I’m VERY Thankful this Year

There’s an informal fallacy called the Fallacy of Relative Privation.  Simply put, when you say ” had such a hard day at work.” and someone responds “Hey, my grandfather worked 16 hour days on his hands and knees in the coal mines…your day wasn’t THAT hard.” you should stop talking to them because they’re minimizing your argument by presenting a worst case scenario.

But, I think you need to head down this path a bit to appreciate and be thankful for what you really have.  There’s always someone worse off than you, and it doesn’t hurt to reflect on your blessings (no matter how grand or meager they may seem to you) and give thanks.   So, as an exercise for me, a celebration of the holiday, and a formal declaration and thank you to those involved, here’s what I am thankful for.

My family. My lovely wife, amazing little girls, parents, sister and in laws.  Without them I would be (at best) lost and (at worst) unable to enjoy the rest of the items in this list.

Karch and Kona, my cats.  Karch has been with me for 16 years and shows no signs of slowing down.  Kona is 2 and reminds me what life with a kitten is like.  I think she also keeps Karch young.

My job.  Yeah, I love and hate it alternately on any given day….but who doesn’t feel that way about their job.  I’m fortunate enough to usually get to do things I love (tech and teaching) and do it with some pretty cool people.

My friends.  Old friends, many of whom are surrogate brothers and sisters for me, and new ones, who week to week keep me from being a hermit.  This includes the college friends who I don’t see or talk to nearly enough, and the neighbors who have made our development an amazing place to live.

My home.  We built our dream house, ’nuff said.

My goals.  Some will be achieved, and some will fuel forward progress.   No matter, I’m thankful that I can consistently set new goals for myself and work toward them.

My health.   There’s nothing but me standing in my way the Spartan Trifecta, traveling, playing with the girls or finding another adventure. Special thanks to Matt at Sandbag Fitness, the folks at Brute Force, Stephanie at SKFitlife, Rose and everyone else at Spartan Race for being inspirations.

Star Wars:  C’mon, like I have to explain this one.

There’s more, but I’ll start boring you, and this is the big stuff.  Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!



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A Letter to Spartan Race

Dear Spartan Race,

How’s it going?   You had a pretty great year, it would appear.  More races, a killer location for your World Championships and NBC seemed to be really heavily promoting your races on tv.  Heck, even in my neck of the woods, Northeast Pennsylvania, you added a Super and managed 3 days of races.   I’m happy for you, really I am.



We’ve been companions for 4 years now.  I’ve completed 6 races, 5 of which were at Palmerton, one of your (self-proclaimed) toughest courses.   But I’ve not been exclusive, I’ve run other races.  I’ve done Warrior Dashes and 5k’s.   (side note:There’s even a 7k at a nudist resort near Palmerton that has me intrigued.  It beats a naked Spartan Race…think of the superbug that would grow on the top of the walls.  Yeah, exactly.)   My greatest accomplishment, though, was the Scranton Half Marathon this spring.   For someone who was never a runner, and picked it up just to start Obstacle Course Racing (OCR) that’s a huge milestone.

Spartan Race, they’re exploiting some of your blind spots and I hope you start paying attention.


They out-after party you.  Bands, things for spectators to do, food, beverages…especially the grown up kind.   They give people a reason to stick around, talk about the race and solidify their plans to do it again next year. Oh, and they tend to have seating/tables/picnic areas!!!   You give a medal, a banana, maybe a protein drink and a free beer.  Good luck finding a seat.    I know, you’re not trying to be one of those party races.  It’s not about that; it’s about my close friend and I getting together from opposite sides of the state and having time to BS about the race.  It’s about my lovely wife and amazing daughters having something to do and somewhere to sit outside the blazing sun for the 3 hours I’m on the mountain.  My loved ones stopped coming, and crossing the finish line hasn’t been the same since.

