Why “blocking a hacker on Facebook” does not work

For years, I have been scoffing at police officers who say things like “just block the person on Facebook” when your equipment gets hacked.

Today, someone asked me a question that puzzled me for a moment and it got me thinking.

Most people really have no idea what “getting hacked” means.

It means that someone takes full control over your equipment and can override – and change and delete – anything you do.

This is what happens when big companies get hacked. Someone gets into their equipment or gets into the “thing” that they are (like Twitter). They may do damage – break stuff – but they may also simply copy lots of data. Because when big names get hacked, it is frequently to get at data that can be sold on the black market. Credit card data, for example.

Because it is these big names that make the news when they get hacked, it seems that a lot of people may think that when a person “gets hacked”, it has something to do with those big name companies. Like Facebook. Or Yahoo. And that it is just your password that got stolen, so all you need to do is change your password and block anyone who is hassling you.

But that is not what getting hacked, as an individual, is.

Getting hacked is comparable with, say, your heating’s thermostat going completely haywire and you having no control over it. (Picture an invisible person standing there in your home and fiddling with the thermostat.)

It won’t help you to go change the thermostat setting at, say, the McDonalds in town. You need to get your own thermostat fixed and possible your heating system as well because it may have been affected. You may even have to get a whole new heating system and redo the wiring. Or more, such as do something to the water pipes.

But going to McDonalds or KFC – or Argos or any of the other places that have a lot of online orders – and changing the setting on the thermostat there won’t help you one bit.