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A recent discovery on an internal message board may be a little unsettling: according to Politico, who discovered the internal memo and first wrote about the incident, the U.S. State Department’s unclassified email system suffered a data breach. This event affected only one percent of the organization’s 69,000 employees, but while the classified email system was not affected, the State Dept acknowledges that the impacted employees’ personally identifiable information may have been compromised.

Events like this one are happening with alarming regularity across every kind of business or agency, leading to record-setting year-over-year numbers of data breaches and compromised consumer records. While the State Department’s investigation of the incident is still underway, the internal memo did cite the need for better password security among employees.

Password security is an issue that plagues users at every level and in every industry. There are even websites that track the most commonly used passwords—discovered as a result of data breaches and stolen account credentials—and unsurprisingly, things like “password,” “qwerty,” and “12345678” still top the lists. Of course, a weak and easily guessed password isn’t the only issue; reusing passwords on multiple accounts leads to fraudulent access too. If a hacker uncovers a database of stolen logins for social media accounts, they can access any other accounts that reused those same usernames and passwords.

The U.S. government has been urged to take extra precautions when it comes to cybersecurity, largely due to the fallout and the resulting legislation from the Office of Personnel Management breach that began in 2014 and continued into 2015. Millions of government employees’ complete identities were stolen, along with identifying information for other people connected to those employees (i.e., family members, former employers).

The event sparked the Federal Cybersecurity Enhancement Act, which was signed into law in 2015. It required federal agencies to take more preventive action to reduce the threat of cybercrimes, and to report on their actionable steps. Unfortunately, those security steps have not been implemented across the board. Several U.S. Senators issued a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo earlier this month, expressing their disappointment that the organization has not followed through on enough of the recommended security measures.


Contact the Identity Theft Resource Center for toll-free, no-cost assistance at (888) 400-5530. For on-the-go assistance, check out the free ID Theft Help App from ITRC.

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With its global crime-fighting efforts, the FBI can monitor potential criminal activity in an effort to take preventive action. One of the many important industries that the agency can protect this way is the financial sector. Recent discoveries have already prompted the FBI to issue a warning to banks and financial institutions: we have reason to believe a global-scale cybercrime is about to happen.

Specifically, this cybercrime targets ATMs, forcing what’s known as an “unlimited operation,” or “ATM cash payout scheme.” Essentially by combining malware infections at various banks with stolen card information onto magnetic stripe card blanks, thieves can bypass the usual account balance limits and daily withdrawal limits to steal millions of dollars through ATMs.

These kinds of attacks aren’t new, and law enforcement agencies have even managed to arrest a bad guy or two for this specific category of crime. The real obstacle, though, is that global crime syndicates can enable the theft of millions of dollars from ATMs before anyone notices what’s happening.

Many banks stock their ATMs with a fresh supply of cash for the weekend or a holiday since the bank won’t be open to help customers, so the FBI has already warned that an attack could take place at times like these.

The FBI had some vital tips for banks concerning this possible incident. While you can’t stop a global crime syndicate, there are a lot of things you can do to help:

1. Don’t panic – Your gut instinct might be to run to the bank and withdraw a lot of cash as a safety net, but that doesn’t help anything. It’s far more important to keep your head and continue with your everyday financial behaviors.

2. Monitor your accounts – After any kind of POS or data breach, consumers are urged to check their account statements. This time, we mean it! Checking your accounts right now—literally, right now—for any signs of suspicious behavior and then reporting that behavior to your bank could mean that your stolen card information (the one thieves transferred onto a blank magnetic stripe card) won’t work when a thief tries to use it. You could be one less card that gives them access to the bank’s money. So check your accounts and spread the word!

3. Report strange activity – Take immediate action if you find anything out of the ordinary in your account statements as this could indicate someone has been in your account. If someone accesses your account, they might copy it onto a blank card.

Again, one of the most important things you can do is not panic. As word spreads, there may be social media posts that end up spreading misinformation to a viral audience. Help others know fact from fiction when it comes to the impact of this crime.


Contact the Identity Theft Resource Center for toll-free, no-cost assistance at (888) 400-5530. For on-the-go assistance, check out the free ID Theft Help App from ITRC.

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The Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC) and other advocacy groups have tracked data breaches, identity theft, scams and fraud for years. However, it is difficult to identify the geographic patterns to these crimes.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has released its annual cybercrimes report, which outlines which states saw the largest number of compromised records and the largest financial losses. The report provides statistics on what states are hit the hardest by these crimes. It also breaks down how much financial damage is caused and what mechanism for the crime was used. Interestingly, some of the states with the highest numbers of cybercrime have also been on the top identity theft state lists for several years. California, Florida, Texas, New York and Pennsylvania (in that order) had the highest numbers of cybercrime reports last year. The most financial damage from these attacks occurred in California, Texas, Florida, New York, and Arizona, again, in that order. As for how these cybercrimes manifested, Business Email Compromise (BEC) and ransomware were highly common forms, as were tech support fraud and extortion.

California, Florida, Texas, New York and Pennsylvania (in that order) had the highest numbers of cybercrime reports last year. The most financial damage from these attacks occurred in California, Texas, Florida, New York, and Arizona, again, in that order. As for how these cybercrimes manifested, Business Email Compromise (BEC) and ransomware were highly common forms, as were tech support fraud and extortion.

With such alarming numbers of occurrences around the country, what are individual consumers and businesses supposed to do? The very first answer is to simply understand that the threat even exists. Read up on the findings of the FBI, the ITRC’s annual Aftermath report, the Federal Trade Commission’s data on fraud reports. Once you understand the ways—and the likelihood—that cybercrime can strike, you’ll be better prepared to take as much preventive action as you can.

That action all starts with recognizing a possible cyber attack and refusing to play along. BECs and ransomware are easily ignored if you understand the dynamics that hackers use to trap you, for example. These tactics rely on the person receiving the communication not realizing the danger, so it’s important to set solid policies in place (for yourself and your workplace) about how to recognize, respond, and even recover from a cyber attack.


Contact the Identity Theft Resource Center for toll-free, no-cost assistance at (888) 400-5530. For on-the-go assistance, check out the free ID Theft Help App from ITRC.