• When the Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC) was founded nearly 22 years ago, the root cause of most data breaches and data crimes involved paper. Now, it is far and away cyberattacks.
  • Phishing is the number one attack vector that leads to data breaches, ransomware second and malware third.
  • However, there are ways to protect yourself from cyberattacks. Back up your information, update your software, use strong and unique passphrases, and collect and maintain less information.
  • To learn about recent data breaches, consumers and businesses should visit the ITRC’s data breach tracking tool, notified. 
  • If you believe you are the victim of an identity crime, data breach or want to learn more ways to protect yourself from cyberattacks, contact the ITRC. Call toll-free at 888.400.5530 or live-chat on the company website www.idtheftcenter.org.

The Crimes, They Are Changing

Welcome to the Identity Theft Resource Center’s (ITRC’s)Weekly Breach Breakdown for October 15, 2021. Our podcast is possible thanks to support from Experian. Each week, we look at the most recent events and trends related to data security and privacy. We also use a lot of literary references – especially Shakespeare. Today, though, we turn to a different classic for inspiration – Bob Dylan – in honor of Cybersecurity Awareness Month. October is the time each year when you focus on ways to protect yourself from cyberattacks and other identity crimes. That’s why we’re calling today’s episode: The crimes, they are changing.

The Rise in Digital Data Theft

When the ITRC was founded nearly 22 years ago, the root cause of most data breaches and data crimes involved paper. Digital data theft didn’t arrive until the mid-2000s. Even then, it was usually because someone’s laptop or external hard drive was stolen.

Not so today. Physical attacks and human errors were once the leading cause of data compromises. Today it is far and away cyberattacks. In fact, cyberattacks are so common that the number of data breaches and exposures associated with them so far this year exceeds all forms of data compromises in 2020.

Phishing is the leading attack vector that leads to data breaches. The login and password credentials stolen in these email, text and website-related attacks are often used by cybercriminals to access company networks and databases held hostage in a ransomware assault – the second most common cause of data compromises.

Malware is the third leading cause of identity-related data breaches. It is often used to exploit software flaws or penetrate networks as part of a ransomware attack or just good old-fashioned data theft. Caught in the cross-hairs of all these cyberattacks are consumers – people whose data is held in trust by organizations that are the targets of cybercriminals.

The ITRC to Release Inaugural Business Aftermath Report

We often think of data breaches and ransomware only impacting big businesses whose names we recognize. However, later this month, the ITRC will issue a new report on the impact of identity crimes on small businesses and solopreneurs – the tens of millions of companies with zero or just a handful of employees. Without giving away too much right now, the research shows more than half of all small businesses have experienced one or more data breaches, security breaches or both.

Use Good Cyber-Hygiene Habits to Protect Yourself

What are some ways to protect yourself from cyberattacks both at work and at home?  The actions must be the same. Regular listeners already know the basics of a good cyber defense. Make good back-ups of your information, update or patch your software as fast as possible, and practice good password hygiene. Do not use the same password at work and at home. Each account gets a unique, 12+ character password.

There are two additional ways to protect yourself from cyberattacks you should consider:

  1. Collect and maintain less information. If you are a business, get rid of the personal data you no longer need once you complete a transaction. The same is true for consumers. Don’t keep sensitive information you no longer need. Cyberthieves can’t steal what you don’t have.
  2.  If you are a business leader, train your teams like you’re voting in Chicago – early and often. If you’re a consumer, you can use some routine training, too. Why is this important? Cybercriminals are constantly improving their attack methods and inventing new ones. We need to make sure we know what to do to stay safe from identity scams and cyber risks, and that takes training and education.

Contact the ITRC

If you think you have been the victim of an identity crime or a data breach and need help figuring out what to do next, you can speak with an expert advisor on the phone (888.400.5530), live on the web or exchange emails during our normal business hours. Just visit www.idtheftcenter.org.

Thanks again to Experian for supporting the ITRC and this podcast. Be sure to join us next week for our sister podcast, The Fraudian Slip, when we talk more about cyber education with Zarmeena Waseem of the National Cybersecurity Alliance and our very own ITRC CEO, Eva Velasquez. We will be back in two weeks with another episode of the Weekly Breach Breakdown.

  • The trendline continues to point to a record-breaking year for data compromises.  Phishing is far and away the primary way criminals attack businesses & individuals. 
  • To learn about recent data breaches, consumers and businesses should visit the Identity Theft Resource Center’s (ITRC) data breach tracking tool, notified.  
  • If you believe you are the victim of an identity crime or a data breach, contact the ITRC. Call toll-free at 888.400.5530 or live-chat on the company website www.idtheftcenter.org.   

The ITRC Goes to Washington 

Welcome to the Identity Theft Resource Center’s (ITRC’s)Weekly Breach Breakdown for October 8th, 2021. Our podcast is possible thanks to support from Experian. Each week we look at the most recent events and trends related to data security and privacy. This week we’re going to look at the data breach trends for the third quarter of 2021 and we’re going to talk about a congressional hearing this week. That’s why we’re calling this episode – The ITRC Goes to Washington. Listen to the full episode on your preferred podcast platform.

On Wednesday, the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, & Transportation met to hear from a panel of experts on how to enhance data privacy & security. The ITRC was invited to share the latest data breach trends and offer suggestions on how to reduce the cyberattacks that lead to data breaches that ultimately may lead to an identity crime. 

