Monday, 8 March 2010

Paranoid Delusions

I won't be going to next week's Atheist Convention in Melbourne, that's for sure; not only did they sell out, they also closed their waiting list. So I did the second best thing: I registered myself to the convention's Facebook page.
Given the nature of Facebook, that group page has many people who are the exact opposite of atheists registering and then proclaiming their unhappiness with atheism. One of them, who seems to be running a blog called "Atheism Is Dead" (trust the believers to spice things up with some violence; not to mention the obvious falseness of the claim) posted a comment complaining, amongst others, that the convention refuses to include debates with Christians in its agenda. As if Christians would welcome a debate with atheists during each Sunday sermon. I couldn't resist it; I answered them back, saying Christianity is so Bronze Age and I'd much rather debate Spaghetti Monsters. Which is true: Why should the convention choose to debate Christians, out of all faiths, and why should the convention waste its time debating what everyone at the convention knows to be bullshit in the first place?
The interesting things happened next.
Half an hour after posting my comment I got a phone call from a Sydney number direct to my office. The guy on the other side presented himself as a representative from a company collecting information about professionals, and was looking for me to confirm my professional details (which, undoubtedly, he got off the web through Linked In). I refused to cooperate with someone whose details I could not verify; after the call I Googled the company name he gave me to find nothing fitting the description provided.
A couple of days later I started getting emails informing me that attempts are being made to reset my Facebook password. It's the easiest way of taking over one's internet accounts: pretend you're them and that you've forgotten your password, and then attempt to answer the password reminder questions (which, for most people, are set with way too obvious answers). Thus far it didn't seem like the would be hacker has had much success.
Now for the trick question: Are all these events related? Could it be that by poking my nose into some jealous guy's business I started a fire that triggered some gross attempts to invade my privacy? I don't have an answer regarding the connection between the events, but it would not surprise me if there was such a connection; outspoken atheists are often a target of such attacks (just read from today's posts by PZ Myers here for some samples). Regardless of connection, there can be no doubt that attempts to hack into my Facebook account have been made and that one can gather too much information on me through public web resources.
The lesson? Don't be shy about your atheism; be outspoken and let the begot shy away. Do that, but make sure your privacy on the web is well protected. Be careful with what you expose of yourself in websites like Linkedin, even if it's for purely professional reasons, and set your internet accounts with strong passwords and reminder questions that only you can answer. Then sit back and watch the idiots bang their heads against the walls.

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