Posts

In what has become an alarming security trend, yet another company has exposed millions of consumers’ profiles online due to a non-password protected web-based server. Ladders, a recruitment site that lets users create a profile that can be shared with potential employers, was using an Amazon-hosted web server to store the profiles; according to a security researcher who discovered the information exposed online—and according to confirmation from the company—13.7 million of those users’ complete profiles were available to anyone who knew to look for them.

While the information didn’t appear to contain Social Security numbers, everything else that you might list in a job application was there. Names, email addresses, physical addresses, work histories, educational level, even whether or not the applicant had a security clearance and in what field were all available.

Fortunately, the information was discovered by Sanyam Jain, who works for a non-profit that specifically looks for overexposed information and reports it. There’s no way of knowing if anyone with malicious intentions got to it beforehand, though. After receiving the report, Ladders took down the database within a short time.

Incidents like this one continue to happen, largely due to poor password security. In far too many of the cases of accidental overexposure or data leak, the company who posted their information didn’t realize the default setting was “open” to the public.

For users of any platform, there’s really no way to prevent this kind of oversharing of their information. Other than contacting the company’s IT department, asking if they host their databases on web-based servers, and then asking if that server is password protected—all of which the IT department is probably not going to share with a member of the general public—there’s not much that individuals can do. But here are some actionable steps:

  1. Establish a secondary email – In cases like this, a spammer could download the database and target the users with spam and potentially harmful emails. If you’re establishing online accounts, you might consider setting up an email address that you only use for those purposes. However, in this case, it must be one that you can still check routinely since the purpose of the account was to be notified about job opportunities.
  2. Password security – Even if the other company doesn’t quite have their passwords nailed down, that doesn’t mean you can’t be safer with good password security. Never reuse a password or make one that’s too easy—remember, humans don’t sit and “guess” your password, but rather, software that can make billions of guesses per second does the job for them. Also, it’s a good idea to change your password from time to time, especially on sensitive accounts.
  3. Don’t throw in the towel – Even if it feels like your information is exposed every single day, that’s not the case. Data breach fatigue is a documented problem, but don’t let the constant news of poor security practices keep you from locking down your information as much as possible.

Of course, the Identity Theft Resource Center is here to help. Speak to an identity theft advisor 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.


You might also like…

Imposter Scams Were the Most Reported Complaint in 2018

In New Scam, Criminals Pose as Government Pretending to Help With Identity Theft

Study Explores Non-Economic Negative Impacts Caused by ID Theft 

 

When news of yet another data breach comes out, the reaction can range from panic to “blah.” At the one of end of the spectrum, consumers can be left with documented feelings of stress, fear and even paranoia about further attacks to their identity. At the same time, a very real phenomenon known as “data breach fatigue” occurs when there are so many attacks that consumers stop taking them seriously.

Fortunately, a new tool can help consumers make sense of a data breach; while neither overreaction nor inaction is an appropriate response, this tool can help people who are affected by the breach understand their options and take corrective action.

The Identity Theft Resource Center and Futurion have partnered and launched a tool called Breach Clarity, which takes publicly-available data breach information and breaks down both the threat and that actionable steps for consumers.

Watch Our New Free Webinar: Deciphering the Code of Data Breach Notifications

Unfortunately, far too many consumers do not check up on these kinds of attacks until it is too late. Even then, many victims of data breaches do not follow up on the support that notification letters offer, including things like identity theft protection or credit monitoring.

Breach Clarity lets users type in a general search term for a known breach and see a graphic representation of the threat level based on a number of factors. These include things like understanding whether or not financial information was exposed or if Social Security numbers (or other sensitive PII) were accessed. From there, a one-to-ten risk score is provided so consumers understand just how seriously this could affect them. The Home Depot breach in 2014 only receives a 3 out of 10 because of the nature of the information that was stolen; the 2015 attack on the US government’s Office of Personnel Management was far more serious and received a 10 out of 10 risk score as a result.

Breach Clarity was unveiled at the 2019 KNOW Conference in Las Vegas where it won first place in the third annual Identity Startup Pitch Competition. The criteria for selecting a grand prize winner included factors like the degree to which the entrant meets the customer’s needs and expectations, innovation, originality, and more.


