Guard against hacked email

Our Internet email provider was hacked recently, and our email address was one of those stolen. You suffered because you received bogus and dangerous mail. We learned a great deal in many hours of handling the fall-out and getting the hack closed. This is what we've learned and think you should know, too:

1) Everyone can be hacked.

2) Hacking doesn't necessarily leave a computer with a virus. The hacking computer gets in once, snags all the info it needs to use your email, and copy your addresses, and departs.

3) Opening hacker emails is not the danger. The danger is in clicking on links within hacked emails. NEVER click on a link unless you KNOW the link or are absolutely sure from the content of the email from a trusted source, that it is something you want to see. (Once, simple opening was a danger. Way back when we all downloaded our email to read it, rather than just clicking to open on our email server, as most do now, simply opening such an email could release a virus into your computer.)

4) Hacker emails/Hacker computer programs are very smart, but not as smart as we are. The computer reads your emails and uses words you use often, in subject lines. But the words are not sensible, they do not hang together.

5) Hacker emails are often forwards (FWD in the subject line). Be suspicious of all forwards. For many years now we have almost always deleted forwards without even opening them. (Apologies to our friends who may have wanted us to see "X" and we did not. We figure it is far better to apologize later, and hear belated news than to chance a hack.)

6) Hacked email is common. We receive at least a few suspect emails every week, as do most people who get a lot of email.

7) Never forward a hacked email or suspected hacked email. If it has a link in it, that action serves the hacker's purpose of multiplying the chances that someone will intentionally or accidentally click on it. If you wish to alert the friend to the hacking, delete the suspicious email, create a new email and send that.

8) Hackers are not operating out of a desire to cause mischief. Hacking is big money, Huge money. The intent is not to put nuisance viruses or even killer viruses in your computer but to cause people to click to sites that then silently suck information from the connected computers. The hacking operation continues with feeding that information to computer programs that then can access banks and other financial point under assumed identities -- it's not your paltry account they target but the bank itself -- and divert money. Money that we all end up paying for because a robbed institution has to absorb such a loss and the programming to battle it as an operating cost.

As for us, Janet Macunovich and Steven Nikkila:

1) We do not and will not forward to you. We send directly to you, as a blind copy if it is our newsletter. If we are replying to your email, we send directly to you with a "Re:" of the same subject line you sent to us.

2) Our email subject lines may be disjointed sometimes when we are listing multiple topics within a newsletter but they do make sense with whatever you see in the first lines of the email you open from us. For instance, we always have the newsletter number and the first lines of our newsletter are always our website name, the newsletter name, number and date.

3) We will not send you links except to

4) We never share your email address. The worst part of this current hacking (the hack is at AOL's end, and is the worldwide virus you may have heard of in the news, which security programs were completely unprepared for) is that we are seeing your emails in the open, not private. We are so sorry for that. We've done all our own mailing-out, the two of us working at it for hours with every newsletter, because we did not even want to give your addresses to a mailing service. We are very sorry.

5) We never advertise or endorse in our emails, so we will never be sending you to some site other than GardenAtoZ no matter how worthy the cause.

6) You can recognize our messages because they are always more wordy rather than less wordy. We are learning in some cases to use the 140-characters-or-less protocol of the new world that Tweets but it's a second language...