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  • 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.

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.

  • 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.   

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.

  • data breach of telecommunications company Mint Mobile occurred after some phone numbers were ported and data was accessed. The Mint Mobile data breach is one of the latest data events to affect a telecommunications company, highlighting the risk of mobile breaches. 
  • Insurance company BackNine suffered a data compromise due to a misconfigured database, impacting 711,000 files with information including Social Security numbers (SSNs) and medical diagnoses. The data event stresses the importance of being careful when using cloud databases. 
  • CNA Financial Corporation fell victim to a ransomware attack, leading to a data breach that impacted 75,349 people. Attacks like this, which involved SSNs, on businesses continue to rise. 
  • For more information about July 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 July Data Breaches 

Of the 163 data events the Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC) tracked in July, three stand out: Mint Mobile, BackNine and CNA Financial Corporation. All three data events are notable for unique reasons. One highlights the risk of mobile breaches. Another is an example of the need to be careful with cloud databases. The third is a ransomware attack that involves Social Security numbers (SSNs).  

Try our Latest Breaches feature at notified.idtheftcenter.org

Mint Mobile 

A Mint Mobile data breach occurred after phone numbers were ported by cybercriminals and data was accessed. Sometime between June 8-10, a threat actor ported the phone numbers for a handful of Mint Mobile subscribers to another carrier without authorization. According to Bleeping Computer, Mint Mobile disclosed that an unauthorized person also potentially accessed subscribers’ personal information, including call histories, names, addresses, emails and passwords.  

Try our Custom Breach Search feature at notified.idtheftcenter.org

Bleeping Computer reports that Mint Mobile has not said how the threat actor gained access to subscribers’ information. However, based on the accessed data, hackers likely hacked user accounts or compromised a Mint Mobile application used to manage customers.  

The Mint Mobile data breach is the latest to shine a light on the risk of mobile data breaches and the need for better security for customer-facing support systems. In January, the ITRC highlighted a similar breach of U.S. Cellular where hackers gained access to protected systems by installing malware on a computer at a U.S. Cellular retail store.  

BackNine 

A data breach of BackNine, an insurance technology startup, led to 711,000 files being impacted. According to TechCrunch, a security lapse exposed insurance applications at BackNine after one of its cloud servers was left unprotected on the internet. The storage server was misconfigured, and anyone with internet access could view the files.  

Personal information exposed includes names, addresses, phone numbers, SSNs, medical diagnoses, medications taken and detailed completed questionnaires about an applicant’s health, past and present. Other files included lab and test results, such as bloodwork and electrocardiograms. Some files also contained driver’s license numbers. The exposed documents date as far back as 2015 to as recent as July 2021.  

The BackNine data event is a prime example of why companies need to be careful when using cloud databases. If a cloud database is not configured correctly, anyone can access it and may commit an array of identity crimes. It is also important organizations do what they can to protect sensitive data to maintain people’s trust.  

CNA Financial Corporation 

Insurance company CNA Financial Corporation suffered a data breach linked to a ransomware attack. According to CNA’s breach notice, an investigation revealed that the threat actor accessed certain CNA systems at various times from March 5, 2021, to March 21, 2021, and copied a limited amount of information before deploying the ransomware.  

The breach notice states that the data event impacted 75,349 people, and information in the stolen files includes names, SSNs and, in some instances, information related to health benefits for certain people. CNA says, right now, there is no reason to believe the data was stolen or misused. However, they are offering free credit monitoring and fraud protection services through Experian. CNA is just one of many ransomware attacks on businesses being seen by the ITRC. 

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 and to keep an eye out for phishing attempts that claim to be from the breached organization.   

Mint Mobile warns users affected by the Mint Mobile data breach to protect other accounts that use their phone numbers for validation purposes and reset account passwords since threat actors could have used the ported numbers for additional attacks. 

CNA Financial Corporation asks impacted individuals to review their “Information About Identity Theft Protection” document, which includes information on placing a fraud alert or credit freeze on a credit file.  

notified 

For more information about July data breaches, 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 at no cost by phone (888.400.5530) or live-chat. Just go to www.idtheftcer.org to get started.   

  • According to the Identity Theft Resource Center’s (ITRC) First Half 2021 Data Breach Analysis, data compromises are up 38 percent over the first quarter of 2021. If this trend from the data breach statistics continues, 2021 will set an all-time high for data compromises.
  • While data compromises are up, the number of individuals impacted is down 20 percent quarter-over-quarter. If the current trajectory holds, 2021 will see the fewest number of impacted individuals since 2016.
  • Phishing and Ransomware remain the top two root causes of data compromises for the second quarter and the first half of the year. However, supply chain attacks continue to increase in volume, scale and complexity.
  • To learn about recent data breaches, or to see the ITRC’s data breach statistics in our latest report, consumers and businesses should visit the ITRC’s data breach tracking tool, notified.
  • For more information, or if someone believes they are the victim of identity theft, consumers can contact the ITRC toll-free at 888.400.5530 or via live-chat on the company website www.idtheftcenter.org.