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.

Identity Theft Resource Center and Futurion unveil a new tool Breach Clarity for consumers impacted by data breaches 

LAS VEGAS, Mar 24, 2019 ­­– Today, the Identity Theft Resource Center® (ITRC), a national non-profit organization established to support victims of identity crime, and Futurion announced during the KNOW 2019 conference the launch of a new tool to empower victims of data breaches in decoding what breach notification means to them and how they can minimize the risk of identity theft and fraud. The ITRC, along with the tool’s creator Jim Van Dyke, announced Breach ClarityTM. Breach Clarity is the secret decoder that will allow consumers to decipher data breach risks, prioritize the right minimization actions and access ITRC advisors for additional help. Breach Clarity is a no-cost, online tool for consumers, meant to crack the often muddled and incomplete information that follows breach notification.

Consumers can utilize the tool at www.idtheftcenter.org/BreachClarity and begin decoding the effect of any data breach on their identity safety. Breach Clarity uses a proprietary algorithm to give a data breach a risk score based on unique variables, like amount and type of information exposed. The higher the risk score for a specific breach, the more negative consequences that breach can potentially have for an individual. Breach Clarity also unlocks the top potential harms and recommended action steps for a victim of each breach, eliminating confusion in a time-is-of-the-essence period for victims. Finally, the tool provides resources for consumers like risk minimization plans from ITRC for data breach and next steps toward remediation.

The most frequently asked question ITRC receives when assisting victims of data breach is, “But what does this actually mean to me?” The national non-profit strives to better assist and educate victims in determining if they should be worried and how the breach can affect them. Breach Clarity gives consumers the power to decode the harms of a data breach. After receiving a notification letter or getting information from a credible third-party like media sources, websites that provide security

information and other sources, a victim can enter the name of the breach they were affected by to decode what that breach means to his or her safety.

“Victims deserve answers, not vague language that covers up the true meaning of data breaches,” says president and CEO of ITRC Eva Velasquez. “We are thankful to have partners, like Jim Van Dyke, who are working to change the industry and bring clarity to victims. Breach Clarity is the first step toward empowering data breach victims and changing the scope of the industry.”

The Breach Clarity algorithm runs on the backbone of ITRC’s proprietary database of publicly available and notified breaches. Since data breaches – and fraud methods around them – often change quickly, Breach Clarity is a dynamic, evolving tool that updates as new information becomes available regarding breaches and fraud mechanisms.

“I’m delighted to work with the ITRC because we share a passion for protecting consumers,” says Jim Van Dyke, inventor of Breach Clarity. “In contrast with some who blame victims as being ‘apathetic’ or even ‘dumb’ when it comes to security, Breach Clarity is designed to empower every identity holder with the facts and help they need to minimize the risk of a data compromise leading to identity theft.”

Shortly following the launch of Breach Clarity, ITRC and Van Dyke will jointly offer webinars on how to use the tool and address questions from the public. Sign up for the first webinar about Breach Clarity at idtheft.center/BreachClarity. For financial institutions and employers, a premium version of Breach Clarity will be created to provide advanced capabilities such as an expanded list of risks and action steps for the consumer, integrated results from multiple breaches and methods for integrating to digital finance systems that further empower the consumer after a breach.

Attendees of the KNOW 2019 conference can join Eva Velasquez, president and CEO of ITRC (booth #121), Jim Van Dyke, founder of Futurion and creator of Breach Clarity, and James Ruotolo, director of product management and product marketing for the Fraud and Security Intelligence division at SAS, for a covert event Monday March 25th, 7-9pm. Register here or visit ITRC’s booth (#121) for more information, space is limited as this is a first come, first serve event. Thanks to SAS for their support of ITRC and underwriting the KNOW 2019 networking event.

###

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, ITRC provides no-cost victim assistance and consumer education through its call center, website, social media channels, live chat feature and ID Theft Help app. For more information, visit: http://www.idtheftcenter.org

About Futurion and Breach ClarityTM

Futurion is a research-based consultancy focused on consumer identity, digital commerce and financial services. Futurion’s CEO Jim Van Dyke formerly founded and led Javelin Strategy & Research and has also held various product management and board positions. Breach Clarity was created based on research of consumer identity crime victims and interviews with experts on the front line of fraud prevention at financial institutions, government agencies, payments networks and more. Breach Clarity’s basic outputs are free to all consumers at www.BreachClarity.com, with an upcoming premium version being designed for consumers who log into their secure personal account at licensing financial institutions and employers.

