Is Your Smartphone Safe From Hackers?

With the recent phone-hacking crisis at News Corporation and the emotional testimony of the company’s top executives including Chairman Rupert Murdoch, now might be a good time to do what you can to secure your own cellphone whether it is a  smartphone or not.

Analysts at Gartner estimate that one in six people now own or have access to a smart phone. The importance of protecting and maintaining the integrity and privacy of both your personal and business data cannot be overstated. Once it’s gone, your data takes on a new life of its own on the worldwide underground  black market.

The variety of ways we engage with and consume online entertainment and information has changed in just the past two years, thanks to the demand for and availability of a torrent of on-demand mobile content.

While  the good guys work to develop new feature-rich applications for us to consume, the bad guys are just as busy trying to gain access for a number of reasons:   Continue Reading…

Man’s Stolen MacBook Phones Home

As summertime travel approaches, now is a great time for me to remind you to mind your personal electronic portables. According to Gartner, one in six people now have access to a high-tech mobile device, and odds are high that someone has their eyes on your stuff.

A creepy laptop thief hoping to snag some free electronic swag, got way more than he bargained for recently.

The Associated Press reported this week that an Oakland, California man had his apartment burglarized and his MacBook stolen. The good news is that he got it back thanks to an online, viral, one-man crusade. Local police were swamped and unable to assist, so Joshua Kaufman took matters into his own hands. After posting photos of the stranger on Twitter and creating a blog titled “This Guy Has My MacBook”, sweet justice got served.

Kaufman stated: “People who followed me on Twitter retweeted it. It got picked up by social media and the press. It went super viral,” he said. On the same day that he posted his website on Twitter, police came calling.

WVEC in Norfolk, Virginia published a report on their site:   Continue Reading…

3 Things To Learn About Your Debit Card

The recent security breach at arts-and-crafts retailer Michaels Stores, calls much needed attention to debit cards and their vulnerabilities. In this breach, the thieves not only stole debit card numbers, they actually used them to swipe money from the victims’ bank accounts.

We often consider debit cards a convenient alternative to their look-alike payment tool, the credit card. What many of us fail to remember is that the theft of debit card resources, robs us of our own money and not the bank’s money. Fortunately, there are protections and guidelines in place for victims of debit card scams, but the key lies in understanding the extent of our responsibility for reporting a problem.

Although most debit card issuers offer a brief grace period for reporting a lost, stolen or compromised card, we have specific obligations to our bank that could mean the difference between the protection or the loss of our assets.

According to Bankrate.com, not all debit card issuers play by the same rules: Continue Reading…

Global Spear-Phishing: A New Threat

While Charlie Sheen maniacally pronounces his  self induced “winning” status to a saddened, bewildered and exhausted fan base, another  growing menace actually seems poised for “winning”.

Consumers got a wake up call on two fronts with the disclosure of the massive Epsilon Interactive data breach last week.

Our  first wake up call stems from the sheer length of the  list of companies who utilize Epsilon’s email  service to reach their customers.

The second wake up call is the reality that so many trusted brands outsource our names and email addresses to a third party  email service provider (ESP)  who has now been exposed as functionally incapable of protecting the  private personal data that was entrusted to them.

The truth is that there is nothing you or I can do to prevent these leaks when the repository for our data is in the hands of other people.

According to the consumer advocacy group Cauce, the following  financial institutions were affected by the breach: Continue Reading…

Ashton Kutcher Gets Punk’d on Twitter

Have you ever wondered about  Ashton Kutcher’s rather warped sense of humor? The celebrity star of the hit TV show Punk’d was the victim of a deliberate hoax intended to warn the world,  embarrass the star and catch him off guard in a “practical joke” sort of way.  His popular,  high profile, widely read Twitter account got hacked!

The television show has been in re-runs  since the final episode aired in 2007.  The actor (AKA Mr. Demi Moore)  has always claimed that he is “un-punkable”. The basic premise of Punk’d is that an unwitting celebrity is filmed during a staged prank, solely for the entertainment of viewers.

Here’s what happened. Ashton Kutcher has 6.4 million followers on Twitter. A relatively “friendly” hacker compromised the account while Kutcher was attending  a TED speakers conference in Long Beach, California.

According to the Internet Security Firm Sophos, the uninvited visitor’s hijacked message was sent out to Kutcher’s 6.4  million followers. The message stated:

"Ashton, you've been Punk'd. This account is not secure. Dude, where's my SSL?"

Security analysts like those at the security firm Sophos, believe that the hacker exploited the account’s lack of SSL encryption.

A Sophos analyst went on to say: Continue Reading…

How Egypt Pulled The Internet’s Plug

The Egyptian government has apparently accomplished what many technology experts said could not possibly happen.

Published reports indicate that the “plug” was pulled on Internet access in Egypt on the evening of January 27th, 2011  at about 6PM local time. According to fraud prevention, monitoring  and analytics company  iovation,  Egyptian use of the internet instantly and almost literally fell off a cliff.

As reported in  the blog of  noted security expert Robert Siciliano:

NPR reports “Egypt has apparently done what many technologists thought was unthinkable for any country with a major Internet economy: It unplugged itself entirely from the Internet to try and silence dissent. Experts say it’s unlikely that what’s happened in Egypt could happen in the United States because the U.S. has numerous Internet providers and ways of connecting to the Internet. Coordinating a simultaneous shutdown would be a massive undertaking.”

