Friday, March 26, 2010

Did you hack my account?

Like everyone else, I have been making the most of Facebook, trying to connect with Pakistanis I have read about, authors whom I hold in high regard, and, of course, ordinary people like my husband and I.

I was happy when an author, a singer, an activist, an actor and some other Pakistanis added me to their lists of friends.

The singer, who is a favourite, was quick to reply to my note too. “It’s always a treat to meet Indians. My wife and I would love to have you and your husband over,” he wrote to me. He even sent me a nice couplet on how Indians and Pakistanis had felt the pain of Partition.

I, of course, jumped at the offer. For me it was a double bonus – he was my favourite and I didn’t have to beg him to meet me. However, when he told me where his home was I realized that was a no-entry area for Indians. “No problem. My wife and I will come over. Just tell us the time and date,” he wrote back, giving me his mobile number, insisting that we should meet “soon”.

A couple of days later, I sent him a text message inviting him home to dinner. The singer graciously thanked me for the invite, saying he may be in concert that day. So I asked him to give us a convenient date; but he never took us up on that.

Around the same time, I added a young professional, who writes regularly for an ezine and occasionally for Pakistani newspapers. My husband and I met him at an Indian diplomat’s reception and, I thought, we got along quite fine.

We parted on a cordial note promising to keep in touch, regretting that we hadn’t met earlier. That evening I added him on Facebook and we exchanged a couple of messages over something he had written after attending that reception. However, when I did invite him home, he told me he could be busy that day and that he would confirm later. He never did.

I was beginning to wonder what’s wrong with my friends on Facebook, till I added a relatively unknown Pakistani, who in my opinion, writes very well.

Two days ago, I found out it was his birthday. So I sent him a message wishing him the best and the same day he chatted with me briefly. After the usual pleasantries, he told me his yahoomail got hacked soon after he added me and wondered if that had happened to other Pakistanis I had interacted with.

I told him I had no idea. The questions that followed made me feel like a suspect (I do so wish I had the brain/resources/time/inclination to hack email accounts). He then very politely floated the idea of deleting me. I agreed wholeheartedly because I didn’t want to be the source of trouble for him or anyone else.


  1. Shocking and scary...but on a second note..not surprising...except that it must have been real embarassing!!
    Hope they do not hack your followers accounts ;-)

  2. so so scared....just like A.M

  3. Well it is SHOCKING in plane English language, but I do have some very good vocabulary for him if you ask me in Punjabi.

    But it goes without saying that Pakistani society, like any other society on gods' earth, is not homogeneous. There are many kinds of people with many varying degrees of madness. I, e.g., am known to all and sundry in Islamabad for hosting my Indian friends (who are far too many than one would imagine). I used to get frantic calls from our spy network(s), got them chasing me and my guests etc a decade and half ago. But now when we've successfully established that we're harmless simple people interacting with each other, loving each other and trying to make our lives more living-worthy having fun together, they don't bother much.

    But its true that both of our states and spy networks are obsessed with each other and end up harassing the guests sometimes. But the incidence that you narrated above, puts me off and gives me a bad, really bad taste in mouth. I wish I could know who he was so that I could explain to him in my own Punjabi lingo, what I think of him!

    My apologies from Pakistan!
    Marvi Sirmed

  4. a4ashu

    WWWooooWWW this is big-brother stuff, electronic Bhais department in isloo are working full time for you, hehehe.


  5. @Marvi Sirmed - I totally agree with your observations. Thanks for showing that there are people who have a friendly outlook and courage to call spade a spade.

    @Author - I really appreciate your patience and courage. We have plenty of know-how to hack the hackers.. but then two wrongs would not make anything right :)

    Wish you guys all the best and pleasant stay in Pakistan! You guys rock!

  6. @AM, Marvi, a4ashu, anonymous 1 and 2, you guys rock!! thanks for reading, commenting and posting your feelings.
    @Kannan, you had some valid observations. Have always appreciated your comments. Could you please post comments again minus "X-rated stuff" :) It's just that we decided there would be no profanity on this blog.
    Thanks again, everyone.

  7. Author...Just a thought.

    Do our agencies do this to Pakistanis and their Indian guests in India too?????

  8. That wa sumthing crazy that guy thought.... Hacking a email nd all that stuff... Feeling so sorry for u getting so embarrassed.... But keep on making friends... Becoz all 5 fingers are not the same... Some ppl will accept ur invitation...
    have a nice nd safe stay...

  9. @Anonymous, our agencies do keep an eye on the Pakistanis, including the High Commission, but it's discreet. The day I visited the Pakistani mission for our visas, I learnt that people in our agencies were aware of my visit but I never saw anyone watching me at the mission. I have also visited Pakistani diplomats in their homes in Delhi and was never questioned about it. Here, almost every Pakistani visiting our home is asked to give his/her name and details from the National Identity Card the moment he/she steps out of our home.

  10. really sorry abt littering profanity on ur blog..didnt know u had a profanity policy :)
    real appreciate taking time 2 reply..

  11. Well, at least your google/blogspot account hasn't been hacked... yet, though I am sure it is heavily monitored.

    Best wishes. :)

  12. Isn't the hacking of an e-mail account something that the e-mail provider (in this case, yahoo) should worry about? :|
    I mean, there was this huge hue and cry over gmail accounts being hacked (though not fully hacked), so why is it not the case in Pakistan?

  13. @Anarchy, forget email accounts. I know for a fact that even my SMSs are intercepted. At least one case where someone was questioned for sending me SMSs.

  14. you should use pigeons, next time stash some in your cabin baggage no tension.....

  15. Aadab Arz

    You know, I also had a couple of similar shocking experiences. I mean it's long back when I was active on FB.

    I then decided to insulate this virtual social networking from real life socialising. I rarely enter into discussion or add people on my own unless there is a request.

  16. But what is your name? I could not get it any where in your blog

  17. I'm very sorry this has happened to you... but there is no safai or justification from anyone to you about this... unfortunately thats the way Indian/pak security agencies roll, and thats what we have to expect going to the other country!

    What a horrible feeling to know that our interactions are being monitored by security personnel!

  18. Indscribe, sad to hear that you had similar experiences :(

    Anonymous 1: keep guessing :)

    Anonymous 2: yes, its a horrible feeling to know that somebody will be reading this too!

  19. @Anarchy - The email providers are not the ones responsible for every node in the network.. the agencies usually hack with 'Man-in-the-middle' attack. Google about the term and you would discover to your surprise how easy it is to intercept stuff.. agencies have access to ISPs and that makes it even more easier for them to snoop in.

    Is there a way to secure the communication link? Yes, but that would cause more harm to our friends (authors of this blog) than any good as the agencies would harass them one way or other to 'unsecure' the links..

  20. Wow! From your description, Pakistan is almost a police state like North Korea. Scary stuff, right out of 1984!!!
    I hope the Indian Govt. gives you two a medal or something after you get back.
    From a fellow Indian, thanks for representing India and holding your own even in such adverse conditions. You really make us proud!!!

  21. It must have been an embarrassing saga...but dont let it deter u from making friends...everyone is not the same. Good Luck!

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