Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Because It Really Could Happen To You—Guest Blogger Sarah Rees Brennan

STATUS: Running out the door in about 30 minutes for all-day meetings. If I had been smart, I would have taken a day or two off right after BEA. Make note for next time….

What’s playing on the iPod right now? BEAUTIFUL DAY by U2

As authors (and even as agents), we aren’t always up on the latest technology so let this be a reminder to always have a backup system in place—even for things you didn’t think needed backing up.

The sad part of this story is that the attack on Sarah Rees Brennan’s live journal and her email account was obviously a deliberate one. We can only assume it was meant to sabotage her release day as Sarah Rees has a large online following and there are a lot of great things tied into her internet presence for her release day.

The good news is that she foiled her saboteur. With the help of a lot of good friends, supporters, and fellow generous writers, Sarah is good to go today--her official release day for her debut YA—THE DEMON’S LEXICON.

Congrats Sarah!




It happened six days before my book came out.

I was in the shower, singing a country music song and blinking coconut-scented bubbles out of my eyes, when I heard my phone ring and scrambled out to answer the phone. It was my friend Bob. 'Hello, Bob,' I said in a perplexed way. 'Aren't you at work?''

Go to your computer,' he said. 'Don't freak out. I'm going to help you fix this.'

I went to my computer and saw that my blog had been deleted. I'd been writing my blog for seven years, since I was eighteen, and it had a lot of my life recorded in it: the parts dearest to me were the posts announcing my book deal, and all the posts I'd made about the terrifying, wonderful process of publication in the almost two years since then. They were all gone.

Then I tried to get into my email, and discovered that was where the hackers had got in: the thought of malicious strangers being able to go through all of my personal and some fairly crucial business emails had me shaking in my fluffy pink bath towel, but there was just no time to panic: I had to call about a hundred people, starting with my bank, proceeding onward to my website hosts and my friends, all the while being on the phone to report the computer abuse to both livejournal and google.

Thanks to the efforts of my more computer savvy friends, who were basically acting as my ninja team of technology, I got control of my blog and my email back in less than three hours. Unfortunately, that was plenty of time to delete every post I'd ever made on my blog, and every email I'd ever sent or received: emails from a long-distance boyfriend, my first email from my publisher, a million emails from my best friend in the diplomatic service. Not to mention all of my email contacts, which was scary given the whole six days to publication, and all the people I needed to be in contact with whose email addresses I had not memorized.

It still makes me feel a little ill to think of all that, lost. Then my tech ninjas said 'Sarah... this looks like deliberate malice rather than a regular hack' and I said sadly that given the timing, I had figured as much.

It was probably just someone who didn't like my style on my blog, and thought they'd take me down a peg. Holy violation of privacy, Batman! The internet is sometimes a scary place.

Since I was given that object lesson in It Can Happen To You, I collected up some very, very simple tips (I am not a tech ninja, so I can only understand the basics!) on how to safeguard yourself against hackers, and wish to share them with you guys. Especially since I know a lot of you are writers, and I don't want anyone trying to ruin your big day! So three tips, then.

1. Using your password on public or unsecured wifi is not safe, as it means you're broadcasting your login data: so if you're going on holiday or away on business and you're going to be using public or unsecured internet for some time, change your password before you go and when you come back.

2. Whenever you're given a link, hover your mouse over it and see where it leads before you go there: just going to a dodgy site can infect your computer, so always regard new sites with a little wariness.

3. And then there are passwords, and how we really do need them to be random, even though it's so much easier to remember your dog's or your boyfriend's name... Not that I'm suggesting those two things are on the same level. I really love my dog! Here's a great site with tips for creating better passwords.

And if despite your precautions - and I thought I'd taken precautions myself - it happens, well, it happens, and it's awful, but right after it happened to me my blog readers were collecting up all their saved entries from my blog, and helping me reconstruct it. Lots of people re-sent emails to me that they'd sent me years ago. And one blog reader provided me with some handy tips, much like the ones I'm giving out to you! The internet can be scary sometimes, but it can be great as well.

Even though that day last week was horrible, today is wonderful. My book is out - my very first book, on shelves, where people can read it!


And nobody can delete that.



A stack on the table at the Borders--Penn Station