First Half 2021

Welcome to the Identity Theft Resource Center’s (ITRC) Weekly Breach Breakdown for July 9, 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 look at the ITRC’s data breach statistics and trends for the second quarter of this year and what they tell us about how we may end 2021.

How the ITRC Reports Data

First, here’s a brief reminder of how the ITRC reports data. We only include information from U.S. data events that are publicly-reported. We report 1) data compromises, which includes data breaches, data exposures (think cloud databases with no security), and 2) data leaks, generally public information that is aggregated and used for a purpose other than that for which it was intended (think scraping information from social media sites that are sold for marketing lists or used for phishing attacks).

Key Takeaways from the ITRC’s First Half 2021 Data Breach Analysis

Now, let’s look at the key takeaways from this week’s ITRC First Half 2021 Data Breach Analysis:

  • According to the ITRC’s data breach statistics, data compromises are up 38 percent over the first quarter of 2021, putting us on a trajectory to end 2021 with a record level of compromises. Every month this year (except May) has seen data compromises higher than the month before. If this trend continues, we will exceed the all-time high number of compromises set in 2017 of 1,632 publicly-reported data events.
  • However, the number of people impacted by data compromises is down 20 percent quarter-over-quarter. That means we could end 2021 with fewer than 250 million victims of identity compromises, which continues a trend away from the mass collection of individual information that started in 2018.
  • The data breach statistics show we are on pace to have the highest number of data compromises ever in the same year that we could see the fewest number of people impacted since the all-time high was set in 2016.
  • Data compromises are rising or flat pretty much across the board, with half of the sectors tracked by the ITRC showing increases.
  • Manufacturing & Utilities and Professional Services are seeing significant increases while Healthcare and Retail are seeing data compromises drop. This shift reflects the broader trend of cybercriminals focusing their attention on critical infrastructure entities, so important they cannot be allowed to remain offline, and targets considered to be not as well defended. It is all in hopes of securing larger ransomware payments.
  • Phishing and Ransomware remain the #1 and #2 root causes of data compromises for the second quarter (Q2) and the first half of the year. However, supply chain attacks continue to increase in volume, scale and complexity. Attacks against vendors that give criminals access to many companies through a single data or security breach increased 19 percent in Q2. The 58 supply chain attacks through June 30, 2021 compares to the 70 malware-related compromises for the year so far. These data breach statistics indicate that third-party risks are poised to surpass malware as the third most common root cause of data events by the end of this year.
  • Just two days after the end of the second quarter, a major supply chain attack was launched against the cybersecurity provider Kaseya. Cybercriminals demanded a record $70 million in ransom to restore the operations of more than 1,500 companies impacted by the attack. It’s not known if any personal information has been compromised. However, we know this early third quarter (Q3) attack is an indication that cybercriminals are launching ever more sophisticated attacks that command larger and larger ransom payments.

Contact the ITRC

If you have questions about how to keep your personal information private or secure, visit www.idtheftcenter.org, where you will find helpful tips, and where you can download our First Half 2021 Data Breach Analysis to see our data breach statistics.

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 (888.400.5530), chat live on the web or exchange emails during our normal business hours (6 a.m. to 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. 

  • With data breaches on the rise last 30 days to 45 days, it has been one of the most intense periods seen in a while because of the pace, scope and impact of the crimes.
  • GEICO suffered a data breach impacting 132,000 people and could lead to unemployment fraud; the Pennsylvania Department of Health and ParkMobile both had data incidents due to third-party providers; and Peloton had a problem with third-party software, allowing other users to see people’s personal information.
  • Researchers guessed up to 80 percent of iPhone and iPad users would take advantage of Apple’s new anti-tracking privacy feature. However, based on early downloads of the iOS update, 96 percent of users are using the new feature to opt-out of app-tracking.
  • To learn about recent data breaches, consumers and businesses should visit the Identity Theft Resource Center’s (ITRC) new data breach tracking tool, notified
  • For more information, or if someone believes they are the victim of identity theft, consumers can contact the ITRC toll-free at 888.400.5530 or via live-chat on the company website www.idtheftcenter.org.

Too Fast, Too Furious

Welcome to the Identity Theft Resource Center’s (ITRC) Weekly Breach Breakdown for May 14, 2021. Each week, we look at the most recent and interesting events and trends related to data security and privacy. This week we’re highlighting data breaches on the rise the past 30 days in one of the most intense periods of cyberattacks and data breaches we’ve seen in a while.