2021 Data Breach Trends & Q3 Analysis 

Committee Chair Maria Cantwell of Washington started the hearing by sharing the latest stats on data breaches, pulled directly from the ITRC’s Q3 Data Breach Analysis that had been issued just about two hours earlier. And here’s what the report concluded: 

• The number of data compromises publicly-reported this year have already exceeded the total number of events in 2021 by 17 percent.  

• The trendline continues to point to a record-breaking year for data compromises. We are only 238 data events away from the all-time high set in 2017. It’s highly likely we will see a new high-water mark between a combined 1700 to 1800 data breaches, data exposures, and data leaks compared to 15.  

• The number of victims increased in Q3 by ~160M individuals. That’s more than all victims in Q1 & Q2 combined. That’s a huge jump and it means a lot of people are at risk of an identity crime, but about 100M of those people are victims of a data exposure related to 20 organizations that did not secure their cloud databases.  Those are lower-risk events since the data had not been copied or removed from the database where it was stored. 

Phishing is far and away the primary way criminals attack businesses & individuals. Ransomware is so pervasive, though, that the total number of data breaches related to a ransomware attack against an organization so far this year exceeds the total number of ALL types of data compromises last year. 

• There is a disturbing trend developing where organizations and state agencies are not sharing specifics about data compromises or reporting them on a timely basis. One state has not posted a data breach notice in the past 12 months.  

• There is some good news in the latest data breach numbers: There have been no publicly reported data compromises in 2021 attributed to payment card skimming devices. If this trend continues, this will be the first year since chip & PIN payment cards were first introduced where they have been no reported data breaches caused by skimmers.  

3 Actions To Address Identity Crimes

The Senate also asked the ITRC for recommendations on how to address the interrelated issues of cyberattacks, data breaches, and identity crimes. We offered three actions that we believe will be helpful: 

• Better cybersecurity standards and practices that are enforceable 

• Better enforcement of laws and regulations 

• And, a better victim notification system  

We also suggested there also needs to be discussion around how to better support victims of identity crimes. 

October is Cybersecurity Awareness Month 

It’s Cybersecurity Awareness Month and the ITRC encourages you to take this time to learn how to protect yourself, your family, and friends from cyber and identity criminals. You’ll find a wealth of information on our website – idtheftcenter.org. Later this month we’ll release our first report on what happens to small businesses and solopreneurs when they suffer a cyber or identity crime. And in November, the ITRC will unveil a new website with new tools and ways to communicate with or team of identity advisors. 

On October 27, we’ll issue our very first Business Aftermath Report. As a companion to our longtime report on the impact of identity crimes on consumers, the Business Aftermath Report will look at what happens to small businesses and solopreneurs after a security breach, a data breach or both.  

Contact the ITRC 

If you think you have been the victim of an identity crime or a data breach and you need help figuring out what to do next, you can speak with an ITRC expert advisor on the phone (888.400.5530), chat live on the web or exchange emails during our normal business hours (6 a.m.-5 p.m. PST). Just visit www.idtheftcenter.org to get started.  

Thanks again to Experian for supporting the ITRC and this podcast. Be sure to join us next week for another episode of the Weekly Breach Breakdown. 

The number of data breach victims dramatically increased in Q3 2021 due to a series of data exposures during the quarter 

SAN DIEGO, October 6, 2021 – Today, the Identity Theft Resource Center® (ITRC), a nationally recognized nonprofit organization established to support victims of identity crime, released its U.S. data breach findings for the third quarter (Q3) of 2021. According to the data breach analysis, the number of data breaches publicly-reported in the U.S. decreased nine (9) percent in Q3 2021 (446 breaches) compared to Q2 2021 (491 breaches). However, the number of data breaches through September 30, 2021 has exceeded the total number of events in Full-Year (FY) 2020 by 17 percent (1,291 breaches in 2021 compared to 1,108 breaches in 2020). The trendline continues to point to a record-breaking year for data compromises (the all-time high of 1,529 breaches was set in 2017). 

For Q3 2021, the number of data compromise victims (160 million) is higher than Q1 and Q2 2021 combined (121 million). The dramatic rise in victims is primarily due to a series of unsecured cloud databases, not data breaches. Also, the total number of cyberattack-related data compromises year-to-date (YTD) is up 27 percent compared to FY 2020. Phishing and Ransomware continue to be, far and away, the primary attack vectors. 

Download the ITRC’s 2021 Q3 Data Breach Analysis and Key Takeaways 

“While the total number of data breaches dropped slightly in Q3, we are only 238 data breaches away from tying the all-time record for data compromises in a single year,” said Eva Velasquez, President and CEO of the Identity Theft Resource Center. “It’s also interesting to note that the 1,111 data breaches from cyberattacks so far this year exceeds the total number of data compromises from all causes in 2020. Everyone needs to continue to practice good cyber-hygiene to protect themselves and their loved ones as these crimes continue to increase.” 

Other findings in the analysis include: 

  • There have been no publicly-reported data breaches to date in 2021 attributed to payment card skimming services.  
  • Some organizations and state agencies are not including specifics about data compromises or reporting them on a timely basis. One state has not posted a data breach notice since September 2020. 

Enhancing Data Security – U.S. Senate Committee Hearing – Oct. 6, 2021

The ITRC will testify before the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science & Transportation today to present the findings from our Q3 Data Breach Analysis. Watch the hearing on enhancing data security live at 10 a.m. EST/7 a.m. PST.  ITRC COO, James E. Lee, issued a written statement for the record as part of a hearing with the U.S. Senate Committee. 

