke that six e-mail accounts belonging to members of the Bush family were hacked and some of the contents posted online, reactions ranged from being offended to amusement.

Many people objected to the leak of family exchanges reflecting contingency planning for the funeral of President George H.W. Bush. If ever a family deserves privacy, it is when dealing with the death, or impending death, of a loved one.

Others seized on the semi-nude bathing self-portraits of President George W. Bush to resume ridicule not seen since he left office.

And virtually everyone took the episode as a warning that "this can happen to you."

The Bush family email hack comes on the heels of reports of hacking at universities and major newspapers, and it follows urgent government warnings against our fragile cybersecurity defenses.

So, do the average users of online e-mail and Web services simply have to assume that hacking will expose their personal messages and photos? Not necessarily.

The recent spate of security breaches and the attention focused on them will mean that government and businesses will up their game even more to secure our information infrastructure. But the security reinforcement might take time.

In the meantime, people have options to protect their information and themselves. Privacy and data security is a shared responsibility, after all, and users have a role to play.

Some Web-based e-mail services like Google's Gmail offer tools to add an extra layer of protection. Gmail offers a two-step verification to add an extra layer of security.

Such protection erects a double gate against unwanted interception. Through two-step verification, in addition to user name and password, you enter a code that the e-mail provider will send via text, voice call or on a mobile app.

Two-step verification drastically reduces the chances of someone stealing the personal information from your e-mail account because hackers would have to not only get a password and your user name, they would also have to have access to the mobile phone to which the code is sent.
 

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