With all due respect to Vin Diesel and the rest of the cast of the Fast and Furious movie franchise, we’re calling this week’s episode “Too Fast, Too Furious” because of the pace, scope and impact of identity compromising events over the past 45 days – some of which are still ongoing. We also have a quick update on the impact of the recent privacy tools added to iPhones and iPads.

ITRC’s Notable Breaches for April

In the ITRC’s most recent monthly report of data breaches, we highlighted three major events:

  • GEICO’s breach of driver’s license data that impacted 132,000 customers;
  • The contact tracing service hired by the Pennsylvania Department of Health failing to secure the COVID-related personal health information of Keystone state residents; and,
  • Twenty-one (21) million users of the ParkMobile app having their information exposed thanks to a vulnerability in third-party software.

Each of these is unique in some ways but also reflective of broader trends.

GEICO

In the case of GEICO, when announcing the data breach at the nation’s second-largest auto insurance company, officials said the stolen data was being used as part of unemployment insurance fraud schemes. Pandemic-related benefits fraud is estimated to be closing in on $100 billion. The ITRC is on pace to surpass the total number of unemployment identity fraud victims we helped in 2020 by the end of May 2021.

Pennsylvania Dept. of Health & ParkMobile

The events involving the Pennsylvania Department of Health and the ParkMobile parking app are two variations of the same issue: problems with third-party suppliers. In the case of the Pennsylvania Department of Health, the vendor supplying COVID-19 contact tracing services didn’t secure the personal information of 72,000 people. With ParkMoble, a third-party software issue exposed user’s personal information. Issues with supply chains are an escalating trend when it comes to data compromises, especially cyberattacks where threat actors can steal the data of multiple companies in a single attack.

Peloton

More recently, an issue with third-party software also allowed users of the popular Peloton exercise bikes to see the personal information of other users. The flaw was found by an independent cybersecurity researcher who reported the issue to Peloton, which did not initially respond to his information. Ultimately, Peloton fixed the issue early this month, but not before opening three million subscribers to having their information exposed. Peloton has since acknowledged they have fixed the problem, and there is no evidence of anyone stealing the user information.

Update on the New Apple Privacy Feature

Finally, an update on how many people are taking up Apple’s offer to block mobile app owners from collecting and selling user data without first getting consent. Researchers guessed before the launch of the new anti-tracking privacy feature that as many as 80 percent of iPhone and iPad users would take advantage of the blocking technology.

The actual numbers based on early downloads of the iOS update is 96 percent of users are saying no to app-tracking. That’s a giant obscene gesture to companies that rely on third-party data for marketing and advertising and the platforms that collect and sell user information. Now here is the next question: Who will follow Apple’s lead in addressing the privacy and cybersecurity concerns of consumers?

Contact the ITRC

If anyone has questions about keeping their personal information private and how to protect it, data breaches on the rise or on the new Apple privacy update, they can visit www.idtheftcenter.org. They will find helpful tips on these and many other topics. People can also sign-up to receive our regular email updates on identity scams and compromises.

If someone thinks they have been the victim of an identity crime or a data breach and needs help figuring out what to do next, they should contact us. Victims can speak with an expert advisor on the phone, chat live on the web or exchange emails during our normal business hours (6 a.m.-5 p.m. PST). Visit www.idtheftcenter.org to get started. 

Be sure to listen next week to our sister podcast – The Fraudian Slip – when we’ll talk to the Chief Privacy Officer of Synchrony, a leading financial services company. We will be back in two weeks with another episode of the Weekly Breach Breakdown.

  • A recent GEICO data breach led to fraudsters gaining access to nearly 132,000 GEICO customer’s driver’s license numbers. GEICO says they believe threat actors could use the information to apply for unemployment benefits fraudulently.
  • The Pennsylvania Department of Health’s third-party contact tracing vendor, Insight Global, failed to secure phone numbers, email addresses and personal information like gender, age, sexual orientation, COVID-19 diagnosis and exposure status of more than 72,000 Pennsylvania residents. Third-party breaches continue to be a growing trend.
  • Like the Pennsylvania Department of Health, ParkMobile Parking App also suffered a supply chain attack. The ParkMobile data incident exposed the non-sensitive information of 21 million users, putting them at risk of falling victim to social engineering.
  • For more information about April 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 April Data Breaches

Of all the data breaches the Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC) tracked in April, three stand out: GEICO, Pennsylvania Department of Health and the ParkMobile Group. All three data events are notable for unique reasons. In one, the company is very detailed in how criminals are misusing the information and what people should look out for; another event includes a contact tracing service failing to secure the private information of some residents in Pennsylvania – re-affirming a trend identified by the ITRC; the third compromise led to the exposure of data for 21 million people – stemming from a supply chain attack.