###

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

A recent data breach of Verifications.io, a company that approves or verifies email addresses for third-parties, exposed 763 million consumer records. Verifications.io ensures third-parties’ email marketing campaigns are being sent out to verified accounts, and not just fake emails. The unsecured database discovered online by two security researchers did not contain things like passwords or Social Security numbers; however, it did contain an assortment of data points like mortgage amounts, interest rates on loans and social media email logins, along with identifiers like gender and birthdate.

There have been almost 7.7 billion compromised accounts since data breach tracking began in 2013. The total number of compromised data sets listed on Have I Been Pwned?, a security website that lets users see if their identifying information has been exposed, now exceeds the total number of people on Earth.

The real question that the researchers and Troy Hunt, founder of Have I Been Pwned?, want to know is how Verifications.io got its hands on all of this information in the first place. The Estonian-based company has refused to respond to questions from different news outlets and has taken down its entire website as of March 4, 2019. In fact, Hunt has publicly asked for the data breach victims’ help via Twitter. What are you supposed to do when the company that comes under attack had your information without your direct permission? If you can identify your email address compromised in the data breach and used it uniquely (i.e. for one service), researchers are asking that you contact them so they can try to track the path of data sharing.


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: The How and Why of Tax Identity Theft

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.


Read next: The Government Shutdown is Hurting Crime Victims

Ah, another year has passed and we’re ready to jump into the future of 2019. First, let’s take a look back at our predictions from 2018 that came true. We discussed the potential of AI to stop hacking, scammer’s new techniques to take advantage of social media users and transparency in IoT devices.  Of course with the emergence of technology and cybercriminals evolving their techniques, unanticipated challenges have arisen.

2019’s focus will be on data: Data breaches, data abuses, data privacy.  Even though ITRC is first and foremost a victim service and consumer education organization, we know that the thieves need our data in order to perpetrate their fraud and identity theft.

Data breaches: Consumers will gain more clarity (about how a specific breach actually effects them.  Breached entities will be pushed to be more transparent and less vague about the specifics of the type of data that has been breached.  Vague terms such as “and other data” or “client records”, that appear on data breach notification letter currently will no longer be tolerated by breach victims. Thieves are always looking to get their hands on our data and with a little technique called “credential cracking,” we think we’re going to be seeing more security notifications, not just breach notifications in 2019. Here’s what’s going on: following a large-scale data breach, and in order to gain access to your online accounts, a hacker simply uses a large database of usernames and allows the computer to “guess” the passwords for each account they are attempting to log into. We’re beginning to see companies send security notifications to their customers that their username/email credentials are being used – possibly by an unauthorized user – to login to their platform even if there is no account (i.e. Warby Parker & Dunkin Donuts).

Data Abuses: The public will gain more insights into data abuses, not just breaches.  More incidents, like the Facebook/Cambridge Analytica event will come to light.  As we as consumers demand more transparency, and as regulators probe deeper, the ongoing act of using our data for other than the purpose for which we have given consent will come out of the shadows.  Consumers will also start paying more attention to the notifications they receive from businesses that say their information was shared with third parties and what that means for them.

Data Privacy:  Consumer empowerment around privacy and data privacy is top of mind in a way that it has never been before.  Other states will follow California’s lead and pass their own data privacy legislation in the hopes of empowering consumers and keeping industry in check. Especially seeing as California, Florida, Texas, New York and Pennsylvania (in that order) had the highest numbers of cybercrime reports last year.  This will likely not provide the much needed long term solution, or the necessary cultural shift.  Just look at the condition of the state by state data breach notification laws, and the years-long discussion (that’s at a stalemate by the way) of a more universal regulation and process.  Will we start that cycle over again here?  Probably. Until the public has a concrete understanding of the complex relationship between data creators (consumers), data owners (the platform on which the data was created, generally) and data users (every industry currently operating in the US) these statewide measures will fall short of making any real headway into actually giving us more control over our data or more privacy.