Your Obstacles need to respect the rest of us.   The sport is evolving and you need to challenge your elites.  I know, I’ve read the recaps of the 2015 season…the good and the bad.   I’m telling you that your obstacles aren’t as fun as they once were.   Say all you want about mental toughness and pushing people beyond their limits.   A 1.5 mile hike up slippery, rocky terrain isn’t fun for the people who are your bread and butter: weekend warriors/desk jockeys.  We can’t run it, can barely hike it, and turn our ankles so many times we just get frustrated.   Add some modifications to obstacles that require more technique and skill as well.  The Z-Wall is a great candidate: you need good technique and a lot of your Sprinters don’t have it.  Instead of making it a burpee-fest for people who were couchpotatoes 8 weeks prior, make it a little easier for them.  Their self-pride will translate into a registration for next year.   Finally, some complain about putting a bunch of obstacles near spectators and having long stretches of nothing.   If that nothing isn’t the aforementioned terrain of Mordor, I don’t mind.    What I do mind putting high-failure obstacles at the end of a race.   Look, I want to finish strong.  I don’t want to fail the rig in front of my family…but I’m gonna, and It’s going to suck for me and I’m not going to finish with the high I would have had.  Seriously, you’ve had your way with me for the past 4 miles…let this last hill be the cab fare and breakfast before I leave.

Finally, get off the mountains.  The Citizens Bank Park race was more fun than a Warrior Dash.  I loved every minute of that race…and you had me lugging a sandbag and running up hundreds of steps.   I’d have done 10 miles of that!    I think you need to get away from ski slopes because they make it too easy to give into the vocal idiots who tell you any given race was too easy because they didn’t soil themselves.   I’m always up for a challenge, but even your WODs and suggested training don’t prepare me/you/us for the races I’ve experienced.  Ditch the ‘the mountain is the obstacle’ idea, because it’s a crutch.   I’ve seen 5 and 10ks done on trails, paintball sites, parks and  lakes.   You’ve done events in Times Square!   Be the true innovators in the sport and find ways to bring it to cities and towns and public areas.

Also, it’s going to make it easier for spectators and camera crews to see more.   I suspect you have a pretty good percentage of racers who started as spectators, right?


This post comes from a place of frustration.   In 2014 I did the Palmerton Sprint and the CB Park Sprint.  You know what I’m going to say….how am I supposed to view those medals?  In your eyes, they’re equal…red piece of the Trifecta.   In reality, they’re not even close.   In 2012 your Palmerton announcer said “we have a mini-beast here” when discussing a Sprint…your ENTRY LEVEL race.  I know each race is different and will have its own challenges, but I’m seeing a distance and suffer-creep that really bothers me.  Don’t play to ones who feel the need to lug tires the whole way or whine that the sandbags weren’t heavy enough.  Give them a tape measure to pass around so they can settle what they’re really concerned about proving to one another.

You’ve got me for at least 3 more races.  I want that trifecta in 2016 and I want my wife and daughters to be there (maybe with medals of their own) to celebrate with me.   I’m not asking for easy races…challenge me.  I’m just asking that you think about what I have to say.  I’m someone who wants you to succeed, not someone who wants to use you to prove how tough he is to his ‘brahs’.




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Why do I do this?

3 weeks in and I feel better.  Hit a major milestone last week; crushed a sandbag workout!   I’m also doing things with the heavy sandbag that were impossible this past August.  By any measure I’m seeing improvement.

I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting; why am I so concerned with fitness, weight, and racing?   It’s really pretty simple:  eating right and exercising make everything you do better.   I love how I feel the day after a good workout and when I’ve been fueling my body right.  I also know how lousy I feel when I skip a workout and treat my body like a frat house.

I do this because it feels good to bend and crawl on the floor with the kids.  I do this because taking the stairs 2 at a time can be fun (remember when it was cool to be able to do it as a kid???)   I do this because I know a better version of myself is on the other side of the next workout.

I’m currently studying for the NSCA-CPT exam.  Kinda’ something I’ve always been interested in, and…I’ll leave my motivations for a later post.  Anyway, I’ve been reading a lot about the science of how our muscles and body react to exercise and it’s pretty fascinating.  We’re a very complex machine that needs to be appropriately and adequately fueled and equipped.

