The Story About Being Hacked – Part 2

Thanks to Brandon Baker of the News-Herald for helping to spread the word!


The Story About Being Hacked

While preparing to leave for a photo shoot, the phone rang at around 7:50 a.m.  A friend of mine on the other end of the call asked “Tom, where are you?”  I thought that was a strange question and a strange way to start a phone conversation.  In the next 15 or 20 minutes I took 5 more calls like the first one.  Everyone mentioned they received an email from me stating I had been robbed in London and needed help with the hotel bill.  At some point my emails were asking for financial help of upwards around $2,000.00.

With the phone ringing off the hook, I needed to leave for my photo shoot; I needed some way to deal with the calls.  I changed the greeting on our answering machine with an alert about the scam.  Before leaving, I wanted to change my passwords to put the mess to a halt.  At that point I discovered my internet access no longer worked.  Using another computer in the house, I found my email password did not work.  A quick check of face book found that password did not work either.  With little time left I needed to deal with the possibility of numerous phone calls about the scam.  Before leaving for my photo shoot, I started a scan of my computer.

After returning from my photo shoot, my computer scan was complete and no malware was detected.  Remember this comment for later.  The next step was to call AT&T tech support.  To prepare for this a new password was created. 

I spent the next 5 hours on the phone with AT&T internet tech support.  First the internet connection for my computer needed to be restored.  To accomplish this my password for the DSL modem/router was reset.  Afterwards, tech support helped reset my email password.  In addition tech support walked me through several other checks to make sure no other settings needed to be reset. 

Now that I had access to my email account, I found my entire address book had been deleted!  Over 1400 contacts were GONE!  My first thought was how can I ever recover them?  Anytime I’ve ever called AT&T support, the technician always asks “Is there anything else I can do for you”?  At that point I asked where the Yahoo address book data kept on my computer is.  I hoped it was in a file that I routinely back up.  The answer was – Your address book is kept on the Yahoo server.  Not exactly what I wanted to hear.  I asked tech support if my address book could be restored.  I was given a case number for my request and told it would be restored in 24 to 72 hours.  That was a HUGE relief!

Wednesday morning at the weekly DIBS Network meeting I checked my email to find my address book restored – all 1400+ contacts.  Hooray! 

The next task was to get my Face book account restored.  I logged onto their site and looked for a password reset/recovery link.  After some searching I found a link, completed the form thinking shortly I’d get a temporary password to use.  Nothing.  Next day, nothing.

On Friday I called my good friend Tony Brooks at TERKKS Computer service in Painesville.  Remember my earlier comment about the computer scan that was clean?  Within a few quick checks of my computer under Tony’s direction, he advised me a Trojan had taken over my computer.  “So Tony, What’s the solution?” I asked.  Tony replied – Reload the operating system!  Having done this myself in the past, I knew time was of the essence and agreed to have Tony do the reload. 

Saturday morning I showed up at TERKS with disks and computer in hand.  Tony looked over my computer and decided to try removing the Trojan.  During Tony’s review we discovered McAfee virus software.  However, the attempt to uninstall the McAfee software did not work.   Next Tony ran a software product called Stinger and viola – the Trojans (approximately 12 of them) had been uncovered and deleted.  I was on my way to freedom. 

Once the Trojans had been removed, McAfee could be successfully uninstalled.  Some of the checks by Tony that indicated a Trojan, were performed again and supported the Trojan was gone.  After around 7 hours at TERKKS, I was on my way home.

During this time, I completed form after form on line, trying to get someone’s attention at face book for help.  God, these internet companies have NO sense of customer service and dealing with people vocally.  All they can do is give you FAQ’s to read which are vague at best!   Finally on Monday, my face book account had been restored.  Yeah, I know – 6 days?  Wheww.

So, some lessons learned.  Watch any unexpected screens that indicate your computer is infected.  Don’t click on any part of the warning screen.  Instead, rely on scanning your computer, not some screen displayed as part of an email.  Keep your virus software and your operating system up-to-date.  Watch where you use the same password!  I used the same password on several sites.  I’ll start using a base password with several variations on it to minimize duplications.  In addition, I talked to Tony about a workshop on computer maintenance for business owners.  Things we should know to help protect our hardware, software and data.

Thanks to everyone who was patient with my situation and I hope no one was taken in by the scam.  Since this happened to me, I suggest you scan your computer and watch for any suspicious emails.  After all, the hackers who hit my computer now have your email address.  Good luck and thanks again!

Pizza For Breakfast Networking Event – Yep, Pizza For Breakfast!


June 2, 2010

8:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m.

Cost: $5.00

Teresa’s Pizza in the Grist Mill Plaza (Near Rt 44 & Crile Rd.), Concord Twp.


