When a hack attack isn’t

Just over a month ago, an ominous message popped up on my iPad screen informing me that my Apple ID was “being used to sign in to a device near Lower Towamensing, PA.” Oh my gosh. Was I being hacked?

I consulted a map to locate Lower Towamensing. It turns out to be in Carbon County, near Palmerton, some 61 miles south of where I live. Population 3,228, according to Wikipedia—and one of them, it seems, had usurped my Apple ID.

Was it a professional who would worm his way into my iPad’s big sister, the Macbook, and access sensitive files? Could the hacker get into my bank and PayPal accounts? Or was it just a kid, messing around for the fun of it?

The iPad said I could either “allow” the access or change my password. Naturally, I chose the latter and considered the matter done. But no. The next day and the day after that, same message: Someone in Lower Towamensing was using my ID. I began to think of this distant rural township as a hotbed of hanky-panky. What was happening? Was I being stalked?

I changed my password at least five times, wondering how the mysterious miscreant managed to detect each new one. Was he shadowing my every keystroke? Meanwhile, I couldn’t keep up with my own passwords. I would jot one down, cross it off and conjure up another. More than once I typed in an expired password when trying to access things like text messaging. It was getting annoying.

The problem subsided for about a month and I forgot all about it. Then, last week, there it was again. Same message, again from Lower Towamensing. I changed my password three times in a row, only to be instantly told that the mystery hacker was again using my Apple ID to log in to a device. How could he snatch a password so fast?

It was time to call Apple’s help line. That’s a story in itself. You submit a query by e-mail and get a call back immediately—but it’s only a robo voice saying the next available person will be with you whenever. It took 20 minutes, and let me just say that Apple’s hold music is less than restful.

Finally, my advisor, Judy, came on the line. She listened to my story and explained what was really going on.

There was no bogeyman in Lower Towamensing mirroring my every virtual move. Because I had ticked off “two-factor authentication” for my Apple ID, my iPad was trying to tell me that I myself was signing in to one of my own devices. Thanks to Apple’s dodgy sense of direction (remember the fiasco with Apple maps?), the service thought I resided 60 miles away.

Judy told me Apple was taking geography lessons and would soon be better as discerning actual locations. I had nothing to fear from Lower Towamensing. The only person using my Apple ID was me.

Now, if only I could remember my new password….

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