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In the age of the #selfie, there are millions of apps for users to apply teeth whitening, air brushing and the perfect filter for a flawless pic to be shared on social media. Unfortunately, downloading apps can also pose a security risk, depending on the app and the platform from which is was accessed.

Four million Android users who downloaded a popular app from the Google Play store are believed to have been infected with malware that has a variety of consequences. Some of these involve stealing access to your contacts list and pictures, while others actually redirect any popups to pornography websites. Trying to get rid of the app doesn’t work since the app remains hidden after deleting it, making it impossible to drag it to the delete garbage can icon.

The Google Play store for Android users and the App Store for iOS (Apple) users are two of the biggest app sources in the world, and they have two very different structures. Google believes in a more open-source approach, meaning any developer can list an app and users have a responsibility to read the reviews before downloading. Apple, on the other hand, has a reputation for being far more secure, but that comes at a price: listing an app on the iOS store can mean a lengthy wait while the app is tested and approved and a laundry list of requirements for developers to adhere to.

For better or worse, most of the affected apps in this case were downloaded in Asia. However, that doesn’t mean there aren’t malicious apps that are targeting US users with similar harmful tactics. Logically, Android users stand to be at a somewhat higher risk than Apple users due to the open nature of the Google Play store, but that doesn’t mean iPhone and iPad users are immune to this threat.

No matter which mobile operating system you use, you’ve got to be careful with your device. Read the user reviews before you download an app, and make sure there aren’t any specific privacy concerns mentioned. Also, read the app description itself and get a good idea of what kinds of access the app needs. If an app wants too much information or access that it shouldn’t need in order to function, then it’s best to skip it.


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.

Read next: Fortnite Bug Let Hackers Into Players Accounts

Sparking joy has taken on a whole new meaning thanks to the KonMari method of tidying up. Cleaning up your physical and digital life are some ways to minimize your risk of identity theft.

Marie Kondo is taking the world by storm with the premise of decluttering your life, tidying up your home and work spaces, and basically living by a simple principle: if it doesn’t “spark joy,” you don’t need it. The mindset behind the so-called KonMari method has proven so effective that second-hand stores and thrift shops are seeing record-setting levels of donations.

This decluttering concept can be applied to physical possessions, but you should also consider its ability to benefit other areas of life. You might clean up your email inbox or desktop for example. There’s another level of protection that consumers can take from this “spark joy” concept, and that’s keeping their identities out of a criminal’s hands.

Before You Begin

There are a number of steps that can help you organize your identity before you ever have to deal with cluttering consequences. These would include things like halting subscriptions to magazines and newspapers you don’t read, blocking credit card offers with your financial institutions, going “paperless” on bills and bank statements, and more. By ensuring these things don’t arrive at your home, you’ll have less clutter to deal with and fewer security pitfalls that a thief could exploit.

Another possible vulnerability is your email inbox. Adopt the good habit of not just deleting unwanted emails, but actively unsubscribing from them. This will require you to open them, scroll all the way down, and click unsubscribe. Do NOT follow this procedure for emails that appear to be scam attempts, as clicking a link can redirect you to a harmful website or install malicious software on your computer. Are you holding on to an old email address?

Physical Mail

As for identity tidying in your home or workplace, that can seem very daunting. Don’t worry, it’s not. Following commonly shared methods from organizational experts like Marie Kondo and others, you can start by creating “piles.” Establish a temporary spot for everything that could be linked back to your identity: a pile for bills, a pile for junk mail, a pile for important papers, and more.

The bills: your monthly bills must be accessible but protected, so find out where you are most likely to see them but keep others from coming across them. As you pay a bill, shred the remaining mailer portion so that you don’t end up with random piles of paper that will need to be addressed later.

Junk mail: it’s too easy to toss some junk mail on the counter and think you’ll deal with it later. It’s even easier to throw it in the trash unopened, but that could lead a dumpster-diving identity thief to pieces of your overall data puzzle. Keep a basket near your cross-cut shredder to stash these items until you’re ready to shred.

Important papers: a lot of people would agree that tax documents, health insurance statements, and other key papers don’t exactly “spark joy” and therefore should be done away with immediately. However, that’s not wise. What is useful, though, is investing in a small file cabinet or file box where important papers can be stored when not needed. It’s important that this file be accessible in an emergency but not left out in the open where anyone could rifle through it.

Digital Clutter

It’s easy to forget that your identity is vulnerable online, too, but the same principles behind decluttering can help you in the virtual space. Investing in an external hard drive or cloud-based storage subscription can protect the things you want to keep while getting them out of your physical space. Even better, if there’s a paper you might need at a later date, you can simply photograph it or scan it, then store it in these outside spaces. That way, you can discard the original but retain a protected printable copy if you need it.