So think about your body like a machine or device you use daily.  Exercise helps you upgrade your hardware.  Makes your bones stronger, muscles bigger and stronger, tendons, joints, etc all see improvement (usually.)  Diet lets you control the type of fuel that runs the machine!   Every start a lawnmower with last years gas?   Ever spray some ether into the carburetor?  See where I’m going with this?   The geek in me is loving hacking my exercise and diet to get more out of my body!

I know that everyone has their own diet and exercise preferences.  I’m not here to suggest you change them.  I am going to suggest you spend a week or two tracking your diet and exercise and mood, alertness and how tired you are.  Some things I’ve seeing: More than 2 beers or glasses of wine and I’m sluggish the next day.  No veggies, or only one meal with  veggies, and I’m just not right.   Too many sweets and I’m irritable…like my skin is crawling.   When I work up a real good sweat with a workout, my mood is improved substantially for the rest of the day.  2 or 3 days without a workout and I’m miserable.

So why am I doing this?  Because I’ve had a taste of how good fit feels and I want that back.  And I have 2 little girls who love doing it with me.


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One Week Later…

I’m one week into changing the way I live.  It’s going about as well as can be expected, and I’m pleased with that.

The good: I’m enjoying my workouts again and feeling really good.  Not doing the two-a-days yet, back to school week for the kids, new schedule; just have to figure it all out.  What I am doing it getting at least 30 minutes in each day, whether it’s T25, sandbag workouts or even a run.  I’m also free to experiment with my workouts; tie a rope to a bag and pull it across the yard.

The bad: Still having trouble with the knife and fork, but I’m working on it.  Ate well 5 days last week.  Saturday, Sunday and today…not really that well, but that’s in the past.   I’ll not going to realize all these changes overnight.

What is my eating plan?   I’ve had a lot of luck with simply counting calories, so I’m starting there: about 2200/day.  I’m looking to put on some muscle (arms, shoulders, back…things that will help with rope climbs, monkey bars, etc) so I should start looking at my protein intake.  I want to hit about 210 lbs… that’s 210 grams of protein each day as a target.  4 calories per gram; that’s 840 calories, subtracted from my 2200, leaving me with 1360 to split between carbs and fats.    I’m working on a 50/50 split there with an eye on healthy fats and complex, close to how nature made them, carbs. There are about 4 cals per carb and 9 per g of fat and that gives me a good idea of what I can eat at any given time.

Why this plan?   As I said, calorie counting has worked in the past.  Where it goes off the rails, for me, is carbs.   I can have 2 slices of whole wheat toast for 140 calories, or 3 slices of bacon for 90.   Duh!!!!    I make my tradeoffs; stir fry sauce instead of extra rice.  I can have pasta, but throw some chicken in.   I’m finding it more conducive to a life with 2 kids and a wife.   I can also track it on the MyFitnessPal app on my phone.

Just as I’m not going bust out 10 pullups next week, I’m not expecting to hit my diet goals every day.  If I can do Monday through Friday, and 2-3 meals on weekend, I’ll be happy.

Came up with my Spartan Test workout.   Feel free to share, adapt and adjust as need be.  I’m planning on increasing the run distances each workout (100 m, 250 m, 500m, etc) Let me know how you do.




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Day One: It All Starts with the Plan

Here we go!

I took the past couple of days to reset and recharge.  I’m humbled and energized by all the positive comments. Today, I want to share with you my fitness plan for the next 10 weeks or so.

I’ve got to make this a habit.   To do that, I’ve to lower the  barrier to entry; get out of my head, reduce options and just get to work.  BeachBody’s T25 workout is going to be the tool I use for that.  I’m not a BB affiliate or coach, there’s nothing in this for me if you click that link.  I just like the program and saw decent fitness results when I did it for 5 straight weeks.    I’ll do the Alpha and Beta phases over the then 10 weeks every morning before work, and hopefully build a morning workout habit.