The Los Angeles Times confirmed that both Facebook and Twitter were affected by the outage, but that after a week of unrest, access to the Internet has been restored by the Egyptian government: Continue Reading…

Trolls Attack Rahm Emanuel’s iPad

Internet trolls are lurking in our midst.

Think your iPad is safe from hackers? Think again.

Charges have been filed against a pair of self-described Internet “trolls” who claim responsibility for hacking into AT&T’s servers last summer.

New Jersey District Attorney Paul Fishmanhas filed charges against two computer hackers who are charged with exposing  over 120,000 names and email addresses.

“The hallmark of this criminal hacker subculture is malicious one-upmanship,” Fishman added. “The more their victims have to scramble to fix the holes and the bigger the humiliation in reputational and actual damage to the corporate victim, the more bragging rights these individuals have in their own community.”

Many of the victims in this case are well known  politicians,  entertainers, and business leaders. Some of the more prominent victims include former White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and ABC News anchor Diane Sawyer.

The “trolls”  bragged about their exploits in order to gain notoriety and street cred, prompting officials to charge them with fraud and conspiracy.

Because consumers have no direct control over the network security of their vendors, remember these tips: Continue Reading…

Three Privacy Reminders For 2011

Exhale. With the worst of the financial storms past us, we can finally breathe and begin to rebuild our financial fortifications.

One of the first pieces of business this year should be to put a few strategies in place to protect whats left of your assets and personal privacy. Unfortunately, the fraudsters are still in the game stronger than ever before, due to the relatively risk-free nature of modern financial crime.

The reality is that most financial crimes are under-reported and left unsolved due to a scarcity of investigative resources and the endless supply of fresh target information available to most criminals.

Here are three areas to watch in 2011 according to Bank Info Security:

1. Mobile Banking Risks

“Mobile phones used for banking are on the rise, but mobile security is proving increasingly challenging for banks and credit unions, as controls put in place to protect traditional online banking do not translate well when applied to mobile. Mobile banking applications from Bank of America, Chase, Wells Fargo and TD Ameritrade have all suffered from security flaws, and CitiGroup in 2009 noted vulnerabilities when it learned some banking apps stored sensitive user details in hidden files on smart phones.”

2. Social Networks and Web 2.0

“The connection between mobile phones and social media is growing, with Twitter and Facebook apps offered for mobile users. Institutions embracing mobile also are embracing social networking, says Rasmussen, Internet Identity’s chief technology officer. “With more banks on social networks, expect to see more fake sites using social networks, like Twitter and Facebook, to try and trick people into giving up vital personal information,” including banking login credentials and Social Security numbers, he says.”

3. Malware, Botnets and DDoS Attacks

“Distributed denial-of-service, or DDoS, attacks, as seen in the wake of the recent WikiLeaks incidents, are likely to increase. In fact, the WikiLeaks-inspired attacks against leading e-commerce sites have fueled interest among fraudsters, says RSA’s Rivner. Botnet operators now see opportunity for additional income.”

Smart phones, social networking and sustained attacks on closed systems, leave plenty of room for mischief in the coming year. Stay tuned for ways to short-circuit these uninvited cyber-guests in 2011 and beyond.

Tis’ The Season For Ruthless Online Fraud

The most troubling aspect about the newest WikiLeaks breach is the grim realization that our nation’s most sensitive information can be so vulnerable, easily accessed and leaked to the world.

You can’t help but wonder, if the U.S. Defense Department can be hacked and attacked from the inside-out,  just how safe is the personal data belonging to the average U.S. citizen?

Here are 10 tips from the Better Business Bureau to help keep you safe online not just during the holidays, but all year long.

The BBB offers this advice:

1. Protect your computer – A computer should always have the most recent updates installed for spam filters, anti-virus and anti-spyware software and a secure firewall.

2. Shop on trustworthy websites – Shoppers should start with BBB to check on the seller’s reputation and record for customer satisfaction. Always look for the BBB seal and other widely-recognized “trustmarks” on retailer websites and click on the seals to confirm that they are valid.

3. Protect your personal information – BBB recommends taking the time to read the site’s privacy policy and understand what personal information is being requested and how it will be used. If there isn’t one posted, it should be taken as a red flag that personal information may be sold to others without permission.

4. Beware of deals that sound too good to be true – Offers on websites and in unsolicited e-mails can often sound too good to be true, especially extremely low prices on hard-to-get items. Consumers should always go with their instincts and not be afraid to pass up a “deal” that might cost them dearly in the end.

5. Beware of phishing – Legitimate businesses do not send e-mails claiming problems with an order or an account to lure the “buyer” into revealing financial information. If a consumer receives such an e-mail, BBB recommends picking up the phone and calling the contact number on the website where the purchase was made to confirm that there really is a problem with the transaction.  Continue Reading…

Fire Insurance For Your Wallet

A recent Forbes magazine article suggested that the impact and ferocity of consumer and commercial identity theft have both quieted down along with the current economic downturn.

Predictably, early  responses to the Forbes article were swift and scathing. The reality is that despite the fact that fewer people  are exposed as a result of any given breach, the actual number of adult victims of financial fraud has not gone down over the past 5 years, it has gone up. Way up.

A 2010 Javelin Strategy & Research report reveals that the number of U.S. adult victims of identity fraud has grown from 8.9 million in 2005 to 11.1 million in 2009.

According to the Identity Theft Resource Center, the number of breaches is difficult if not impossible to nail down with certainty because of  loose reporting requirements in many states. There are many states which legally do not allow public access to reported breaches.

The ITRC reports: Continue Reading…

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