Mobile Apps & Privacy Settings: First, take a look at all of the apps on your device – are there any you’re not using anymore? Delete those.

Second, visit your mobile device settings to see what information your applications are collecting from you and update them for increased privacy. For example, you might need to let a map app see your location for example, but does it need to be active all the time or just when in use? Same thing for photos, do all of your apps need access to your media library? Definitely not. It’s also a good time to run any updates for your phone software or apps. Read the descriptions carefully and note any cybersecurity language before choosing to update.

You should also be concerned about the permissions you allow (see trustjacking) the mobile apps on your device. Through these apps, third-parties might be tracking information about you that you might not realize like your location, search history and even your photos. Even if they aren’t actively using this collected data, they’re still storing it which can leave your personal information vulnerable to cyberattacks should the third-party fall victim to a breach.

Also, think twice before discarding that old device. Be sure to reset to your factory settings.


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.

Read next: What’s the Latest Threat From Your Internet Connected Toys?

Valentine’s Day is just around the corner and many people are looking to swipe right on a match through a dating app in hopes of meeting their suitor in real life. In 2018, Tindr alone processed a record 1.6 billion swipes a day. With 40 percent of Americans switching to online dating, there’s now an app for every kind of user preference including dog lovers, foodies and celebrity look alikes. With love in the air, scammers are also upping their game on these platforms in order to get your money or personal information. Let’s talk about how to swipe left on a romance scam.

Many popular dating apps like Tinder and Zoosk have reported numerous incidents of romance scams taking place on their platforms. Scammers are becoming more advanced in their techniques including using chatbots to reach more people at a faster rate and evolving their messages to remain current. To avoid being caught, scammers might also try to lure you off the dating app by claiming they are canceling their account or some other excuse. Don’t go breaking your heart or your bank, read more about how to detect a romance scam here.

When using dating apps you should always be conscious of the information you disclose and who you choose to talk to. Be extra leery if someone gives you excessive compliments, reveals in-depth information about themselves immediately, is located outside your country, asks for money or expresses interest in marrying right away. If you come across a scammer, report their profile right away to the company they have an account with. Never send anyone from a dating app money, passwords or login info to your accounts or personal contact information.

Who would’ve thought that swiping right on a popular dating app could get you in the hands of an identity thief? Kerrie Roberts with sponsor, Experian and Eva Velasquez of Identity Theft Resource Center weighs in on the ever so popular, “romance scams”.


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.

Read next: What’s the Latest Threat From Your Internet Connected Toys?

Malware is a growing threat, one that can impact everyone from a casual computer user to a Fortune 500 company. More than just a virus, malware is more like a catch-all term for any kind of malicious software that can infect a computer and be used for harm. Now, thanks to a new Swiss initiative and a team of volunteers, cybercriminals have a little less leverage for attacking computers.

The project, URLHaus, relied on volunteers within the cybersecurity company to seek out websites that distribute malware. These websites can infect your computer even if you don’t engage or if you visited by mistake, and it’s a common tactic that hackers use when they get you to fall for a phishing attempt. More than 100,000 of these websites have been identified and taken down in the last ten months.

A malicious website is just one of many different avenues for infecting your computer, but it’s a widely used method of attack. When a scammer sends out a phishing email that spoofs a known company, for example, the link within the email will often take the victim to a harmful website where the malware infection takes place. Common phishing emails include copycat messages from your bank telling you there’s a problem with your account, fake emails from known retailers like Amazon or PayPal, requests to verify your identity or account information, and many other believable messages.

Scammers can also use social media to get their victims to visit a harmful website. Private messages that appear to come from someone you know, telling you to click here to get this incredible deal or see these unbelievable pictures they found of you, for example, are widespread. Of course, actually paid ads for interesting products and fantastic sales can also redirect users to a fake website.

Once you visit the website and interact with it, the malware is installed on your computer or mobile device. It might be ransomware that locks up your computer, spyware or adware that tracks your online activity, a keylogger that steals everything you type (including account logins), and more.

So how does the cybersecurity industry fight back? One website at a time, which is why the project and its volunteers are so crucial to protecting tech users. Unfortunately, finding these websites scattered across the vast world wide web is a slow and tedious process; of course, getting the companies who host the sites to take them down can take even longer, about an average of eight days from the date of notification.