I also have to work on my running.  Couch Potato to 5k is the program I used a few years ago to prepare for my first Warrior Dash.  It turned me into someone that can run…something I NEVER thought I could be.   The app I used is Ease into 5K, and I’ll be doing this 3 days a week after work/dinner to build my endurance back up.

Finally, there’s weight training.  I’m doing a lot of cardio to boost endurance and lose fat.  I need to keep some resistance training in there keep/build muscle and, truthfully, I just love my sandbags too much to leave them alone for 10 weeks.   I’ll be using Matt Palfrey’s  Sandbag Fitness: 150 High Intensity Workouts to reach that goal.  I’ll be doing strength workouts 4 and 5.   I’m aiming to alternate them 3 times a week on my non running days.

The end result will be  MWF:  T25 in the AM, C25K in the PM.  T/T: T25 in the AM.  T/T/S, Sandbag workouts 4/5.  This will add up to about 60 minutes of exercise on most days.   I will keep an eye on overtraining, but I’m not terrible worried about it yet.   I figure I’m safe for 5-6 weeks so far.

There’s the plan.   I have a diet plan, which I’ll go into more detail on in the near future, as well as the mechanism to keep me motivated.

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Half Marathon to Couch Potato: Or how I Failed myself this Summer

I hit a personal fitness goal this year.  In April I ran the Scranton Half Marathon.  It took me over 3 hours and I did have to walk a small part of it, but I did it.  I trained for and accomplished something I really never thought I’d be able to.   It was an amazing feeling.

But, for me, it came with baggage.  Northeast Pa winters suck.  2105’s spring was mostly winter and I was out there running in the rain, snow, cold and misery.   I got my miles in at the cost of my enjoyment of running.  I hate that.   I miss running through Dunmore Cemetery, getting 3 miles in before work, the antsy feeling if I didn’t run for a few days.   I miss the runner’s high!  The first run after the half was a chore.  I’d gone from seeing 3 miles as the home stretch of a long run to 1 mile having me winded.

So I stopped.

In July I did the PA Spartan Sprint.   I ran with a friend who stayed out till 4am, barely trained and kept the pace ahead of me.  She’d have finished 45 minutes earlier if she wasn’t waiting for me.   I struggled…I was out of shape, winded, tired.   When I stopped running, I lost a key part of my fitness program.  My resistance workouts suffered.

Oh, and I ate like I was burning 5000 calories a day.    Rocking 260 baby!!!!!   I wasn’t worried about sharks at the beach this year….I was worried about whalers!

All this time, I’m registered for the NJ Super on Sept 12th.  My first blue medal and shirt.   I start training half-heartedly.  I’m crushing 15-20 minute workouts….but not running.  I’m working on pullups, but my elbow is sore (tennis elbow, had it before) and geez, my ankles are sore too.   I think I’m going to work through the pain and it will get better.

It didn’t.

Today I had to drop out of the NJ Super.   I’m disappointed in myself.   All my talk for how important health and fitness is and I’ve been a hypocrite.  My shirts and pants are tight in all the wrong places, I’m out of breath doing simple thing and I get in my cellar to work out and get overwhelmed with options and things I don’t want to do.

I’m a mess.   And I’m glad.

My body was telling me I’m not ready for NJ.  I finally realized that running the race would mean a struggle.  I’d probably finish, but be miserable.  I’d fail obstacles, do too many burpees and collect that medal with a healthy dose of disgust.   I don’t want that.  I want this to be fun.  I want the Trifecta next year and don’t want 2 bad races to turn me off the sport!

So it’s back to the drawing board.  Thinking of starting with the basics:  Couch to 5k and sandbag strength workouts.  Get some fitness wins under my (hopefully decreasing) belt and build my confidence back up.  Get the taste for running back and make the time to be better than I have been.

I am very un-Spartany right now.   I have till April (the NJ Beast) to rebuild myself.   Stay tuned…the transformation will be blogged about.