Even though it has been discussed for over 13 years, there is a good chance that 2019 will be the year that a federal data breach notification law will become a reality.  Of course, predictions are just an educated guess based on previous events and information. Industry, policymakers and the public alike will have to wait and see how 2019 will be impacted by identity theft, cybercrime, hacking and data breaches. One thing we can be sure of though is that the ITRC will be here, working to fight back against the latest techniques to commit identity theft and 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: The 2018 Impact of Data Breaches and Cybercrime

The Federal Trade Commission announced that it will be closed due to a lapse in its funding until the government shutdown ends. That means a number of critical services for consumers, businesses, law enforcement agencies, and other organizations will be temporarily unavailable. Some services—as outlined on the FTC’s website and the announcement on the shutdown—will still be in operation but with reduced staff numbers; this can have a big impact on those services and the timeliness of the support.

Consumers will not be able to file reports or notify the FTC of scams, fraud, or other similar issues during this time. Identity theft reports will also be on hold, as will the National Do Not Call Registry, the Consumer Sentinel Network for law enforcement, and other critical functions.

In the meantime, the non-profit partner Identity Theft Resource Center is ready and willing to help consumers in need and provide valuable insights to any law enforcement agencies or policymakers. The toll-free helpline (888) 400 – 5530 and live chat feature provide immediate answers to questions and concerns about your data, your privacy, and your first steps in the event of suspected identity theft.

ITRC resources can also help keep you informed about the latest scams, fraud, and cybersecurity trends, as well as provide you with actionable steps to avoid becoming a victim. Should you find yourself snared by this kind of criminal activity, our knowledgeable staff can help you take action. The website is also filled with helpful documents that are categorized by the type of consumer issue to assist you in finding the right resources. The Identity Theft Resource Center also has a free ID Theft Help app, which gives you access to resources and tips to protect your identity, a case log feature to help remediate your case as well as the ability to contact our call center advisors.

Fortunately, the FTC’s website and social media channels will still be available with past information, although these outlets will not continue to be updated during the shutdown. The ITRC will continue to post updates and new information at IDTheftCenter.org as well as on its Facebook and Twitter accounts.

During this time, it’s vital that consumers and businesses be extra vigilant about protecting themselves. There’s never a good time to let your guard down when it comes to your identity or your privacy, but at a time when the safeguards are suspended, it’s even more important that individuals use an air of caution when it comes to consumer interactions.

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: The 2018 Impact of Data Breaches and Cybercrime

A phishing scam has led to the unauthorized access of more than 500,000 students’ identifying information in the San Diego Unified School District. Through emails sent to staff members of the school district, an outsider was able to gain staff members’ login credentials and view students’ profiles.

Phishing scams like this one are all too common. By masquerading as an official email from a verified source, outsiders can trick recipients into all manner of sensitive activities, from changing passwords and account numbers to transferring funds to paying phony invoices. In this case, the emails likely required staff members to verify their usernames and passwords.

The phishing attack is believed to have been carried out between January and November of this year, but school system officials first became aware of it in October. However, the credentials gave the unauthorized person access to student records dating all the way back to the 2008-2009 school year.

Impacted individuals are being notified by letter from the school system, and the current investigation has already identified someone believed to be responsible. Officials have not determined whether or not any of the data was actually stolen or used, but it was certainly possible to steal complete identities from the activity that occurred; therefore, they are treating this incident as a data breach.

There are some important takeaways from this news. The first is that sharing your information with outsiders can result in the loss of that data. If you are not absolutely legally required to turn over your complete identity or that of your children, don’t. If you are required to provide it, ask who will be able to access it and how it will be protected. In the case of the school system, even base-level staff members were able to view details like birthdates and Social Security numbers, something that they didn’t need.

Also, if you receive a notification letter that your information has been breached, it’s vitally important that you take note of what data was compromised and what steps the company is taking to make it right. If the company is offering credit monitoring or identity monitoring, don’t delay. Sign up for that support immediately to take advantage of the protection.

