A Character Lesson from a Hacking Experience

My Twitter account was hacked last October.  It happened because of my technological ineptness, which I’ve forgiven myself for (huge sigh).  One of my favorite sayings is “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade”; so that’s what I’m going to do by writing this blog, sharing with you the lesson I learned from the reactions of about 150 of my Twitter followers who received nasty bogus messages from the hacker.

The lesson is this: never expect 100% of the people to provide empathy, support, and understanding when a crisis (okay, calling this a “crisis” is a bit of a stretch, but what the heck) occurs; there’s a good chance someone won’t “get it,” will, in fact, display a lack of character which will astound you.  That’s what happened in this situation.  Below is the letter I wrote the individual, which describes everything that happened; I’m calling him Herman to protect his anonymity.

Dear Herman,

I sent you my email address via Twitter asking you to contact me; you didn’t.  I left a message with Rebecca this morning asking you to call me; you haven’t.  So I’m taking a moment to write you (I would have sent it to your direct email address but you don’t post that on your site; I could have sent it via your site but I have no desire to publicly embarrass you), give you my thoughts—in a constructive way; hopefully you’ll take them that way—regarding the recent Twitter hacking experience I endured.

Of the 150 or so followers who received the bogus messages from the hacker (this before I was able to change my password, put a stop to the nonsense), a good number sent messages of empathy, support, and understanding; some even offered technical help to solve the problem. Only one—you, Sir—took the inappropriate low road of blame, hostility, and abandonment.  Tell me, What do you think that says about you?  What do you think it says about your character?  It certainly doesn’t comport with the name of your company or the possessing of an “indomitable spirit,” which you write about in what I thought was an excellent post.  I’m not trying to hammer you, young man; I’m trying to point out how inappropriately you behaved, that you did a disservice to both of us, that you created a lose-lose instead of seizing the opportunity to be supportive of someone you were connected to, the way everyone else did.  Perhaps you held me responsible for my technical ineptness, which I plead guilty to; although my tech guy says it’s happened to people a lot smarter than him, let alone a 68-year-old technological misfit like me.

Finally I’ll ask you this: How would you like others to behave towards you in a similar situation?  Or your clients, for that matter?  Would you want them to be supportive the way all my other followers were, or would you like them to treat you the shabby way you treated me?  It’s a fair question, and I ask it so you can do an honest evaluation of yourself, assuming you’re objectively capable of that.  That’s it; I wish you no malice—I’m too damn old to wish malice upon anyone.  I figured you were worth investing some of my time into; I hope I was right.  I’m always loath to give up on people.

All the best,

Robert Terson


The following email was Herman’s reply to my letter, after he had started following me again:

Hi Robert,

I like that when you have a problem you address the person. This is a good trait.

Once you hear my reasons you will likely understand my actions. Imagine if someone you don’t know appears to be making defamatory comments about you.

Consider for a moment that the website people are given to link to is a known security risk. This means a site can potential puts malicious programs unto your hard drive.

These types malicious program are also often written so besides compromising the host drive they also transfer themselves to someone another person’s hard drive. Therefore, a person who wrote the program can hack into other people’s computer and even steal sensitive information.

Now imagine that by your actions or inactions other people can suffer (for me that’s, anyone who accesses my website, receives an email from me etc.). It seems to me regardless of fault the most prudent action is to evade and warn others of the potential hazards.

Does this make sense to you? Now imagine the person, who owns the account, tells you he’s not responsible, someone else did it, but you really don’t know him from Adam. How is it possible to judge the veracity of the person’s statement?

You say, you’re in your 60’s and I gather you do or have worked in sales. So you know that even the most innocent appearing people can and do misrepresent themselves.

Hopefully, this letter makes it clear to you my action is not malicious. However, I cannot afford to jeopardize my own private information or put at risk the security of my followers.



P.S. Thanks for calling me a young man, but I’m well into 50 years old J . Imagine how working two jobs, caring for an ailing wife, and raising twin girls is at my age, and you’ll like understand why I’m slow to respond


Herman’s email letter was, to my perspective, (never mind the poor punctuation and grammar) a lot of defensive excuses, which simply told me it was “all about Herman”—period.  It spoke not a word to the character issue I challenged him about in my letter.  His comment “You say, [sic] you’re in your 60’s and I gather you do or have worked in sales,” told me he doesn’t know me at all, never even looked at my site.  His way of connecting is superficial at best, which is too often the case in this new modern electronic world of ours.  Herman could have taken so many positive actions, including calling me, but I just wasn’t worth that kind of effort to him.  Herman is all about Herman; the other guy?—not so much.

Simply put, Herman is not my kind of guy, so I decided to click him out of my world, despite the sympathy he generated re his ailing wife.  This is a man who wants to tell other people how to sell; but in my subjective opinion, selling is all about the customer, not the salesperson, and anyone who lives an existence of “it’s all about me,” isn’t qualified to do that.

A recent blog I posted is entitled Every Adversity is an Opportunity to Display Character; I hope you’ll read or reread it, whichever is the case.  I probably should have included it with my letter to Herman; it might have benefited him (although I doubt it).  I hope it benefits you the next time adversity strikes.  You may be driven somewhat nuts like I was the night I got hacked, but think how wonderful you’ll feel because you displayed true character.  If others are involved, unlike Herman, hopefully you won’t be so into your own world, or too busy, to be empathetic to their plight.

Anyone else have a similar experience?  Care to share?