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Black Widow IS a Monster: My Opinion

Alright folks, I’m wading into the deep in here.   Wish me luck.

The internet has been ablaze in the last week over Marvel’s new film, Avengers: Age of Ultron.  Several news outlets, blogs and the unwashed masses of Twitter have gotten all bunched up over the way Black Widow, Natasha Romanov is portrayed in the film.  The list of crimes accuses Marvel and Joss Whedon of giving female heroes less attention, making them secondary characters, and, in Romanov’s case, placing motherhood and monsterhood as opposite ends of the female spectrum.

I’ll admit they have some valid points on the first two criticisms.  I wish there were more female heroes for my girls to look up to. I also wish comics would dress them better.  I’m not of fan of how hyper-sexualized women are in comics, but at least the men are drawn with physiques just as unattainable.  (For real, I have pretty muscular legs and I can’t get my quads and hamstrings to ripple through chainmail.)

I have to challenge them on the last argument though.

To set the scene for the debate: (spoilers for the movie from here on out).    Black Widow is shown to have some level of control over the Hulk, a beauty and the beast dynamic.   At an afterparty, Romanov and Banner (the humans behind the heroes) have a romance beginning with Romanov as the aggressor.  She’s the take charge, confident one, while Banner is befuddled, shy and introverted.  They’re both holding secrets.   He pushed people away because of his habit of turning into a giant green rage monster.   Her spy training required her to do things that would have an effect on anyone, let alone a teenage girl.

Later, she presses him.   He barks that a relationship is a bad idea.  He can’t give her a family, can’t ever be safe, can’t ever be in complete control of his rage.   ANY father can empathize.  How many times have you lost your cool?   What if that meant turning into the Hulk?  Yeah, not a good situation.   She replies by opening herself up in a way nobody could see coming.  She was trained from a very, very young age (7?  8?) to be a KGB spy.  We’ve seen what the Black Widows are capable of (it ain’t pretty.)  As part of her ‘graduation’, she was surgically sterilized to “make sure nothing could even come before the mission.”   Banner is shocked, the audience is shocked.   As a young girl, not only was she made to be a killer, but a future that many of us would call the norm, was taken away from her.  She finishes by saying ‘you’re not the only monster on this team.”

Those 8 words set off the internet.  The argument is that her inability to be a mother makes her a monster.

That’s a load of bull!

They took away her ability to have a child.  They didn’t take away her ability to nurture, care and parent.  We actually see some of this with the Hulk.   Her ‘mothering’ instincts are on display with Hawkeye’s family, her relationship with Hawkeye in the first film, and I’d argue in every scene where she holds her own with the Avengers.   Come on, you’ve got a literal Norse god, a super soldier, a billionaire genius playboy: it’s amazing she’s not growing a beard being around that much testosterone!!!!

They took away her ability to have a child because seduction is part of the job.  You don’t want a bunch of pregnant super spies running around.  You also don’t want them prioritizing the pregnancy, a birthday, a soccer game, over the next mission.


So why is she a monster?


It’s a sum of everything.   It’s the psychological damage inflicted upon her as part of her training.  It’s the lengths she’s willing to goto,  to get what she needs.   It’s the the idea that since 7 or 8 years old she was cuffed to a bed every night, trained to kill, to fight, to manipulate and lie.  She wasn’t a person all this time, she was a tool of the government.   She can be anything she needs to be in order to complete the mission.

We’d all love to be a Norse God, a physically perfect human, or have the genius to build a flying suit of armor.  Would any of us want to cause millions in damage when we lose our temper, like Banner?   Would any of us want to be Black Widow?   Would any of us want to have to fight to get past that kind of baggage???   NO!  No way at all!  Romanov and Banner are monsters because of the monster they fight to control.   His is just easier to spot when it gets out.

So in that scene, she’s letting him know that he’s not alone.  He’s got someone on the team who knows exactly what he feels, and why.   They’ve got more in common with one another than they have with anyone else on the team.  Thor and Cap are incapable of being anything worse than insufferable good guys.  Stark is a jerk, but he owns it and tries to channel it into good things.  Hawkeye just wants to go home to his family and convert the dining room into an office for his wife.