For more information about recent data breaches, or the increase in the number of data breaches discussed in the latest trend analysis, consumers and businesses should visit the ITRC’s data breach tracking tool, notified.    

Anyone can receive free support and guidance from a knowledgeable live-advisor by calling 888.400.5530 or visiting  www.idtheftcenter.org to live-chat.   

About the Identity Theft Resource Center  

Founded in 1999, the Identity Theft Resource Center® (ITRC) is a national nonprofit organization established to empower and guide consumers, victims, business and government to minimize risk and mitigate the impact of identity compromise and crime. Through public and private support, the ITRC provides no-cost victim assistance and consumer education through its website live-chat idtheftcenter.org and toll-free phone number 888.400.5530. The ITRC also equips consumers and businesses with information about recent data breaches through its data breach tracking tool, notified. The ITRC offers help to specific populations, including the deaf/hard of hearing and blind/low vision communities.  

Media Contact     

Identity Theft Resource Center     
Alex Achten     
Head of Earned & Owned Media Relations      
888.400.5530 Ext. 3611     
media@idtheftcenter.org    

  • While the evolution of passwords has been happening for years, Microsoft is taking things a step further by allowing users to go passwordless.  
  • Now, instead of entering a password, you can sign in to your Microsoft accounts using the Microsoft Authenticator app, Windows Hello biometric access tool, a security key, or a verification code sent by text message or email. 
  • While the Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC) expects this trend to continue, we recommend people wait a little bit longer before going with no passwords.  
  • The ITRC believes fewer passwords is a good thing. However, going passwordless on one account or a series of accounts is more likely to lead to a false sense of security for those accounts that still require traditional passcodes. 
  • To learn about recent data breaches, consumers and businesses should visit the ITRC’s data breach tracking tool, notified.  
  • If you believe you are the victim of an identity crime or a data breach, contact the ITRC. Call toll-free at 888.400.5530 or live-chat on the company website www.idtheftcenter.org.   

A Password by Any Other Name 

Welcome to the Identity Theft Resource Center’s (ITRC’s)Weekly Breach Breakdown for September 24, 2021. Our podcast is possible thanks to support from Experian. Each week we look at the most recent events and trends related to data security and privacy. This week we revisit a favorite topic that’s been in the news lately – passwords and a passwordless future.  

In Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet, our tragic heroine claims she would love her beau no matter who he was by saying, “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”  The same cannot be said in our modern times of something with which we all have a love-hate relationship: the password. 

The Evolution of Passwords 

Designed to keep our innermost secrets and personal information safe from prying eyes, passwords have become the holy grail for identity thieves. More valuable than a Social Security number, more sought after than a credit card number.  

Passwords started as simple six or seven-letter codes and have grown into a jumble of letters, symbols and numbers that can span up to 32 characters. For decades, Password123 has been the most popular password in the world until being passed over by Password123456. 

Microsoft Transitions Towards World with No Passwords 

Now comes news that Microsoft has started down the passwordless path, killing passwords as we know them. You can now remove passwords from your Microsoft accounts to embrace a world with no passwords. However, like in Star Trek: The Undiscovered Country, “just because you can do a thing does not mean you must do that thing.”  

Microsoft has been working toward a passwordless future for years. In fact, nearly 100 percent of Microsoft employees have no passwords. Since Microsoft rolled out passwordless authentication for commercial users in March, more than 200 million people worldwide have switched to one of the alternate ways of logging in.  

Users Can Now Use Different Tools to Sign in to Their Accounts  

Now, instead of entering a password, you can sign in to your Microsoft accounts using the Microsoft Authenticator app, Windows Hello biometric access tool, a security key, or a verification code sent by text message or email.  

Should You Go Passwordless? 

For most people, the answer is not yet. Make no mistake, reducing the use of passwords is a very good thing. Cybersecurity researchers estimate there are more than 575 password attacks every second – that’s 18 billion attacks in a year. However, having no passwords on one account or a series of accounts is more likely to lead to a false sense of security for those accounts that still require traditional passcodes.  

Unless you are extremely tech-savvy and very comfortable with a multi-layered cyber security scheme, the ITRC recommends you follow this trend, not lead it. With that said, if you do want to jump into the deep end of the passwordless pool, Microsoft has made it relatively easy to do – and undo later if you change your mind. First: 

  1. Download the Microsoft Authenticator mobile app to your phone and link it to your personal Microsoft Account. Then; 
  1. Visit account.microsoft.com and choose advanced security options. Finally; 
  1. Enable passwordless accounts and approve the change from your Authenticator app. You now have no passwords when it comes to Microsoft.  

Once you have linked your accounts to the Authenticator app, you will be asked to enter a PIN or a time-based code to unlock your account each time you log in.  

If you go passwordless using the Microsoft Authenticator app, your mobile device will be an even more vital part of your daily routine. Be extra careful not to lose your phone and keep it locked in case it’s stolen. That way, thieves can’t easily access your personal information stored on the phone. 

For non-Microsoft users, Google and Apple are also working on technology that will allow you to eliminate or reduce the use of passwords. 

Contact the ITRC 

If you think you have been the victim of an identity crime or a data breach and you need help figuring out what to do next, you can speak with an ITRC expert advisor on the phone (888.400.5530), chat live on the web or exchange emails during our normal business hours (6 a.m.-5 p.m. PST). Just visit www.idtheftcenter.org to get started.  

Thanks again to Experian for supporting the ITRC and this podcast. Check out our latest episode from our sister podcast, The Fraudian Slip, where we talk about credit freezes with the founder of Frozen Pii. We will be back next week with another episode of the Weekly Breach Breakdown.  

