Protecting Your Laptop

I had a really scary, and super stressful moment, last Thursday. My Macbook Pro was hacked. Everyone I told could not believe it. I really couldn’t believe it myself. It is, after all, an Apple computer. They’re supposed to be, like, majorly protected from viruses… right? Viruses, computers, bots… maybe. But apparently, people do not fall into this. As in, people can hack into computers surprisingly easily.
(I’ve read that this happened to a lot of people this month and it seems to be tied to some sort of security breach with Apple’s iCloud… or something like that.)
I primarily use Gmail, but I also have an AOL account that I’ve had since first grade. I don’t use it for emails, but instead all my blog comments get sent to it and I used to have my Georgetown email account filtered through it as well. The AOL account goes crazy every now and then, but it’s not that huge of an issue. My computer, on the other hand, was a BIG deal.
Yes, I was really unlucky that it happened in the first place, but the circumstances under which they happened ended up being pretty lucky.
1) I was on my computer as it was happening.
2) My friend immediately called Gmail’s security department who ended up being a huge help.
3) I obsessively back my laptop up.
My morning routine has been a little intense recently. I spend about an hour in my apartment showering and getting ready and then I hop on a subway to work down in Union Square until I have to be in the office. I don’t open my laptop until I’m in the coffeeshop and there are periods of time when I’m underground and can’t access my cell phone. Had my computer been hacked when I was sleeping, getting ready, or riding the subway, I would have been in BIG trouble.
Instead, I noticed something was up after I was already in the office reading through emails. I started to get emails from ALL my accounts saying that my passwords were being changed. Knowing that it wasn’t I who was changing the passwords, I furiously was changing them nearly immediately.
My AOL email, my Apple ID, and my Gmail accounts were being changed. It was so scary. Thankfully I was changing the passwords quicker then the hackers were (I think… at least). Meanwhile, the Gmail people were helping me set up additional security on my accounts and wiping my IP address. The guy helping me had me run some sort of detection thing and two people in Georgia (the state, not country) were apparently hacking away.

It took a solid three plus hours from the beginning of the password changes to completing wiping/protecting everything. And then a good two hours for my nerves to settle down.

I realized, while it was happening, just how connected we are to the internet. I’m not just talking about Facebook or Twitter here either. (Although, I’m definitely very much connected in those areas.) While I was on the phone with the Gmail guy, I had to change my passwords to EVERYTHING. I didn’t want to use my computer in case my key strokes were being tracked or something, so I used a friend’s to change my online banking account, my Paypal account, my social media sites, my university account, and just about everything else I could think of.

Moral of the story: Protect your computer.

(Here’s how I back my laptop up.)

Protecting your laptop is also fun on a day to day basis! Try not to drink liquids near your laptop (I’m trying to be much better about my coffee by the laptop now!) and always put it in a sleeve when walking around.

Kate Spade | Marc by Marc Jacobs

Hex | Kate Spade

Has anyone else experienced an issue with security? Do you regularly protect your laptop? What kind of case/sleeve do you use?


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WV Fashionologist

That really doesn't sound like your actual computer being hacked, it sounds like your internet-based accounts were being hacked. I'm hoping you don't use the same password for all of your accounts, that's the easiest way to get everything hacked into. Also, your password should be really random. MyDogsName123 isn't random. It needs to look like this: Tjer!#g%w. No joke. I'm also going to go out on a limb and say it sounds like you may have been targeted. I may be on the paranoid side, but typically hackers will go after bank accounts and credit card info, not an Apple ID. That just seems weird to me.

Katrine - make it and fake it

Oh my Carly, this sounds horrible, and its sort of giving me an anxiety attach!! thankfully it went well, I will definitely need to go home to back up my mac (I am not as good with it as I should… )! thanks for reminding us its important!

love K

Julia D.

I'm with WV, what you described was definitely an internet thing. Whether that was the extent of it or they accessed that through hacking your computer is debateable, but an option. I'm glad everything worked out for you in the end, though that is quite a scare. Kind of frightening the things we put online that can be stolen, I'm sorry you had to experience it. On the bright side, if there can be one, and this isn't to discredit the amount of stress the experience caused you, you did have luck on your side for handling it and hopefully know how to better protect yourself. Even though it is an awful thing to have to protect against.