These are issues Banner and Romanov WISH they had.

Agree?  Disagree?  Are you Joss Whedon?   Let me know in the comments.



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Working out with Kids Around

I love working out at home.   Yes my treadmill is collecting dust, but running on a treadmill in a basement was one of the ‘Enhanced Interrogation” methods that Cheney agreed to remove from the list, lest it appear too inhumane.   My rings, bags and pullup bar get a TON (no weight jokes) of use.  I can adapt just about any crossfit-style workout I see online, or do some old fashioned strength training/bodybuilding stuff.

But the girls…   I love them.  I love spending time with them.   Nothing kills workout mojo like balancing #beastmode with #dadmode and 2 kids swinging from the rings.    I understand them, I do.  There’s stuff to jump from, swing on, do flips, handstands and more.  To me, the workout area is a place to forge myself.  To them, it’s an indoor jungle gym.

And that’s my problem.   I want to encourage them.  I want them to enjoy their time in the gym.  I want to plant healthy seeds that they’ll thank me for later in life.  I don’t want them to think it’s off limits or time there ends in getting yelled at.   But I’m struggling.

They’re good kids.   There have been times they’d do part of a workout with me.  They WANT to run and jump and swing and be active.  It really comes down to if I have the time and the workout that can be done with them.  If I say ‘No, Daddy has to do this by himself” they’ll listen, but I don’t want to discourage them.

Ideas anyone?

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My Paleo Adventure

A few weeks ago, looking for healthy recipes, I stumbled upon Melissa Joulwan’s site: theclothesmakethegirl.com.  I checked out some of her recipes and was pretty much taken in by how tasty they all looked.  I was so taken that I dashed to the local bookstore and bought both of her cookbooks.   The family and I stopped for lunch and I picked out a few recipes I wanted to try.

Best. Impulse. Buy. Ever.   For real!

I spent Super Bowl Sunday prepping her chocolate chili.  Now, let me tell you, chili is a sacred food for me.  I take it very, very seriously.   Chocolate?  No beans?   So close to Scoville Blasphemy.    Then I tasted it.   My go-to chili recipe of nearly 20 years has been tucked away in the cookbook.  This is the new standard in the Gowden household.  THIS is what the guys will be eating on nerd days and beer tastings.  This is was will be stanking up the office.   This is pot full of delicious.

I also made a few of her spice blends, sauces and prepped stuff for the week.  I took her Moroccan dipping sauce with a veggie tray to the neighbors.   Every single vegetable was GONE before the chip bowl was refilled!

Her books have completely changed my kitchen!   We’re trying new flavors, new foods (Jicama!   Spaghetti squash!) and loads upon loads of vegetables.   Here’s what I really love; she’s not afraid to flavor her veggies.   So often recipes for vegetables are one of two preparation methods.  You have cheese/butter/high calorie sauces that negate a lot of the benefits of eating the vegetables.  Then you get the ultra-diet ‘don’t let oil anywhere near your veggies and learn to like their natural flavors.”   The books give you plenty of reasonable options for increasing your flavorful vegetable intake without adding a ton of calories.

I really respect that.  I bought this looking for ways to help us lose some of our winterweight.  Any doctor or dietician will tell you that if you want to lose weight, eat more veggies (as long as they’re not dipped in cheese or butter.)  I’m loving broccoli, asparagus and squash now.   Spice mixes (Ras Al Hanout…which I keep calling Ra’s al Ghul in my head) and light dressings make all the difference in the world.

Am I convert to the Paleo lifestyle?  No.  I love my coffee with cream in the morning, and with 2 little kids, pasta has to be on the menu at times.     I can tell you with no uncertainty that when we stick to the book’s recipes for 2, 3, 4 days at a time, we feel AMAZING.   Then the weekend comes, glass or 2 of wine, pizza, wings, pancakes….and the sluggishness is back in full force.  For the first time while trying to change my eating habits, I’m actually seeing a direct relationship between the fuel going into my body and my performance.   Same number of calories, just difference foods, and a marked improvement.

