Backup for a minute: What should Marc Fisher's son have done?
The most talked-about tech story on the Post today wasn't here or on Cecilia Kang's Post Tech. Instead, it's been Marc Fisher's post--alternately amusing and unsettling--about how a thief broke into his house and stole, among other things, his teenage son's computer.
And that's when things got worse. As my colleague writes, "the apparent thief didn't stop with taking our belongings":
He felt compelled to showboat about his big achievement: He opened my son's computer, took a photo of himself sneering as he pointed to the cash lifted from my son's desk, and then went on my son's Facebook account and posted the picture for 400 teenagers to see.
Marc goes on to note that equally stupid criminals have pulled this kind of stunt around the country, and in response many police departments--unfortunately, the District's doesn't seem to be among them--now look for them on social-media sites.
(There's an interesting parallel here to the way Craiglist and others defended that site's since-revoked decision to post "adult services" ads: It's easier for law enforcement to find criminals if they surface in more public sites.)
I can only hope that this jerk's decision to brag about his theft on Facebook helps the cops throw him in jail, and that other crooks follow his example.
But on an individual level, wouldn't you rather keep somebody from hijacking your Facebook profile, or at least kick them out if they do make off with your account? The Palo Alto, Calif., social network added a remote-logout feature two months back for just that purpose. It's not hard to use, but you do need to remember to use it.
While you're at it, you should also make sure you've added contact information--including your mobile number, if you wish--to your Facebook security settings beyond any e-mail accounts that a thief could easily access from a stolen computer. Then check your Facebook notification settings to make sure that you won't get bothered by notices from the site at these other accounts.
(Note that Marc's piece credits Facebook with a rapid response to his query. That may or may not be a consequence--you knew this was coming--of Post Co. chairman Donald E. Graham sitting on Facebook's board of directors.)
The post wraps up with another unfortunate consequence of the break-in:
On my son's computer, but never backed up, was one of the greatest documents ever, something he would have cherished all his life. He had meticulously kept a running list of every movie he had ever seen, hundreds and hundreds, with his comments on each.
So, once again, I implore you: If you've got data on your computer that matters to you, don't let it stay there. Back it up to something, anything.
Both Windows 7 and the 10.5 and 10.6 releases of Mac OS X include good, free backup tools (note that while that Apple link and other documentation specify "hard drives" as Time Machine backup volumes, you can use a USB flash drive too). You can also choose from numerous options, many free, for those and older operating systems.
But you don't need any special program to safeguard your most important files. Just drag and drop them to an external disk, burn them to a CD or DVD, or upload them to a site like Dropbox or Google Docs.
Don't get me wrong here: I don't mean to pick on Marc's kid. But I do hope that by expanding on his story, other people who have neglected these chores can learn from his experience.
You can help me there: What else could my co-worker or his son have done, either before or after the break-in, to limit the damage? If you've been in a similar situation, what worked for you?
| December 15, 2010; 1:05 PM ET
Categories: Privacy, Security, Social media
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