Going through the extra steps in your google accounts to protect it is SO SO SO important. I'm glad you're doing that now!

Amanda Coppola

My yahoo account got hacked the other week and I was so shocked since I never heard of macs getting hacked. Thank you so much for posting this so I can keep extra precaution so it doesn't happen again.


My computer was hacked while I was studying abroad, but in perhaps the worst way. It was stolen out of my room (!!!) and all of my accounts were saved to my computer so of course they could log right in. I had to change the passwords constantly for days from a computer at my school's library to make sure they were set. I've had the same fool-proof passwords since middle school (I know that sounds horrible, but they are extremely random) and I had to change them all! The worst part was knowing all of my information on the computer was gone for good, as I was not yet a frequent user of my backup hard drive. Lesson learned, and I try to back up my computer once a month now at least (I still haven't gotten all that used to it). And make sure your roommate locks the door!

Mama K

Someone hacked into my GMail account and changed EVERYTHING. I created a secondary email and emailed Google, Facebook, and other sites with my information. It took 3 days to get everything sorted. Very stressful time. Since then, I use the Two-Step Verification with Google and if anyone tries to log in to a site that isn't already verified by me, a notification gets sent to my cell. I knew there was a reason I hadn't started using iCloud yet… Happy you got everything saved and taken care of!


That is really scary, Carly. With as much digital media and technology as our generation uses, it feels like so much of our lives are tied to our digital activity. I've never gotten hacked, but my mom's email has. I used to have an external hard drive in college and think I need to reinvest. It's not worth losing everything on your computer or jeopardizing your safety.

Real College Student of Atlanta

Super scary — happy you got it all taken care of. My laptop was stolen in May and I had panic attacks worried that my identity would be stolen in every digital way. Luckily, I got it handled too and was able to get a new Macbook. I felt so violated and attacked, these are great tips. Backing up as I type 🙂

Katherine Diane

That's crazy! I would freak out. My Gmail account has been hacked a few times, but luckily Gmail has e-mailed me to let me know (every time it has been someone over seas). I try to back up my computer as much as possible so that I won't loose important papers and pictures, you can never be too careful.


I'm sorry your accounts got hacked into. I agree with someone I don't think it's your computer that was hacked, because if your laptop was hacked you would either get a virus or your computer wouldn't be working so great.

I've been a victim of account hacking myself. Thankfully my school was able to email and help me. Definitely backing everything is good. I always tell everyone to buy an external hard drive preferably before going back to school because a lot of electronic websites does great deal for even a 1TB external hard drive.

Love your article though on backing your files up. Also I'm happy that you provided a 15" MJ laptop sleeve!! I've been wanting a MJ for a while but couldn't find one.

Whitney H

I've had this happen to me as well and I'm glad that Gmail was a help for you. They did absolutely nothing for me and I haven't had access to what was my main email account for over 2 years because of it. Even my first blog was under that name and it was completely lost.

Megan G.

Ohhh nooo, I'm so sorry to hear that about your computer! You were pretty lucky but I wish that had never happened to you. 🙁 At least you backed up your computer and you can be more protected. I always get infected by viruses every now and then, but I try to be more proactive in the protection department!

Maia Price

I'm from Georgia, Carly! And I'm so sorry that someone from that state decided to try and hack you! I hope that they get what is coming to them!


Sorry to hear about your computer…definitely agree with the commenters about having different passwords. I personally am a big fan of using a "root" password like say Abc123 and then adding a plus sign, then a word similar to the site I'm logging into. So for example, my gmail password would be Abc123+gmail. It helps you keep the passwords different for each site and introduces a special character, which increases the complexity of the password. Lifehacker has some GREAT tips on overall security.

Which brings me to a small complaint…why on earth would you talk about protecting your laptop, and then show cases as your means of protection and talk about not having water near the devices? That has nothing to do with the issue you were having… I dunno. It kind of bugged me. You could have highlighted more things that others could do to prevent that type of attack (use different, complex passwords for each site, enable dual factor authentication when available, etc.) Anyways, best of luck with passwords in the future!

Caley-Jade Rosenberg

Sorry Carly – glad you managed to catch the hacking and sort it out before it turned ugly!
It is scary how our lives and identities can be hacked, interfered with and stolen right under our noses… As they say, we can love and hate technology at the same time!!