Kara Kamienski is a Reset veteran who’s been with us every year since the very beginning! She is an international wedding photographer who has photographed hundreds of weddings. Kara has an infectious personality, and is a fierce businesswoman. She went through a terrifying time in 2017, but in true Kara fashion, she pulled up her bootstraps, got to work and fixed it LIKE. A. BOSS. This post is a long one but is a CAN’T MISS — please read until the end and learn what steps you need to implement “Protect then Post” TODAY:
Ah, social media and blogging. I honestly can’t think of anything that has taken over the world more quickly and fervently than social media. I know I’m preaching to the choir when I list off everything I do on social media! Sure, there’s the social part- but I also communicate with my kids’ teachers, follow sports schedules, find recipes, find recommendations for a plumber, choose my hairstyle, find inspiration for my work, find my jokes, you name it. Social media has, without a doubt, become a way of life for all of us.
In the business world, social media is all of that and then some. How many conferences do we go to or online classes do we listen to where we hear over and over and over the importance of our social media? How we must interact, how we must post frequently and consistently. How our IG thread should have 3 primary colors and look smooth as a baby’s butt as you scroll? How we must research hashtags and prime time of day and on…and on…and on. Heck, I TAUGHT about social media at Reset just a few years ago. I studied it up and down and left and right and was truly winning at the social media game for my business.
And then someone took it all away from me.
See- while voraciously studying the HOW to do it, I never once studied how to protect it. Not once. Sure, I had a password. But that’s it. Honestly- it’s like playing in the snow in your underwear. Sure- your hoo-hah is covered, but the rest of you is exposed. That’s pretty much what it’s like to only protect yourself online with a password.
Quick summary in case you missed it this summer.
It started in January when recovering from my recent surgery that I realized my bank account was dwindling and fast. It didn’t take long for me to realize that I’d been hacked. And through what? My BLOG. Did you know that WordPress is one of the most hacked sites there is? Those little ‘widgets’ you can add. YEAH- check yours. Because that’s what they did to me. Somehow, they added widgets that connected to my PayPal account, and they were able to collect money and redirect it to some weird gaming thing. To this day- I still get a monthly ‘gamer’ magazine in my mail from that creep. It’s like a slap in the face every month when it comes in the mail and reminds me of the first time they violated me online. I put some protective measures in place on my blog (WORDFENCE…..look it up, add it now). I thought I was good to go.
Then, in July, while shooting pictures of my priest at my church (I have to point out that detail for the ironic karma that will come upon this person)…I was hacked by a foreign terrorist (I’m not just saying that…it’s like legit). He took over an email that I had long ago quit using, reactivated it, and then took control of my personal and business Facebook pages. Which included my children’s classroom pages I run, my church’s social media pages I run, as well as every message I’ve ever sent via Facebook to my clients with their gallery information.
What ensued was 6 weeks of chaos. How do you reach people when your primary way of reaching them is now gone? How do you answer questions from clients scared that their recent boudoir session password is now in the hands of a creep? How do you protect your reputation when it’s in the hands of a hacker? And how do you do all of this- when Facebook has ZERO, and I mean ZERO, ways of getting in touch with them unless you have a personal connection. I seriously think I would have an easier time getting to meet the Queen of England then I did trying to reach Facebook. It’s FRIGHTENING.
In the midst of this, I wrote a blog about my situation. I sent the link to about 10 friends and asked them to share on their social media sites. I was blown away at the response. In less than a week, it had been viewed over 200,000 unique times all over the US (I blocked all other countries from being able to view my blog…another safety measure!). I had countless emails from people all over the nation thanking me for taking the time to write it and think of others in this time. A graphic designer made and sent me the cute ‘protect then post’ image you see after reading the blog. A random lady at a trampoline park recognized me and came up and hugged me for the blog. I just kept telling myself- even if only 10% of the people who read this follow these steps- I’ve helped 20,000 PEOPLE. That’s 10%- maybe it was more. Honestly, it’s what helped me through the fear that my business was going down!
After 6 weeks, one of my clients DID have that personal connection, and she helped me out. And just like that, I had regained my access. What I found when I opened my pages was nothing short of TERRIFYING. My messenger was FULL of messages in Arabic and Turkish. After screenshotting them in case they went away when I defriended everyone the hacker had friended, I went back that night and started translating.
When I wrote that post about ‘protect then post’- I meant it as ‘protect yourself’. What I didn’t even think of is protecting our clients.
Now let’s get this straight. For those of you know me well, I am a DIE-HARD, WANNA-BE. FBI AGENT. I, full admittance here, listen to about 7 different podcasts weekly on true crime. I read for fun FBI training pamphlets that a FBI friend gives to me before he trashes them. Some people do crosswords, some play Sodoku, I pretend solve crime. So, you can imagine that I was feeling like investigator of the year when I was sitting in my room at night translating Arabic messages. I came to find out that it’s actually a pretty common thing (Google it)- for ISIS to seek out email addresses that have been discontinued and connected to Facebook- and they take control of those American accounts and use the Messenger system as a way to communicate their terrorism plans undetected under the radar. Yeah. HOLY CRAP. So I was feeling like citizen of the year here.
UNTIL I TRANSLATED THEM. Because- it wasn’t ‘cool’. It was downright terrifying. I found pictures, plans, and more pictures, and more plans. Long story short- I had to turn it over to the law enforcement because it was definitely not good. When I lost it was when one of the photos I came across was a photo I had taken of a 2 year old blonde-haired blue-eyed cutie from downtown Chicago, and they were trying to figure out where he lived. That’s not a fun call to make to a parent alongside an FBI officer that terrorists have your child’s photo and are discussing this. Suddenly, my ‘need’ for ‘showing my work’ and my ‘ooh look at me and my pretty photography’ blew up in my face.
[Editor’s note: We think it is smart to never use your clients’ full names and/or last names on your websites or blogs, especially if they are minors.]
I admit…I’m truly like a recovering victim in this mess. I feel violated, exposed, taken advantage of, and scared. After standing in front of you at Reset last year and proudly exclaiming how I blogged every one of our 50-some weddings last year… I QUIT blogging in July. I just couldn’t do it. I couldn’t bring myself to make these people so accessible. I was scared he was going to come back and try harder to get me because I’d ‘escaped’ once. I hired out a girl on my team to run my IG feed because I couldn’t bring myself to do that either. Slowly, I’m trying to get back in the game. I know it’s essential for this industry- but I definitely am treading lightly and smartly this time before I just jump in all at once again.
Photographers- I see you. I watch your 20 IG story updates a day. I see you posting like mad and buying your likes and all that. I get it. I know why you’re doing it. But, please, I BEG of you. Stop and make sure you are protecting not only yourself, but your clients. MAKE SURE you’ve followed the steps in this blog below that I wrote this summer in the midst of it all. Funny how we make clients sign all of these contracts and releases to protect our ‘artistic right’ blah blah blah…and yet, we show very little concern for their safety when we blog their sessions or post their faces and their children’s faces all over this internet- complete with exactly WHERE we shot their session, their names, you name it. I’m guilty of it too- just way more aware of it now.
So please, please in this off-season- take a day and set yourself up with ALL of these practices to ensure your safety. Take it a step further and even hire in specialists who can set up security umbrellas in your studio or home. You won’t regret it.
I know this blog isn’t the typical, bubbly, funny me you’re used to if you know me. But hopefully, you recognize it’s still the genuine, transparent me that wants to use my experiences to help you Truth is, this situation really rocked me. It changed me. I’m still funny, I mean, of course. But this situation- well, there’s just nothing to laugh about. PLEASE PLEASE protect yourself.:)