Recently, my email account got hacked. A friend told me, “Don’t sweat it, it happens to everyone.”
I contacted my e-mail service provider, changed my password, and thanked Facebook friends for alerting me.
Right after that, I discovered one of my clients responded to the hacker’s e-mail, writing she didn’t believe they were Cathy T.
They sent her a reply, a very convincing one, insisting it was me. And continued with how they desperately needed money for a cousin’s kidney transplant. I was supposedly in Belgium.
That’s it, I thought. I’m terminating this account right now.
Was the termination a bit drastic? Yes, it was. From what I’ve read, there’s no need to kill your e-mail id, but I wanted to eliminate this problem because I didn’t want anyone to fall prey to a scam.
This whole situation got me thinking about how gardens and social media face the same challenges. Both are grown in open and linked environments subject to threats and invasions. You can do lots to deter them, but many will break their way through when you let your guard down.
So, what can you do to reduce the occurrence of painful incidents by hackers or pests?
No. 1) Don’t accept “every” friend or plant
A gardening friend stops by to offer you a freebie plant from their garden. It may be a cutting, division, or seeds from a flower. Before you accept their donation, think of it just as you would for a request of a “new friend” in Facebook. Ask yourself, “What’s the story behind this plant? Does it have a nice personality or an aggressive one? Why are they offering it up?” You may be surprised to find out; donations or requests for acceptance usually come from a plant posing a problem in your friend’s garden. It could be invasive, it might be an aggressive spreader via underground suckers, or it is a prolific seed-producer. Think of plants like bamboo, mint, willow, or datura – all pretty or unique, but some species take over fast, thus become a nuisance. Bottomline, don’t accept it right away without asking about its history, behavior, and characteristics. Same goes for friends on blogging sites, Facebook, and Twitter. Do a little bit of research before you click accept.
No. 2) Don’t overcrowd your garden spaces or sites
Ever feel like you have so many friends on Facebook, you don’t even know who they are anymore, and it would take forever to sort them out? Same thing with e-mail; your inbox is so over loaded, you don’t recognize some of the senders. Overcrowding can invite problems; create hiding places for stalkers, and ends up in chaos. Too many plants in a gardening space reduce air circulation around your plants; if the foliage remains wet, they get diseases. Plants requiring sunlight may receive too much shade, limiting their ability to thrive. Nutrient competition will arise as well. And “you” might not be able to even enter your garden for routine maintenance. A full and flush garden is spectacular, and a full inbox may make you feel popular, but keep in mind, it provides the phisher with opportunities just like it gives a critter a chance to pass through without notice.
No. 3) Be Inspector Clouseau when buying a plant in person, or on-line
Get out your reading glasses and open your eyes. Inspect your plant before purchasing it from a garden center, especially if they are on a sale rack. Just as you would look over a new app for your smart phone, carefully look it over first before clicking install. Look for any bad signs. On perennials, look for unusual spots, insect holes or trails on leaves, shriveled or blotched tissue, and partially eaten foliage. Check woody plants for tears or cracks in the bark. Any wounds in the bark can negatively affect the flow of water in the plant. You may even want to shake the plant to see if insects fly away from it; whiteflies are tiny feeding insects on the undersides of leaves. Look at the top and undersides of the leaves, and if possible tap it out of the pot to inspect the roots. Healthy roots have white tips; they are not dark brown and mushy. If the potting mix smells of rot – this is a clue. A white powdery substance on the leaves could be disease, known as powdery mildew caused by a fungus. Or it could be hairs on the plant’s leaves, which is normal. The point is – check it before you succumb to the temptation of the flashy dings and whistles. Some problems on plants are treatable or may be minor; others are an invitation to future problems in your gardens. For on-line plant purchases, do a little research to find out their reputation. Read about how they ship their plants, what to expect when they arrive in the mail, and how to care for them upon arrival. Make sure they are legit. You don’t want to be buying from Mr. Belgium.
No. 4) Keep your garden tools and links sterilized
Some gardeners don’t realize they are spreading invisible problems with unclean garden tools. A malicious link, hyperlink, or shortlink in an email will do the same. With a quick click, it will move the vector just as a infected garden pruner, shovel, or weeding knife will spread a disease, insect, or viruses from one place to another. And in this case, you are helping to transport them on their adventure. Wash your tools with soap and water, or soak in a bleach to water ratio. Heating your tools is another method, but that is something I haven’t tried. At the end of each season and beginning of spring, take the time to clean tools before using them. Remember, operator error is often the number one cause for the problem getting into your scenario. In our midst of excitement or wanting to get it done now, we forgo the process of cleaning our tools. Clean up old debris around you garden too. Insect pests may spend the winter in the debris to come alive in spring. And pause before clicking on links from friends. If they are not showing a visible sign of why they sent you the link, their implement of transportation is executed without you knowing – at first.
No. 4) Use the correct “…..-cide” and anti-virus software
A common habit of an anxious gardener is to assume one insecticide, pesticide, or herbicide fits all. You are wasting your money and time if you do not read the label and follow directions exactly for the plant you are trying to cure of a pest or plant you are trying to rid in the garden. Harming the environment unnecessarily comes into play as well, and we don’t want to do that as gardeners. Remember, a pesticide is a “chemical” used to kill an organism considered a pest. There are organic methods believed to be safer, but either way, use the correct type suited for the plant. If you spray too much, more than required, or sometimes apply on a hot day or in direct sun, you can harm the plant more than the pest or insect has. When it comes to anti-virus software, consult your tech support expert. That is where my advice is weak. I probably have made the same assumptions with anti-malware as a gardener does with a pesticide. Please read the label first before application or installation of either. With anti-virus software, it is important to stay up to date. Too late, the culprit breaks in. Timing is important when treating pest insects as well. They have a pattern and stages, so pay attention to their life cycle because they populate according to specific seasons. Exact timing is key. If the insect is not doing major harm, planning a short stay, avoid using a chemical all together. Remove it by hand instead. And continue to follow Number 1, 2, and 3 above.
No. 5) Take a hiatus or terminate
Just the other evening, a news station reported statistics indicating people are taking temporary breaks from their Facebook activity. The demands for attention are starting to exceed the pleasure. We become obsessive, realizing we have spent the majority of our day browsing pages. Same can happen with our gardening addictions. Unable to let go of your dream vision of a perfect garden, spotted in the latest garden magazine or favorite blog site, you become engrossed. You spend every available minute worrying why it didn’t come out exactly as planned, even though you did everything right up front. You picked the right place in your yard for your plant, you tested the soil and amended it appropriately with nutrients and organic matter, you nurtured it with water, and selected resistant cultivars, but alas, that deer jumped the barrier, the insect found a tasty treat, or a critter burrowed below creating new pathways to enter and destroy. So what are you to do in your moment of peril? Cry by the garden’s edge, consider hiring a deer hunter, or reach for the wrong pesticide? As a last resort, you might do the impulsive thing – like I did with my hacked e-mail. Rip it all out, terminate. Yet, I wouldn’t recommend that. Fix the immediate problem, and then take a Hiatus – preferably one where you aren’t weeding and tweeting.
Container Crazy Cathy T
New email: To be posted