Everything’s Bigger in Texas

Welcome to the Identity Theft Resource Center’s (ITRC’s) Weekly Breach Breakdown for September 10, 2021. Our podcast is possible thanks to support from Experian. Each week we look at the most recent events and trends related to data security and privacy. For the past two weeks, we’ve concentrated on what happens when you receive a notice that your personal information has been compromised. This week, we’re going to talk about a data breach involving personal information for children and the unique risks created when children’s personal information is exposed.

When you grow up in the southern U.S, you learn very quickly that the saying “Everything’s bigger in Texas” is absolutely true. The Lone Star state is twice the size of Germany. Texans eat 54,000 tons of catfish each year. That’s six times the weight of the Eiffel Tower. There are high school football stadiums in Texas that seat more than 19,000 people, enough to fit the entire population of three average-size U.S. cities.

Dallas I.S.D. Data Breach

This week, the Dallas, Texas Independent School District (Dallas I.S.D.) has earned a different distinction: the target of a significant data breach.

More than 145,000 students attend 230 schools across the district that employs 22,000 people. That doesn’t include independent contractors and vendors who also serve the Dallas schools.

School officials announced late Friday before Labor Day that an “unauthorized third-party” had accessed, downloaded and stored personal information on a cloud data storage site. The stolen data included information on current and former students and their parents as well as current and former employees and contractors dating back to 2010.

The compromised information includes full names, addresses, Social Security numbers (SSNs), phone numbers, dates of birth, and employment and salary information for current and former employees and contractors. The breached data also includes full names, SSNs, dates of birth, parent and guardian information, and grades for current and former students. According to the school district, some students’ custody status and medical conditions may have also been exposed.

What Happened

As is typical in the early days of data breaches, there are many unknowns and a lot of reluctance to share information about what happened. Dallas I.S.D. has hired forensic investigators to determine how the cybercriminals gained access to the student, parent and employee information. However, little is known about how cybercriminals got their hands on the employees, contractors and student’s personal information.

School officials are not calling this a ransomware attack. However, they acknowledge that they have communicated with the data thieves who claim the information has not been sold or shared, but has been removed from the cloud database. Ransomware attacks against schools have dramatically increased as students return for the new school year and identity criminals look for children’s personal information. One cybersecurity firm reports seeing more than 1,700 attacks against schools around the world each week in July.

The Impacts of a Children’s Personal Information Being Stolen

Dallas I.S.D. is offering credit monitoring and identity theft recovery services for one year. The ITRC always recommends data breach victims take advantage of those offers. However, the release of student information is especially troubling as criminals who take control of a young person’s identity can cause significant harm over time.

Imagine a high school student applying for college and being denied financial aid or admission because someone had used their SSN to report income or obtain credit. An identity thief can abuse the personal information for children for years before the parents or child learn of the crime.

Freeze Your Child’s Credit

It’s important for parents to not only freeze their own credit, but to freeze their children’s credit, too. That won’t prevent your child’s information from being exposed in a data breach. However, it will keep a cybercriminal from using the children’s personal information to ruin their credit and perhaps their education and work opportunities when they grow up.

Contact the ITRC

If you think you have been the victim of an identity crime or a data breach and you need help figuring out what to do next, you can speak with an ITRC expert advisor on the phone (888.400.5530), chat live on the web or exchange emails during our normal business hours (6 a.m.-5 p.m. PST). Just visit www.idtheftcenter.org to get started.

Thanks again to Experian for supporting the ITRC and this podcast. Listen next week as we talk about credit freezes with the founder of Frozen Pii on our sister podcast, The Fraudian Slip. We will be back in two weeks with another episode of the Weekly Breach Breakdown.

  • It’s standard, if not legally required, for businesses to issue a notice of data breach letter if they were breached. They usually include what information was accessed and offer some form of identity protection, like in the recent T-Mobile data breach notice.
  • The same standard applies to data breach settlement letters. There is often some free product or service offered, like in the recent Wawa data breach settlement.
  • Don’t ignore a notice of data breach letter or lawsuit settlement letters. You could be leaving valuable protections (credit monitoring, anti-spam services, best practices, etc.) and the occasional compensation (a settlement payment) for your trouble on the table.
  • To learn about recent data breaches, consumers and businesses should visit the Identity Theft Resource Center’s (ITRC’s) data breach tracking tool, notified.
  • If you believe you are the victim of an identity crime or a data breach, contact the ITRC. Call toll-free at 888.400.5530 or live-chat on the company website www.idtheftcenter.org.    

All’s Well that Ends Well

Welcome to the Identity Theft Resource Center’s (ITRC’s) Weekly Breach Breakdown for September 3, 2021. Our podcast is possible thanks to support from Experian. Each week we look at the most recent events and trends related to data security and privacy. Last week we talked about what it takes to file a successful lawsuit after a data breach. This week we look at what to do when your personal information has been exposed and you receive a notice of data breach letter, and later when you get a notice after a data breach lawsuit has been settled.

Shakespeare dispensed a lot of advice in his plays, none more helpful than in Act 1 Scene 1 of All’s Well that Ends Well: “Love all, trust a few, do wrong to none.” Do you know what else is filled with helpful advice? A well-written data breach notice.

Laws Around A Notice of Data Breach Letter

Every U.S. state, territory and the District of Columbia has a law that requires consumers to be notified when their personal information has been compromised. That’s pretty much where the commonality ends. The definition of personal information, the form of a notice, the distribution method, the length of time that can pass before a notice of data breach letter is issued, and the remedies available to impacted consumers are unique to each state.