While the volunteers continue this vital work, the next step for URLHaus is to help those web hosting companies take action more immediately. Some companies respond within a day, while others take as long as a month. The bigger the company and the more customers they have hosting websites through their platform, the longer it can take to investigate a site that’s been reported.

In the meantime, there are some behaviors that tech users can deploy that will help them avoid some of these sites…

1. Never click a link in an email, text message, or social media message unless you’ve verified it with the sender; don’t just trust that you know the sender, either, since accounts can be hacked or copycatted.

2. Avoid clicking on ads in social media posts unless you can explicitly trust the company and the link. When in doubt, simply do a quick internet search for the product and the seller in order to look at the item more closely.

3. Most important of all, make sure you have a reputable security suite installed and updated. Antivirus software isn’t enough anymore, not with so many different threats out there. A lot of great software developers even offer their products at “freemium” pricing, which means there’s a price plan for every budget. There’s literally no excuse to not protect your tech.


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.

Read next: Getting the Most Out of Your Antivirus

Fans of the iPhone video chat feature FaceTime might be surprised to learn that a software bug may have been leaking their private calls. While the process took a number of steps to initiate—so it’s unlikely anyone accidentally eavesdropped, but instead chose to do so intentionally—there was also no way to know if someone was listening to you during your calls.

To make the glitch work in their favor, a user had to initiate a FaceTime call and then add their own phone number as another person in the group call. That way, even if the actual third-party never answered, the call remained connected and the user could listen in on the other person. Even worse, if the unaware third-party pressed their volume button or power button for some reason, the eavesdropping became a video monitoring call instead of just audio.

This kind of privacy flaw isn’t like Apple, a company known for its consumer-centric security. Several industry watchers like 9to5Mac and the Verge have reported on this bug, and Apple has temporarily disabled all group FaceTime function until a patch can be written and a software update released.

First, the immediate warning for consumers: situations like this one are why you must make it a priority to download new software updates when they become available. When companies release an update, it’s because they’ve found ways to make their product better. Many times, the update can actually resolve a serious security or privacy problem.

More importantly, this is a stark reminder that our technology is only as good as the level of human error behind it. Apple prides itself on producing great products and focusing on its users’ needs, but even the best can sometimes experience flaws. If you don’t put blind trust in your products or platforms, you’ll be less likely to feel the harmful effects of accidental issues.


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.

Read next: Spring Cleaning for Your Mobile Device

SAN DIEGO – Jan 28, 2019 – The Identity Theft Resource Center®, a nationally recognized non-profit organization established to support victims of identity crime, and CyberScout®, a full-spectrum identity, privacy and data security services firm, released the 2018 End-of-Year Data Breach Report.

According to the report, the number of U.S. data breaches tracked in 2018 decreased from last year’s all-time high of 1,632 breaches by 23 percent (or 1,244 breaches), but the reported number of consumer records exposed containing sensitive personally identifiable information jumped 126 percent from the 197,612,748 records exposed in 2017 to 446,515,334 records this past year.

“The increased exposure of sensitive consumer data is serious,” said Eva Velasquez, president and CEO of the Identity Theft Resource Center. “Never has there been more information out there putting consumers in harm’s way. ITRC continues to help victims and consumers by providing guidance on the best ways to navigate the dangers of identity theft to which these exposures give rise.”

Another critical finding was the number of non-sensitive records compromised, not included in the above totals, an additional 1.68 billion exposed records. While email-related credentials are not considered sensitive personally identifiable information, a majority of consumers use the same username/email and password combinations across multiple platforms creating serious vulnerability.

“When it comes to cyber hygiene, email continues to be the Achilles Heel for the average consumer,” said CyberScout founder and chair, Adam Levin. “There are many strategies consumers can use to minimize their exposure, but the takeaway from this year’s report is clear: Breaches are the third certainty in life, and constant vigilance is the only solution.”
To download the 2018 End-of-Year Data Breach Report, visit: idtheftcenter.org/2018-end-of-year-data-breach-report/

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About the Identity Theft Resource Center:

Founded in 1999, the Identity Theft Resource Center® (ITRC) is a nationally recognized non-profit organization established to support victims of identity theft in resolving their cases, and to broaden public education and awareness in the understanding of identity theft, data breaches, cybersecurity, scams/fraud, and privacy issues. Through public and private support, the ITRC provides no-cost victim assistance and consumer education through its call center, website, social media channels, live chat feature and ID Theft Help. For more information, visit: http://www.idtheftcenter.org

About CyberScout:
Since 2003, CyberScout® has set the standard for full-spectrum identity, privacy and data security services, offering proactive protection, employee benefits, education, resolution, identity management and consulting as well as breach preparedness and response programs.

