How To Protect Your Business Data

Remember the arcade video game Space Invaders? Cyber-threats can also invade unexpectedly from every direction.

We’ve all heard about the threats which originate from outside your organization. Insider threats come in many varieties as well, some accidental and some quite intentional.

Hacks, viruses and plain-old corporate malfeasance can render your network vulnerable and even bring your business to a grinding…….halt.

I thought this would be good time to share some best practices that can help you get a better grip on your organization’s data security. Additional tips can be found for PC users at Microsoft’s security website. Recent security updates for Mac users can be found here.

Please take a moment to read through this list and get answers to any of the questions you cannot respond to with certainty.

  • Is anti-virus software installed and regularly updated throughout your network?
  • Is there a firewall in place to help prevent intrusion from the outside?
  • Is your data backed up regularly? Continue Reading…

FBI Publishes Fraud Awareness Tips

The Federal Bureau of Investigation has just published an eye-opening list of well-known and commonly perpetrated scams from A-Z.

“Frauds from A to Z”,  can be found on the agency’s website. The list is extensive and the information is priceless.

Make yourself a strong cup of coffee, because this resource goes into detail about a very long list of financial scams that are commonly reported and analyzed by the FBI. The benefit to readers is obvious. Often it’s what we DON’T know that can hurt us the most.

Unless you have the time and interest to study these scams regularly, chances are you’ve never heard of the “Gameover Malware” Scam or the “Surrogacy” Scam. These are just two of the newest ways that clever con-artists separate the uninformed from their hard-earned money.

According to a recent article in Forbes: Continue Reading…

Why Seniors Are Big ID Theft Targets

Grandma and Grandpa are vulnerable to many strains of financial crime, but not because they’re senile or clueless. Quite the opposite really.

According to a 2011 report from the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Statistics, identity theft is rising among those ages 50 and up. Identity thieves target seniors for selfish financial reasons and their motives are quite clear.

Do you remember the famous quote by the notorious bank robber Willie Sutton? When asked why he robbed banks he answered “Because that’s where the money is!”

Not only are seniors more likely to enjoy the  peace of mind that comes with financial stability, they are also more likely to have better credit, higher credit limits, more cash in savings and the luxury of home ownership and equity. It all adds up to an attractive lure in the eyes of the ever-watchful criminal underworld. Continue Reading…

Latest Credit Card Breach Alert

Last week, MasterCard and VISA rang the alarm bell to warn banks and credit unions across the country about a new data breach discovered in March.

It seems that Atlanta-based credit card processor Global Payments Inc. has been the victim of a potentially significant data breach, reminiscent of the Heartland Payment Systems breach in 2009.

The size and scope remain to be seen in comparison to that of earlier massive breaches. Heartland’s breach reportedly exposed in excess of 130 million accounts, while the Global Payments breach is estimated (by company officials) to involve about 1.5 million accounts.

Global Payments Chairman and Chief Executive Paul Garcia says his company is ” working around the clock literally”, to get back into good standing with VISA, who removed the card processing company from their list of approved vendors.

Security experts warn that this breach is a reminder that no single layer of protection is sufficient to keep data safe from today’s most determined and sophisticated financial criminals. It is also sobering to keep in mind that many intruders are insiders who may already have full-access to consumer’s so-called KBA (knowledge-based authentication) secrets. Continue Reading…

STD’s and Your Private Data

I can’t recall if it was high school science class or later in life that I learned the health benefits of sexual abstinence before marriage.

“Wait, what do STD’s have to do with my private data?” Here is the connection.

The safety message to my generation was a stern warning and more than a few follow-up reminders that if we engaged in pre-marital relations, we were being physically linked to every person our partner had ever been with and so on and so on. Get the picture? And so on…..

The safety message in our digitally wired, overly connected world is that the financial institutions, internet providers, cell providers and other merchants we do business with are presumed to be keeping our data safe.

Despite our safety assumptions we are still “connected” to every other entity our vendors have done business with…despite their potentially nasty viruses, bad privacy-protection habits, corrupt employees and other menacing threats resulting from our mutual connectivity.

If you own a smart phone, a laptop, a Mac, a PC, a new iPad, a flash drive, a game console or just about any connected device, you’d better button up because you could easily catch more than a cold.

Even if you don’t own one of the devices just mentioned, guess where much your personal data resides? It resides on someone else’s device of course.