However, it’s pretty much standard practice, if not legally required by your state, for businesses to disclose in broad terms what information was accessed and to offer some form of identity protection.  There are often other protection tips in the notice, including changing your passwords.

Consumers Ignore Notice of Data Breach Letters

Unfortunately, most people ignore both the notice and the advice. We’ve talked here about recent studies from the University of Michigan and Carnegie Mellon University that show nearly three-quarters of people who receive a notice of data breach letter don’t even know they received it. Only one-third of data breach victims change their passwords (and those who do used a weaker, similar password to the one that was compromised).

Protection Advice & Free Services Offered by Breached Companies is Improving

The recently breached T-Mobile raised the bar by offering not only credit monitoring, but also identity remediation services in the event a customer’s personal information is misused. T-Mobile is also offering free anti-spam services for all impacted customers and account takeover protections for pre-paid customers.

T-Mobile suggests you change your passwords, so you are not using the same password that has been compromised on any other account. Regular listeners to the ITRC podcasts will be familiar with this advice.

Data Breach Lawsuit Settlement Letters Also Offer Free Products

When a notice of data breach letter is issued, it is not the only time breach victims are offered free swag. When breach lawsuits are settled, there is often some free product or service provided. However, victims are usually required to take some action to get the award.

Wawa Data Breach Settlement

That’s the case with the recent settlement of a lawsuit against the east-coast-based convenience store chain Wawa, better known for its deli sandwiches than the 2019 data breach. Of the 22 million people who received settlement letters and are eligible for a settlement payment, those who made a purchase with a debit or credit card during the breach period but did not see evidence of identity fraud will get $5 gift cards. Those who can present proof of actual or attempted fraud will get a $15 gift card. Those who can show evidence they lost money can receive as much as $500 cash.

All claims must be submitted by November 29, 2021. So, the clock’s ticking if you want a free Wawa meatball grinder with extra cheese.

The Key Takeaway

In both of these scenarios, the key takeaway is the same: do not ignore a notice of data breach letter or lawsuit settlement letters. You could be leaving valuable protections and the occasional compensation for your trouble on the table.

Contact the ITRC

If you think you have been the victim of an identity crime or a data breach and you need help figuring out what to do next, you can speak with an ITRC expert advisor on the phone (888.400.5530), chat live on the web or exchange emails during our normal business hours (6 a.m.-5 p.m. PST). Just visit www.idtheftcenter.org to get started.

Thanks again to Experian for supporting the ITRC and this podcast. Be sure to check out our sister podcast, The Fraudian Slip. We will be back next week with another episode of the Weekly Breach Breakdown.

  • T-Mobile’s most recent 2021 data breach impacts 50+ million people. The exposed information includes Social Security numbers (SSNs), driver’s licenses, phone numbers, and International Mobile Equipment Identities (IMEIs) and International Mobile Subscriber Identities (IMSIs).
  • According to Threatpost, Microsoft’s Power Apps management portal exposed the data of 47 businesses for months, including 38 million people’s personal records. The information exposed varies by company. However, it ranges from names, COVID-19 vaccination status, email addresses, and phone numbers to SSNs and job titles.
  • Approximately 1.4 million people were impacted by a ransomware attack on St. Joseph’s/Candler Health System in Georgia that shut down the healthcare provider’s systems. Information compromised includes health insurance information, financial information and medical records information.
  • Anyone impacted by a data breach should follow the advice in the notification letter, change their password to a long and unique passphrase and keep an eye out for phishing attempts that claim to be from the breached organization.
  • For more information about August 2021 data breaches, consumers and businesses should visit the Identity Theft Resource Center’s (ITRC) data breach tracking tool, notified.   
  • If you believe you are a victim of identity theft from a data breach, contact the ITRC toll-free at 888.400.5530 or through live-chat on the company website www.idtheftcenter.org.

Notable August Data Breaches

Of the nearly 160 data events the Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC) tracked in August, three stand out: T-Mobile, Microsoft and Georgia’s St. Joseph’s/Candler Health System (SJ/C). T-Mobile’s latest 2021 data breach highlights the jump in mobile breaches. The Microsoft data event is significant because it’s due to a flaw in a platform’s security. Finally, SJ/C exposed 1.4 million people’s personal information after a ransomware attack on the healthcare system.

T-Mobile

According to T-Mobile, identity criminals compromised T-Mobile’s systems. The company says hackers gained access to their testing environments and then used brute force attacks and other methods to make their way into other IT servers. T-Mobile located and closed the access point they believe was used to gain entry to their servers.

On August 17, T-Mobile confirmed that approximately 47 million people were impacted by their latest data breach in 2021. T-Mobile also said the data stolen from their systems includes personal information like customers’ names, dates of birth, Social Security numbers (SSNs), and driver’s license/identity information for current, past, and prospective customers.

However, in an update on August 20, T-Mobile said they discovered that phone numbers, as well as the typical numbers that allow a mobile phone to be identified and join a network (the International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI) and International Mobile Subscriber Identity (IMSI)), were also compromised in the third T-Mobile data breach since December 2020. T-Mobile identified another 5.3 million current customer accounts with one or more associated names, addresses, dates of birth, phone numbers, and IMEIs and IMSIs illegally accessed. For more information on the T-Mobile data breach and steps to take, click here.

