February 16, 2009
Facebook Insecurity

This past weekend, I attended what I like to call a "writers conference." (It was RadCon -- an event more properly called a "science fiction convention," but I went there as a writer, so let me cling to my euphemisms, okay?)

During a lull in the conference, I should have been working on red-lining the page proofs I'd received for Swordplay, which contains a short story of mine ("Last Man Standing"). Instead, I decided to create an account on Facebook, as I'd alluded to earlier.

Once on Facebook, I found a near and dear friend of mine who had posted to her "Notes" section a response to a couple of questionnaires that seem to be making the rounds. "Twenty-Five Random Things About You" and "The Name Game", where you answer questions based upon factoids about yourself.

These seem like really fun games to play, and I want to play. I want old friends of mine to have a chance to catch up with some of the tidbits I've collected in my life over the years. I want my old friends to find me. I intend to find a way to share what I can with them.


So many of these fun little games can pose a security risk. I don't mean like, "Oh, Betty Sue from first grade might find out that I've converted to Pastafarianism and now will use that information against me to spoil my relationships with our mutual friends from first grade who have since become religious fundamentalists." Rather, I mean, "Oh, I mentioned the name of my first pet, and that's the security question on my credit card accounts."

I've written a bit more extensively on the topic of "breaking and entering" into your identity using this kind of information. Please take a look at my previous blog post on the subject. But, let me repeat part of it here:

If someone wants to get at your online identity, your weakest link (and therefore your greatest vulnerability) is probably your security question.

Many online data warehouses will, if you "forgot your password", simply e-mail your password or a password-reset link to your e-mail address. As long as you have reasonably good control over your e-mail address, that's fine. But many online data warehouses will, instead, ask a security question (possibly even one that you have picked). Upon successfully answering the question, *anyone* can be given complete access to *your* online identity.

This is particularly problematic for AOL and the major blog networks, where the user ID is already public. If Johnny Badguy wants to hijack your blog on BlogJournal, and he knows (isn't it always a 'he'?) that your blog belongs to "Victim-American", then he already knows the login ID to use. When asked the security question, well... all he has to do is look it up on the web, no?

It's like this: Johnny Badguy types in your login ID and clicks on "I forgot my password." He is then asked, "What year did you graduate college?" He then searches your blog (or elsewhere on the internet, as appropriate) for any references to your age, deduces what year you probably graduated, and then he's in. "What's your mother's maiden name?" He looks for any references you may have made to your grandparents. "Where were you born?" Again, not usually all that hard to find the clues necessary to come up with the answer.

I've been meaning for some time now to post an essay about an old car I owned, but I know I used that as a security question/answer for something, and until I track down what it was, I'm reticent to share that online....

So, yeah. One of these days, I'll probably join y'all in the "Twenty-Five Random Facts About Me" game. But I strongly encourage you to make sure you are not sharing any information that you have used as the answer to a security question on any of your bank, credit, or online accounts.

By the way... will you be my friend?

Posted by at 11:32 PM in the following Department(s): Technology , Tidbits | Comments (3)
 February 17, 2009
Cool new novel from cool new novelist -- and a reading!

Ken Schole's new novel, Lamentation, launches today. He will offer a reading tonight (February 17th) here in Seattle at the University of Washington bookstore downtown at 7pm.

Friday, February 20th, he will be at Third Place Books at 6:30. He has an entire slew of readings in other towns up and down the left coast (including Powell's in Beaverton, OR and Borderlands in San Francisco) throughout this week and next. You can check his website for times and locations.

Ken is an amazing writer as well as a great guy. I've had the opportunity to start on this novel, and I'm enjoying it a great deal. A mutual friend of ours who has been a "first reader" for Ken says that he has seen the first drafts of the next two books, and they just get stronger and stronger. So, go meet Ken if he's coming to your neck of the woods, and definitely buy his book regardless. (And, if you're a fan of science fiction and fantasy, you might even read the book.)

Posted by at 11:41 AM in the following Department(s): Writing | Comments (0)
 February 18, 2009
Minor housekeeping note

I have consolidated the "Alexander Benjamin", "Nolan Theodore", and "Andrew James" categories into one big "The Boys" category. I suppose I could have called the new category "The Kids" or "My Three Sons" or any number of other possibilities. But, this will do for now.

Combining the categories will allow me to occasionally make observations about one or more of them without necessarily tipping my hand as to which one I'm referring to. This is not an effort to be coy; rather, as they get older, it'll be more relevant to allowing them some modicum of privacy while still allowing me to tell my stories....

Posted by at 07:35 AM in the following Department(s): About This Site , The Boys | Comments (0)
 February 21, 2009
Are they twins?

Are they twins?Okay, here's another gratuitous photo of Alex and Nolan. Sorry to bore my friends and other visitors who aren't as enamored with kids as I am, but every once in a while, I just need to trot out the ol' photo album.

As I've mentioned previously, I'm inclined to share [some of] my experiences with them now, while their lives are still mostly under my umbrella. As they get older, and their stories become more their own, I'll have to exercise even more discretion. In the meantime... let's take another peak at the brothers Rousselle.

I snapped this photo in August of last year. I'm not quite sure why, in the middle of summer, they were inclined to wear heavy pajamas, just as I'm not sure why now, in the middle of winter, they are inclined to wear next to nothing when they go to sleep. They simply take after their old man, I suppose.

But this photo reminds me of a phenomenon I don't think I've mentioned here before, and it strikes me as bizarre every time it happens. When I am out shopping with the kids, or some similar public outing, and they are seated next to each other, it's not obvious that Alex is substantially taller than Nolan. Apparently, it's also not obvious that Alex is three years older than Nolan. I am often asked by passers-by:

Are they twins?

I look at this photo, and I think I see why. Despite Alex's height advantage, Nolan is quite sturdy for his age, and there's only ten pounds or so separating the two. But just look at those smiles. And look at their eyebrows. For all that they are so very, very different, their mannerisms and eloquence are more similar than most siblings I've bumped into. On those occasions when Nolan chooses to wear shirts similar to what Alex is wearing, the resemblance can be quite pronounced.

It's a funny question, every time I hear it, but I also think it's cool. It's a reminder that I've been doubly -- now, triply -- blessed.

That said, I doubt anyone is likely to ask if Alex and Nolan and Andrew are triplets, what with the six year spread, but it seems possible that, a few years down the line, Nolan and Andrew might elicit the same question that Alex and Nolan get now....

Posted by at 01:19 AM in the following Department(s): The Boys | Comments (1)

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