Finally, since this incident involves children’s personally identifiable information, parents and guardians must be cautious about their children’s identities. Too many young people only discover they’ve been victimized this way when they become adults and attempt to get a job, enlist in the military, apply for financial aid, or other similar actions. Parents can freeze their children’s credit reports to reduce the chances that someone will use their information maliciously.

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: The 2018 Impact of Data Breaches and Cybercrime

Year after year, cybercrimes like scams, fraud, identity theft and data breaches make a global impact on consumers and businesses alike. Organizations like the Federal Trade Commission and the Identity Theft Resource Center keep tabs on the statistics and the aftermath of these events in order to form a clearer picture of their effects. With only days to go until we reach the end of 2018, here’s a look at some of the numbers from this year.

Top Scams of the Year

According to a report by Heimdal Security, phishing attempts continue to be one of the more prevalent ways scammers connect with their victims. Phishing usually arrives as an email that entices someone to take action; the action might be to send money, hand over sensitive data, redirect to a harmful website, or even download a virus from a macro contained within the email. No matter what the story the scammers use, one-third of all security incidents last year began with a phishing email.

What happens to consumers when they fall for a phishing email? One in five people reported losing money, around $328 million altogether. That’s about $500 per victim on average, but that’s also only from the victims who reported the scam. Interestingly, new data this year found that Millennials were more likely to fall for a scam than senior citizens, although seniors still lost more money on average than these younger victims.

Different Industries Impacted by Data Breaches

The ITRC’s annual Data Breach Report highlights the organizations that have been impacted by data breaches throughout the year, along with the number of consumer records that were compromised. While the year isn’t over, the data compiled through Nov. 30 is already worrisome.

There have been more than 1,100 data breaches through the end of November 2018, and more than 561 million consumer records compromised. Those breaches were categorized according to the type of industry the victim organization falls under: banking/credit/financial, business, education, government/military and medical/healthcare.

The business sector saw not only the highest number of breaches but also the highest number of compromised records with 524 breaches and 531,987,008 records. While the medical and healthcare industry had the second highest number of breaches at 334 separate events, the government/military’s 90 breaches totaled more compromised records at 18,148,442. The financial sector only had 122 data breaches this year, but those events accounted for more than 1.7 million compromised records. Finally, while education—from pre-K through higher ed—only reported 68 data breaches, there were nearly one million compromised records associated with schools and institutions.

The Crimes that Made Headlines

There were quite a few headline-grabbing security incidents this year. While Facebook and the Cambridge Analytica events were not classified as traditional data breaches, they were nonetheless an eye opener for social media users who value their privacy. The Marriott International announcement of a 383 million-guest breach of its Starwood Hotels brand has opened consumers’ eyes about the types of information that hackers can steal, in this case, 5 million unencrypted passport numbers. The breach of the government’s online payment portal at GovPayNow.com affected another 14 million users, demonstrating that even the most security-driven organizations can have vulnerabilities. Finally, separate incidents at retailers and restaurants like Hudson Bay and Jason’s Deli reminded us (and those breaches’ combined 8.4 million victims) that attacking point-of-sale systems to steal payment card information is still a very viable threat.

What Do Criminals Really Steal?

In every scam, fraud, and data breach, criminals are targeting some kind of end goal. Typically, it’s money, identifying information or both. But recent breaches this year of websites like Quora—which provides login services for numerous platforms’ comment forums—also show that sometimes login credentials can be just as useful.

After all, with the high number of tech users who still reuse their passwords on numerous online accounts, stealing a database of passwords to a fairly innocuous site could result in account access to so-called bigger fish, like email, online banking, major retail websites, and more. Furthermore, it showed that a lot of users establish accounts or link those accounts to their Facebook or Gmail logins without really following up; a lot of people who learned their information was stolen in the Quora breach may have forgotten they even had accounts in the first place. The number of victims in that breach is expected to be over 100 million.

Moving Forward into the New Year

The biggest security events of 2018 may pale in comparison to criminal activity next year. After all, there was a time when the Black Friday 2013 data breach of Target’s POS system was considered shocking. One thing that cybercriminals have taught us time and time again is that there’s money to be made from their activities, and they aren’t going to give up any time soon.

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: “Honeyboys Keeping Internet Users Safe”