Microsoft

According to Threatpost, research from UpGuard revealed Microsoft’s Power Apps management portal accidentally exposed the data of 47 businesses for months, including 38 million people’s personal records. UpGuard reports that Microsoft’s Power Apps platform was flawed in the way it forced customers to configure their data as private or public. The article says that Microsoft does not consider the data issue a vulnerability, rather a configuration issue that can be improved.

Information exposed varies per business. However, the personal information ranges from names, COVID-19 vaccination status, email addresses and phone numbers to SSNs and job titles. Some of the notable businesses impacted are American Airlines, Ford, the Maryland Department of Health and the New York City schools. 

UpGuard says since disclosure of the issue, Microsoft released a tool for checking Power Apps portals for leaky data. Microsoft also plans to change the product so that permissions will be enforced by default. Microsoft’s data event is one of the first data breaches in 2021 the ITRC has seen due to a flaw in platform security. It is considered one of the rarest forms of data compromise.

St. Joseph’s/Candler Health System

On August 10, SJ/C, a healthcare system in Savannah, Georgia, released information on a ransomware attack on their systems. According to the news release, SJ/C found suspicious activity in its IT network and launched an investigation. The investigation determined that the incident resulted in an unauthorized party gaining access to its IT networks between December 18, 2020 and June 17, 2021 and launching a ransomware attack, making the systems inaccessible.

Nearly 1.4 million individuals were impacted by the data breach, both patients and employees. At-risk information includes SSNs, driver’s license numbers, patient account numbers, billing account numbers, financial information, health insurance plan member I.D. numbers, medical record numbers, medical and clinical treatment information and much more.

SJ/C says, following the incident, they have implemented and will continue to adopt additional safeguard and technical security measures to further protect and monitor its systems. The ITRC has seen similar incidents happen across the U.S., including at Scripps Health in San Diego, California.

What to Do if These Breaches Impact You

Anyone who receives a data breach notification letter should follow the advice offered by the impacted company. The ITRC suggests you immediately change your password and switch to a 12+-character passphrase, change the passwords of other accounts with the same password as the breached account, consider using a password manager, use multi-factor authentication with an app (not SMS/Text) and to keep an eye out for phishing attempts that claim to be from the breached organization.   

T-Mobile recommends all eligible customers sign up for scam blocking protection through the company’s Scam Shield as protection from the latest data breach in 2021. They are also directing people to a customer support webpage with breach information and access to tools.

SJ/C has a toll-free incident response line to answer people’s questions about the latest data breach in 2021. Anyone can call 855.623.1933 Monday through Friday between 8 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. EST. Additional information is available at www.sjchs.org.

notified 

For more information about August data breaches in 2021, or other data compromises, consumers and businesses should visit the ITRC’s data breach tracking tool, notified, free to consumers.   

Organizations that need comprehensive breach information for business planning or due diligence can access as many as 90 data points through one of the three paid notified subscriptions. Subscriptions help ensure the ITRC’s identity crime services stay free.      

Contact the ITRC 

If you believe you are the victim of an identity crime or your identity has been compromised in a data event, you can speak with an ITRC expert advisor toll-free by phone (888.400.5530) or live-chat. Just go to www.idtheftcer.org to get started.   

  • Mobile telecom providers U.S. Cellular, Mint Mobile and T-Mobile have all been breached in 2021. In fact, T-Mobile has been breached twice in 2021, and once in December 2020.
  • If your mobile phone account is breached, you should freeze your credit, change your passwords and PIN numbers, and use multi-factor authentication (MFA or 2FA) using an app, not text messages, to protect yourself when available.
  • You should also follow the steps in any data breach notification letter you receive or read in a public notice.
  • Keep an eye out for phishing emails, closely monitor your financial accounts and contact your Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) if your license number is exposed in the breach.
  • If you believe your phone account is breached, or want to learn more, contact the Identity Theft Resource Center. Call toll-free (888.400.5530) or live-chat on the company website www.idtheftcenter.org.

The Rise in Mobile Data Breaches

The Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC) has seen mobile data breaches rise, particularly in 2021. Customers of mobile phone companies that have not reported a breach also want to know what to do if their phone account information is exposed.

In January, U.S. Cellular suffered a data breach after hackers were able to scam employees to gain access to one retail store’s computer. In July, some Mint Mobile customers had phone numbers ported, leading to data being accessed. One month later, T-Mobile was breached when bad actors compromised their systems, impacting millions of documents. In fact, it is the second T-Mobile data breach in 2021 and the third since December 2020. Right now, Bleeping Computer reports that well-known threat actor ShinyHunters claims to be selling a database containing the personal information of 70 million AT&T customers. However, AT&T says they did not suffer a data breach.

Telecommunications companies continue to be targeted by identity criminals due to the importance of mobile devices in our daily lives. The rise in mobile data breaches means everyone needs to be prepared if they are impacted by a compromise. There are steps you can take to protect your information and if your phone account is breached.

What You Should do to Protect Yourself if Your Phone Account is Breached

  • Freeze your credit. Monitoring your credit is informative because it alerts you to changes on your credit reports that may need further investigation if your phone account is breached. However, it does not offer protection. While it tells you what happened, it does not stop anything from happening. A credit freeze does. Freezing your credit is free, easy and does not impact your credit.
  • Change your mobile phone account password and PIN numbers. Also, change the passwords of other accounts with the same password or PINs as the breached account. You do not want the same passwords or PINs on more than one account. Cybercriminals want you to do that because they can commit credential stuffing attacks. The ITRC recommends you switch to a unique 12+ character passphrase because they are harder for criminals to crack. You can also use a password manager to generate and keep track of your credentials.
  • Use multi-factor authentication (MFA or 2FA) on your accounts. MFA and 2FA provide an added layer of security, making it harder for hackers to gain access if your phone account is breached. Also, if possible, use an authentication app rather than having a code sent by text to your phone because the text messages can be spoofed and intercepted in a SIM swapping scheme. Authentication apps are available for free from Microsoft, Google and other software providers.
  • FOR BUSINESSES: Don’t lose control over the information you don’t have. Don’t collect more information than you need. Don’t keep the sensitive information longer than you need to complete the transaction. Keep what data you do collect and maintain safe and secure by encrypting it. Finally, make sure you offer MFA or 2FA for your customers’ and prospects’ protection when logging into their accounts.