CyberScout products and services are offered globally by 660 client partners to more than 17.5 million households worldwide, and CyberScout is the designated identity theft services provider for more than 750,000 businesses through cyber insurance policies. CyberScout combines extensive experience with high-touch service to help individuals, government, nonprofit and commercial clients minimize risk and maximize recovery.

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Identity Theft Resource Center
Charity Lacey
VP of Communications
O: 858-634-6390
C: 619-368-4373
clacey@idtheftcenter.org
CyberScout

Lelani Clark
VP of Communications
O: 646-649-5766
C: 347-204-9297
lelani@adamlevin.com

Memes are a fun way to spread a little light-hearted internet discussion using pictures that have been overlaid with bold-font text. Some memes are based on screenshots from iconic movies, and others take on a viral life of their own after a simple photograph is uploaded and altered with a message. However, it’s okay to be a bit of a grumpy cat when it comes to protecting your identity.

Hackers have been able to use a process called steganography to hide malicious code in the string of computer code that makes up a meme. Steganography is basically “information hiding inside information.” Be aware, though, that steganography as a tool is not always harmful or malicious, it’s only how it’s used that can cause problems. It’s like the parent of a toddler hiding pureed carrots in their child’s spaghetti sauce, just to get a few more veggies into them; instead, it’s hackers hiding harmful malware inside a picture that looks funny.

Even worse, that funny picture is easily shareable in emails, messages, and on social media. You can potentially infect your entire contact list with one affected meme.

Fortunately, there are some steps you can take to protect yourself and your online friends. Many of these preventive measures are just good internet habits to develop anyway, so there’s really nothing too difficult to master.

  • First, avoid opening links or attachments in emails or messages. Many different types of malware can be lurking in a link to an infected page or in the macros of an attached document, so you should never open these unless you’ve personally verified it with the sender.
  • If someone sends you a funny or poignant meme, don’t “open” it by tapping on it (on a mobile device) or saving it to your computer. Have a good laugh, then forget it.
  • Never share a meme unless you can trust the source. If someone sent you one and you saved it to your computer then uploaded it to your Facebook wall, for example, you’re potentially infecting anyone who clicks on it through your social media channels. If anyone shares your post to their own wall, they may be spreading it far and wide.
  • Most important of all, make sure that you have strong, up-to-date, reliable antivirus software installed on your computer. Depending on the company you choose, some very affordable security suites offer tools like anti-ransomware, anti-phishing, and instant scanning of new files even before you open them. That means any new content coming across your internet connection is checked out—and blocked, if necessary—before it reaches your hard drive.

Again, all of these steps are good ideas to put into practice anyway, even if you’re not sending or receiving memes. Protect your network, your devices, and your identifying information by adopting good internet security habits.


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.

Read next: What Can a Thief Do With Your Driver’s License?

Fortnite is a popular online battle game that has drawn criticism for its combination of violent battle and seemingly child-friendly artwork, as well as for its business model that encourages players to spend real money on fake goods within the game. Worse, though, is the recent announcement that a bug in the game’s code allowed hackers to access players’ accounts and use their stored credit cards.

Pending the ongoing investigation, Epic Games hasn’t revealed how many Fortnite accounts were compromised, so until notification is sent to all affected players, it’s a good idea to check your payment card statements regularly and change your password.

There has been some concern raised about hackers’ ability to also intervene on voice chat sessions between players—which is alarming since this game is used mainly by kids—but the company says that is not true.

The hackers didn’t gain access to the credit card information, so how did they benefit from this? There is a whole world of internet buying and selling that involves virtual goods sold within games. If you’ve seen the recent children’s animated film, Wreck It Ralph 2: Ralph Breaks the Internet, this acquisition of useful items is portrayed. People working within a game acquire items that help players get to another level—like a special tool, a faster car, or better weapons—and sell them for actual money online by transferring them to the buyer’s account within the game. It’s perfectly legal and allowable, but hacking someone’s account and using their credit card to purchase these things is not.

Epic Games claims the bug has now been closed, but again, changing your password is a good idea. At the same time, despite official announcements to the contrary, this is an excellent time to talk to your kids about connecting with other players in online games. Whether or not the hackers could eavesdrop on conversations doesn’t matter; the other people legitimately participating in those conversations might easily be bad actors, as well. Talk to your online game players about safe conversations, never divulging their personal details, and understanding how virtual items cost very real money.


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.

Read next: What Can a Thief Do With Your Driver’s License?

Data Privacy Day is an international effort to empower individuals and business to respect privacy, safeguard data and enable trust.