In an interview with the folks at Bank Info Security, The Identity Theft Resource Center reports: Continue Reading…

Who’s Afraid Of The Big Bad Wolf?

Ol’ Blue Eyes is back…. and he’s not Frank Sinatra.

In my last post, we discussed this wolf’s current barrage of savage and relentless attacks on private data repositories.

The crimes range from the theft of individual NPPI ( Non Public Personal Information), to raids on corporate data,  to the recent malicious hack into servers at the Central Intelligence Agency.

The culprits could basically be described and motivated in one of three ways:

  • Criminal tricks – Thieves
  • Juvenile kicks –  Hackers
  • Rogue politics –  Enemies

We went on to look at the observations of two of the world’s leading privacy/security thought leaders (Bruce Schneier and Mikko Hypponen) discovering that they not only acknowledge the on-going war, but they are eager to explain the modus operandi  and general motivation that drives each of these blood-thirsty intruders. Continue Reading…

3 Snipers Targeting Your Private Data

The U.S. is being targeted at the highest levels of our nation’s critical infrastructure. You’re a target too.

Sadly, there are at least three privacy snipers out there, who have our valuable data in their sights. You can choose to ignore them, deny them or avoid them; however they are relentless and they aren’t  planning on going away any time soon. Informed security experts clearly acknowledge this reality. We should too.

I recently watched two compelling TED.com talks given by security gurus Bruce Schneier and Mikko Hypponen. Their distinct messages and points of view shared a very common theme. Digital crime has emerged as one of our nation’s greatest security threats. These rogue attacks are neither diminishing, nor are they under control.

Bruce Schneier believes that our preconceived notions of security have lulled us to sleep. We believe that the hotels we trust, the food we eat, and the planes we board are safe. According to Schneier, that feeling of security bears little resemblance to actual security, we have just talked ourselves into believing that those activities are what he refers to as “models of safety”. Those models, Schneier says, are hard to dislodge. This thinking makes us more vulnerable to the tactics of relentless identity thieves and hackers.

Hypponen on the other hand, sees value in identifying the three types of online attackers who rule the digital underworld. They are: Continue Reading…

3 Ways Your Debit Card Can Hurt You

I have three quick questions for you to consider.

1.) Is a debit card your payment tool of choice?

2.) Is it financially irresponsible to use a credit card and incur fees and interest rates?

3.) Ask yourself: “How much am I responsible for if my card number is stolen and used, but I don’t report it promptly?”

In my book Identity Theft Secrets: Exposing The Tricks Of The Trade, I plead with readers to re-consider the dangers lurking in the shadows of the debit card jungle.

This week, an article at Bankrate.com convinced me that we need to re-examine the dangers of debit card dependency:

“Debit cards may look identical to credit cards, but there’s one key difference. With credit cards, users who spot fraudulent charges on their bill can simply decline the charges and not pay the bill.

On the other hand, debit cards draw money directly from your checking account, rather than from an intermediary such as a credit card company.

Because of that, even clear-cut cases of fraud where victims are protected from liability by consumer protection laws can cause significant hardship…Continue Reading…

Ahoy Matey! Piracy In The Digital Age

Google’s eye-catching twenty four hour “blackout” last Wednesday, protesting PIPA and SOPA sure got my attention.  How did it make you feel?

Watching sites like Wikipedia and Google go dark, reminded me of the media censorship I witnessed as a tourist in Asia a few years ago. Downright creepy.

Imagine not having online access to the information you need (assuming it is legal for you to own it). That’s the question we must face.

Do you and I have a right to freely acquire copyrighted content such as books, movies and music without paying?

Digital pirates think the status-quo is swell because the more we feast, the richer they get.

Law enforcement officials in New Zealand , in cooperation with the FBI, arrested the 38 year-old founder of one of the web’s largest file-sharing sites, also known as “file-sharing lockers” Megaupload on Wednesday.

The suspect, who had his name legally changed from Continue Reading…

5 Tips To Avoid New IRS Tax Scams

Today I actually received what SEEMS to be good news via email  from the IRS.

After reading the subject line, the sender line and the smooth-talk line, I decided that today was NOT a good day to go “phishing”.

According to the sender, I’m entitled to an easy tax refund,  if I’ll just click on an attachment. (Hint: “NEIN! NYET! NOPE!”)

I received the following email today and want to point out several reminders for you when
opening email that requests your NPPI (Non-Public, Personal Information). Continue Reading…

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