Next Steps to Take if Your Phone Account is Breached

  • Watch for data breach notification letters. It is easy to ignore a breach notification. However, there are usually important steps in the notices, like how to activate free identity protection services. Follow the advice offered by the impacted company.
  • Be on the lookout for phishing emails. Identity criminals may look to exploit the data breach to get you to click on a malicious link or share sensitive information.
  • Closely monitor your financial accounts (credit cards, banking, utilities, etc.) If you see anything out of the ordinary, it may be a sign of fraudulent activity.
  • Contact the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) if your license is impacted. Notify the DMV in your state that your information may have been exposed. See if you can place an alert on your license number and check your driving record.

Contact the ITRC

Data breaches are inevitable. Consumers can do everything right and still have their phone account breached. If you believe your phone account is breached or want to learn more, contact the ITRC. You can speak with an expert advisor by phone (888.400.5530) or live-chat on the company website www.idtheftcenter.org. Advisors will answer any question you may have and help you through the resolution process.

The ITRC does not want anyone to panic. While it can be frightening if your phone account is breached, you will be able to work through any misuse of your information if you have a plan.

  • Earlier this year, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a major decision that set a new standard. People impacted by data errors cannot file a data breach lawsuit for damages unless there is actual, probable harm.
  • This week the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals based in Ohio ruled that a person lacked standing to sue, even though their credit score dropped because their mortgage lender reported, by mistake, that they had failed to make a payment.
  • A data breach lawsuit is subject to the same rules for filing a claim. They are all but guaranteed to be tossed out of court unless there is actual harm from the breach at issue.
  • What can be done to address this? Congress can make it clear that organizations that fail to protect data can be sued based on the risk of future harm. Or states can pass their own laws allowing data breach lawsuits based on potential damages.
  • To learn about recent data breaches, consumers and businesses should visit the Identity Theft Resource Center’s (ITRC’s) data breach tracking tool, notified.
  • If you believe you are the victim of identity theft, contact the ITRC. Call toll-free at 888.400.5530 or live-chat on the company website www.idtheftcenter.org.   

Measure for Measure

Welcome to the Identity Theft Resource Center’s (ITRC)Weekly Breach Breakdown for August 27, 2021. Our podcast is possible thanks to support from Abine and Experian. Each week we look at the most recent events and trends related to data security and privacy. Today we dive into a subject we haven’t explored before, and for good reason – filing a data breach lawsuit. It’s a bit complex and a little dry. However, it is very important when it comes to the concept of justice for victims of data breaches. So, bear with us as we talk about the legal idea of standing and what recent court rulings mean when it comes to the ability for data breach victims to sue for damages in federal courts.

Shakespeare mentioned the legal profession more than any other, outside of royalty, devoting several of his plays to various concepts of justice. One of his dark comedies – Measure for Measure – is even named for the very concept of justice: punishment should fit the crime.

That’s a concept that cuts both ways – for and against defendants in criminal courts, and the same is true of plaintiffs in civil trials where money damages are the punishment.

“Standing” Needed to File a Civil Data Breach Lawsuit

To file a civil lawsuit in federal court, you must have what is called “standing.” You must have a valid reason to stand at the bar of justice. For years, U.S. courts have been split over what is a good reason when it comes to the standing of a person whose personal information has been exposed in a data breach. Some courts said the mere threat of harm was enough to justify a data breach lawsuit. Others ruled that no, proof of actual harm was required before a data breach lawsuit could be filed. After a data breach, your ability to sue for damages had more to do with where you lived than what happened to your data.

U.S. Supreme Court Sets A New Standard for Data Breach Lawsuits

Earlier this year, though, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a major decision that set a new standard: People impacted by data errors cannot file a data breach lawsuit for damages unless there is actual, probable harm. Inconvenience, threat or harm no longer counts as an acceptable reason in some federal courts. Now, plaintiffs filing lawsuits based on those kinds of claims lack standing. No standing = no lawsuit.

Now, you may have noticed the subtle distinction that the Supreme Court decision was based on data errors, not data breaches. How very observant of you, and you are correct. However, it’s called the Supreme Court for a reason. Lower federal courts are bound to follow the decision of the Supremes and are now applying the new standard to similar but not identical cases.

Ohio Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals Ruling

This week the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals based in Ohio ruled that a person lacked standing to sue, even though their credit score dropped because their mortgage lender reported, by mistake, that they had failed to make a payment. The lower credit score was inconvenient but not harmful, according to the Court.

What It Means for Data Breach Lawsuits

What does this have to do with data breaches? A data breach lawsuit is subject to the same rules for filing a claim. That means data breach lawsuits are all but guaranteed to be tossed out of court unless there is actual harm from the breach at issue. That’s very difficult to prove in the best of times. When there have already been more than 1,100 data breaches reported this year, how do you prove which data breach caused the harm?