Listen, if you’re just looking for awesome vegetable options, go to her site now.   If you’re thinking about trying out the Paleo Diet, check it out.  If you’re a fan of chili….just go there now.   Believe me.


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How I Can Read your Old Text Messages; Pictures and all

If you paid any attention to the internet over the past few days, you’re aware of a pretty big celebrity hack.   A lot of blame has been passed around, Apple and ICloud, the celebs themselves, and others.   The thing is, Kate Upton and Jennifer Lawrence are different than you in one important way in this case:  more people want to see them naked, than want to see you naked.

What you do on your device with your significant other is your business.   If you put it on someone else’s server, there’s always the chance it could get out.  Doing a bit of research, it’s really frightening easy.   Follow me here.

Let’s say I’m a creep and I know you.   Maybe we work together, see each other at the local bar, or say hi at the gym.   I can stalk you on Facebook.  Come on people, we all do it…you know EXACTLY how much info there is about you on Facebook.  I find your profile, and you’ve locked it down pretty tight, except for your email address.   It’s a gmail or yahoo address.  Safe bet, you’ve reused that address for multiple logins.  Maybe iCloud?

Time for me to get to work.  Head over to iCloud, put in your email address and say I forgot your password.  SCORE!   I get taken to your security questions.   Mother’s maiden name?   Back to Facebook…look, your mom is your friend and she uses her maiden and married names.  You also tagged a picture at the family reunion with your uncle, who has the same last name your mom used to have.   Next question iCloud?   Street you grew up on.  Hmmm….where does Mom live?  Lets try that.  No luck…any #TBT pics?  “Me and the Fifth St crew, circa 4th grade”

I’m now into your entire Apple account.  With a couple of free tools online, I can download and open all your backed up phone and ipad files.  Those texts you sent to your SO late at night, and didn’t delete till the morning?  I got them.  Those pics you deleted.   Yeah, iCloud backed them up before you could delete them.   And what’s this?  Your contacts list?   Sweet!  You have some hot friends and I have all their email addresses now.  I also NEVER needed your password.

I use iCloud as an example, but Google, Dropbox, they’re all similar.

It’s called Social Engineering and the best passwords and security fail time and again.   Kevin Mitnick, a famous ‘hacker’ used to have a great trick to get into company networks.  He wrote a little program that created a login id for him on their network.   He put it on a floppy disc with the name “salaries.xls” or something similarly irresistible. He’s go to the company, talk to a secretary, security, anyone he could find and ‘accidentally’ leave the disc behind.   Soon, he was in.

How do you protect yourself?

First, like I said, you’re probably not Kate Upton.   Not as many people are trying to hack your stuff.  You can breathe a little easier.

Second, use 2 factor authentication.  Most services offer it, and what it does is give you a second level of security.  With iCloud, it sends a code to your phone or ipad that you have to use to complete the password change or recovery process.  It’s strong, but not 100% foolproof.

Third, don’t ever put your information in the security questions.   Put someone else’s.   Got a best friend, share security questions.  Got a favorite celeb?  Use theirs.  If you’ve got a great memory, make one up out of the blue:  Frothingsloshenton.   Nobody is going to guess that.

Fourth, be prepared for the worst.   There’s ALWAYS the chance someone’s going to get into your stuff.  Don’t reuse logon ids too much, and definitely not with financial stuff.  Yeah, its embarrassing if Reddit sees those ‘zesty’ pics you sent to your boyfriend, but it’s a real problem if someone can get into your back account and start making transfers.

Finally, accept that privacy is changing and you have to change with it.   If someone wants to break into your house, they’re going to, no matter how many locks you have and how great an alarm system.  Does that mean to never leave the house?  No.   Just be smart about how you secure your data and services.   You can’t eliminate the risk, but you can do a lot to lessen it.

For more ways, and another horror story on securing your online account, check this out.


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