Daina Westman • 440/364-9867 •

Photographer Appointed To Ohio Coastal Resources Advisory Council

Local photographer Tom Szabo was recently appointed to the state’s Coastal Resources Advisory Council.  Mr. Szabo was one of four new appointees on the 19 member board.

Advisory council members are appointed by the Director of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) to provide advice and guidance on Lake Erie coastal management issues. The mission of the council is to advise the Director of ODNR on the Ohio Coastal Management Program and to promote, protect, enhance and encourage the wise use of Lake Erie’s resources and watershed.

“As a photographer and scuba diving instructor, Lake Erie represents a valuable resource” Szabo said.  “If my experience (as a photographer and diver) is of value to the council, I’m honored to be a member” he said.

The council meets quarterly at locations along the lake, offering an opportunity for the public to see and hear about important lake-related topics, as well as offer their ideas and concerns relative to lake issues. 

Tom is a lifelong resident of Lake County, living in Mentor and Concord Township.  Mr. Szabo said, “I remember spending summer days at Mentor Beach Park and Mentor Headlands as a kid.  We have such a valuable resource in Lake Erie and we need to work to insure its future and quality”.

I’m Quoted in News Herald

I was quoted in the Sunday, March 14, 2010 issue of the News Herald. See:

Corporate Decisions – Building or Tearing Down Your Brand?

A Thomas Image is not the most expensive photography studio in town, nor is it the least expensive.  I’ve always felt you should experience product quality and quality service at A Thomas Image.  When you purchase prints and photography from my studio I want you to receive a high level of quality and service.

That having been said let me tell you about a situation my Wife and I experienced recently.  My Wife decided it was time to replace our kitchen counter tops.  She called in the designer we used when we originally built our home.  The designer recommended Cambria for our counter tops.  Why? – Because they positioned themselves as a “high-end” manufacturer.  When you buy Cambria, you buy the best in product and service.

Well, the new countertops came in.  After installation, we noticed a defect in one of the tops.  A Cambria field service representative was dispatched to our house.  He inspected the top, took pictures, filled out a report, and tried to correct the problem.  He could not correct the problem.  We were told Cambria would review the information and advise us of their disposition.

Afterwards we learned the defect was in the counter top when it arrived at the installer’s facility.  Meaning it came that way from Cambria.  So now we’re thinking Cambria will make good on the counter top.  After all, they positioned themselves as a “high-end” manufacturer.

We got the results from Cambria – they felt the defect was caused by the installer.  As a result they would not replace the top.  So how did the situation get resolved?  The installer stood behind the job.  He purchased a new counter top, came on site, removed the old top and installed a brand new one.  His commitment was to make us and the designer happy – even at his expense.  Wow!  That’s commitment!

Lessons learned?  First, when I make a statement about the quality of my product and service at A Thomas Image, I need to be committed to stand behind that statement.  Second, just how committed is Cambria to their name in the marketplace and what might you think about their name, higher price and the marketing hype: a “high-end” manufacturer?

More info as it becomes available.

What Does Your Social Networking Photo Say About You?

How cool, you’re on several social networks now.  Everyone knows what you’re thinking.  You’ve posted photos about your pet and your trip to the cottage.  Your list of “friends” keeps growing.  You’re really on your way. 

Hey you even managed to upload a photo of yourself shot with your friend’s cell phone.  Ok, Ok, so some alcohol was involved in the photo – but hey what difference does it make?  Your friends will like that photo over the one of you in a sport shirt, which has nice composition.

 Let’s explore this scenario; You’ve been working real hard at your job.  The raises have been steady.  Co-workers even come to you for your expertise.  Your supervisor often gives you the better jobs/assignments.  Everything seems to be on a roll.  Hey you’re even up for a promotion.

 Now let’s rewind this scenario a little.  Remember the night at the party your friend shot that profile picture?  You know the one where alcohol was involved.  That’s the same night you made a small pass at your best friend’s girl friend – just a little innocent thing – Right?  Well maybe your friend didn’t think it was so innocent.

 Now that you’re up for a promotion, a copy of that profile photo winds up in your Vice President’s email “in-box”.   Oh by the way the VP is a woman and she was in an abusive relationship with an alcoholic, but you don’t know that.  Now she’s looking at your profile picture and she makes the final decision regarding your promotion.  What do you think might be going through her head at this point?  What about that promotion?

 Which profile photo would you prefer your VP see?  The one with some thought about clothing and composition or the picture of you from your friend’s cell phone?  Even if you change the photo the damage is done.  Can you change that – probably not?  Oh to be a fly on the wall during that interview!