That doesn’t even begin to address the bigger issue of identity criminals don’t always use the data right away, or only once. The risk of harm down the road is high, and the ITRC’s 2021 Consumer Aftermath Report shows nearly three in ten identity crime victims are hit a second or third time, sometimes before the original impacts are resolved.

What Can Be Done?

Congress can make it clear that organizations that fail to protect data can be sued based on the risk of future harm. Or states can pass their own laws allowing data breach lawsuits based on potential damages.

However, the reality is that this is the exact situation that Shakespeare wrote about in Measure for Measure: “O just, but severe law.”

Contact the ITRC

If you think you have been the victim of an identity crime or a data breach and you need help figuring out what to do next, you can speak with an expert advisor on the phone, chat live on the web or exchange emails during our normal business hours. Just visit www.idtheftcenter.org to get started.

Thanks again to Experian and Abine for supporting the ITRC and this podcast. We’ll be back next week with another episode of the Weekly Breach Breakdown.

T-Mobile recently suffered its second data breach since February 2021 and its third breach since December 2020. The latest T-Mobile data breach leaves many current, former and prospective customers wondering what happened, how it happened and what they need to do to stay safe.

What Happened?

According to T-Mobile, a bad actor compromised T-Mobile’s systems. The company says they located and closed the access point they believe was used to gain entry to their servers.

On August 17, 2021, T-Mobile confirmed that approximately 47 million people were impacted by the data breach. T-Mobile also said the data stolen from their systems included personal information like customers’ names, dates of birth, Social Security numbers (SSNs), and driver’s license/identity information for current, past, and prospective customers.

However, in an update on August 20, 2021, T-Mobile said they discovered that phone numbers, as well as the typical numbers that allow a mobile phone to be identified and join a network (the International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI) and International Mobile Subscriber Identity (IMSI)), were also compromised. T-Mobile identified another 5.3 million current customer accounts that had one or more associated names, addresses, dates of birth, phone numbers, and IMEIs and IMSIs illegally accessed.

The Verge reports that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is investigating the T-Mobile data breach that may have impacted as many as 100 million customers.

What Does It Mean to You?

Identity criminals can use information like your SSN and driver’s license to commit an array of identity crimes like false applications for loans, credit cards or bank accounts in your name. IMEIs and IMSIs could be used to track your mobile device or assist in SIM swapping attacks where someone hijacks your phone number to intercept multi-factor authentication codes or other information.

What Can You Do to Protect Yourself from the T-Mobile Data Breach?

  • Freeze your credit. T-Mobile is offering identity protection services to impacted customers, including credit monitoring. While monitoring your credit is informative, it does not offer protection. It tells you what happened but does not stop anything from happening. A credit freeze does. Freezing your credit is free, easy and does not impact your credit.
  • Change your passwords and PIN numbers. You want to make sure you do not use the same passwords or PINs on more than one account. The Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC) recommends you switch to a unique passphrase (something you can remember that is at least 12 characters long). You can also use a password manager to generate and keep track of your credentials. Cybercriminals want us to reuse passwords on more than one account because it makes it easier for them to commit identity crimes.
  • Use multi-factor authentication (MFA or 2FA) on your accounts. MFA and 2FA provide an added layer of security. Also, if possible, use an authentication app rather than having a code sent by text to your phone because the text messages can be spoofed and intercepted in a SIM swapping scheme. Authentication apps are available for free from Microsoft, Google and other software providers.
  • Have a plan if your IMEI or IMSI information is used fraudulently. It’s unknown if or how the IMEI or IMSI information stolen in the T-Mobile data breach will be used. However, it is important you have a plan if it is. There is no reason to panic about your phone being disabled. However, in the unlikely event it is, plan how you will contact T-Mobile. You can do this through their website t-mobile.com, an in-person visit to a T-Mobile store or using a landline telephone.  
  • FOR BUSINESSES: You can’t lose control over the information you don’t have. Don’t collect more information than you need. Don’t keep the sensitive information longer than you need to complete the transaction. Also, keep what data you do collect and maintain safe and secure by encrypting it. Finally, make sure you offer MFA or 2FA for your customers’ and prospects’ protection when logging into their accounts.

What Are the Next Steps to Take?

  • Closely monitor your financial accounts (credit cards, banking, utilities, etc.) for any signs of fraudulent activity.
  • Stay alert for a data breach notification, as well as any potential identity fraud due to the T-Mobile data breach. While it is easy to ignore a breach notification, there are usually important steps in the notices, like how to activate free identity protection services. In T-Mobile’s notification letter, the company offers two years of free identity protection services. They also recommend all eligible T-Mobile customers sign up for scam blocking protection through the company’s Scam Shield, and directs people to a customer support webpage with breach information and access to tools.
  • Be on the lookout for phishing emails exploiting the T-Mobile data breach to get you to click on a malicious link or share sensitive information.
  • Act if your driver’s license is impacted. If your driver’s license information has been compromised, contact the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) in your state to notify them your information may have been exposed. See if you can place an alert on your license number and check your driving record.

Contact the ITRC

While this T-Mobile data breach leaves uncertainty for many, the ITRC does not want anyone to panic. As long as you have a plan, you will be able to address any misuse of your information.

The ITRC remains available to help you. If you have questions about the T-Mobile data breach or believe you may be impacted by it, contact the ITRC toll-free by phone (888.400.5530) or live-chat on the company website (www.idtheftcenter.org). ITRC expert advisors will walk you through the steps you need to take and help you create a resolution plan.