Many of today’s tech users have never navigated an online world where they weren’t constantly asked to provide personal details about themselves for everything from booking a doctor’s appointment to buying a new shirt. Too many tech users don’t do enough to protect their online privacy and secure their data, while also thinking that it’s “other people” who don’t protect themselves.

This is a trend that Data Privacy Day works to address. The Identity Theft Resource Center is the non-profit partner for this event, hosted on January 28th, 2019, by StaySafeOnline. Powered by the National Cyber Security Alliance, the upcoming event will focus on the changing privacy landscape and what that means for consumers, businesses, policymakers, and more.

The change is so rapid, in fact, that StaySafeOnline is referring to this age as a new era in privacy, and as such, the event will feature a wide variety of instructional sessions led by some of the top names in the field. With events available for both in-person attendees and live stream participants, Data Privacy Day stands to be a source of vital information to kick off the new year with a focus on security.

Of course, there are actionable steps that every tech user can implement right now to help secure their personally identifiable information and protect their privacy:

1. Understand—and put in place—good password hygiene.

2. Establish a family or company policy on how to respond to suspicious messages and what steps to take in the event of a possible privacy incident.

3. Install strong, trustworthy security software that helps block or delete attempted privacy threats.

4. Think twice about oversharing, whether it’s posting too much information on social media, responding to emails asking for identifying details, or handing over your data to third-parties.

5. Seek out the vulnerabilities that may already be a threat, like third-party apps, unsecure privacy settings in your social media accounts, software and operating systems that haven’t been updated regularly, and more.

Can’t be there in person? Watch live from LinkedIn, SF! ITRC CEO, Eva Velasquez will be joining privacy experts on the panel, “The Future of Privacy and Breakthrough Technologies” to discuss advances in technology, such as artificial intelligence to the human body acting as the computer interface, how privacy will take on even greater significance. Panelists will highlight why our actions now will drive tomorrow’s outcomes.

Just released – Download the 2018 End-of-Year Data Breach Report


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.

Read next: Consumers at Risk: 126% Increase in Exposed Consumer Data, 1.68 Billion Email-Related Credentials

It’s the ultimate payoff for a scammer: raking in a high-dollar payday with little effort or cybersecurity expertise. Unfortunately, that’s exactly what makes business email compromise scams, or BEC scams for short, so popular among criminals. By gaining access to an email account within a company, the potential for lucrative phishing scams is limitless.

One recent victim? Save the Children Foundation, a well-known non-profit organization that supports relief efforts for children all around the world. After scammers gained access to a staff member’s email address in 2017 and began sending invoices for solar panels to the proper department, the organization was cheated out of around one million.

BEC scams aren’t new. They used to be called “boss phishing” and “CEO phishing,” among other names. Now that criminals have figured out there are more people within a company with high-security access, the scam email can come from a variety of positions within the company.

The fact that BEC scams continue to work is alarming, though. In fact, the FBI reported that there were more than 300,000 cases of cybercrime in 2017, totaling over $1.42 billion in losses. BEC scams accounted for nearly half of those loses at $676 million. These scams saw a 137 percent increase in an eighteen-month period, and a report by WeLiveSecurity stated that social engineering scams like BEC and phishing emails were the third most commonly reported scam last year.

Unfortunately, social engineering scams still work, especially as scammers become more and more involved in the storyline. Those ludicrous old “Nigerian prince” email scams relied on social engineering, or getting the victim to hand over money in order to help someone in need and see a return on that money later. In the case of a BEC scam, the engineering is even simpler: “Bob from accounting” emailed an invoice—or so it appeared—and the recipient cut a check or transferred the funds, just like they do every single day. In other cases, the boss seems to have emailed a request for payroll records or W2 forms for everyone within the company; the assistant who received the email never thinks twice about following a logical request, and hands over the complete identities of everyone who works there.

In the case of business email compromise, the age-old advice isn’t easy to follow. Email scam recipients have always been told to ignore them. But how do you ignore a request from the CEO? How is a charity supposed to ignore an invoice for solar panels in a remote village when the organization’s job is literally to provide these things?

The first way for organizations to fight back against BEC scams is to institute iron-clad policies on submitting sensitive information, issuing payments and funds, changing account numbers or passwords, and other eyebrow-raising activities. The policy has to outline exactly which requests are to be questioned, as well as offer a layer of protection for an employee who requests verbal confirmation. Of course, preventing this kind of crime also starts with ensuring outsiders cannot gain access to a company’s email accounts, namely through strong, unique passwords that are force-changed on a regular basis and multi-factor authentication.

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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