GEICO

A security bug led to threat actors stealing personally identifiable information (PII) from approximately 132,000 GEICO customers between January 21 and March 1. According to the GEICO data breach notice, fraudsters used the information they acquired about customers elsewhere to obtain unauthorized access to people’s driver’s license numbers through the online sales system of their website. GEICO says that they believe the information from the breach could be used to apply for unemployment benefits fraudulently. Unemployment benefits fraud continues to impact consumers all over the U.S. There could be over $200 billion lost to the fraud. The ITRC has received over 1,400 cases of unemployment benefits fraud in 2020 and 2021, compared to only 12 cases in 2019.

The GEICO data breach is notable because the insurance company is very detailed in how the information could be used and what people need to keep an eye on. It is not often the ITRC sees this level of detail in a data breach notice.

Pennsylvania Department of Health

Insight Global, a company that has provided COVID-19 contact tracing services for the Pennsylvania Department of Health since 2020, failed to secure the private information of more than 72,000 people.  According to WSKG, a health department spokesman said they recently learned workers at Insight Global disregarded security protocols established in the contract and created unauthorized documents outside the state’s secure data system.

The information exposed in the Pennsylvania Department of Health data compromise includes phone numbers, email addresses and personal information such as gender, age, sexual orientation, COVID-19 diagnosis and exposure status. The Pennsylvania Department of Health does not know how many people may have viewed or downloaded the documents. Officials say notifications will be mailed to all affected Pennsylvania residents.

The Pennsylvania Department of Health data compromise is the latest third-party exposure to occur. According to the ITRC’s Q1 2021 Data Breach Report, there’s been a 42 percent increase in supply chain attacks, including 27 at third-party vendors impacting 137 U.S. organizations, and 19 supply chain attacks in Q4 2020.

ParkMobile Group

The parking app, ParkMobile, also suffered a data compromise due to a vulnerability in third-party software, affecting 21 million people. According to the ParkMobile notification letter, they became aware of the vulnerability and launched an investigation, which is still ongoing. Information exposed includes license plate numbers, email addresses, phone numbers, mailing addresses and vehicle nicknames. According to KrebsOnSecurity, the data appeared for sale on a Russian-language crime forum.

Anyone who uses the ParkMobile parking app, used by cities and universities across the U.S., could be at risk of falling victim to social engineering. While no sensitive information was exposed, if hackers get enough information about people, they can put all of the information they have gathered together to commit identity fraud.

What to Do if These Breaches Impact You

Anyone who receives a data breach notification letter should follow the advice offered by the company. The ITRC recommends immediately changing your password by switching to a 12+-character passphrase, changing the passwords of other accounts with the same password as the breached account, considering using a password manager and keeping an eye out for phishing attempts claiming to be from the breached company.  

GEICO encourages its customers to check their account statements and credit reports regularly for any suspicious activity.

The Pennsylvania Department of Health has set up a hotline (855.535.1787) for those concerned about the security of their information.

notified

For more information about April data breaches, or other data breaches, 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 breach, you can speak with an ITRC expert advisor at no cost by phone (888.400.5530) or live-chat. Just go to www.idtheftcer.org to get started. 

  • Facebook and LinkedIn recently suffered data incidents that led to personal information like full names, emails and phone numbers being posted in identity marketplaces where cybercriminals buy and sell data.
  • While some have called the recent data leaks “data breaches,” technically and legally, they are not in the U.S. Rather, it is a legitimate and legal technique called “scraping.”
  • Even though these events are not data breaches, the Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC) is creating an additional category of identity data compromises called “data leaks” to keep track of and report these kinds of events.
  • The Facebook and LinkedIn data leaks serve as good reminders to never post information online that you wouldn’t want people you don’t know or trust to see.
  • To learn about recent data breaches, consumers and businesses should visit the ITRC’s new data breach tracking tool, notified. 
  • For more information, or if someone believes they are the victim of identity theft, consumers can contact the ITRC toll-free at 888.400.5530 or via live-chat on the company website www.idtheftcenter.org.

Data Breaches, Exposures, and Leaks! Oh, My!

Welcome to the Identity Theft Resource Center’s (ITRC) Weekly Breach Breakdown for April 23, 2021. Each week, we look at the most recent and interesting events and trends related to data security and privacy. In the movie version of The Wizard of Oz, Dorothy Gale of Kansas, along with the Scarecrow and Tin Man, are following the Yellow Brick Road through a dark and scary forest on their way to the Emerald City. They fear that wild animals are present as they chant “Lions…and Tigers…and Bears! Oh, my!” just before they meet the Cowardly Lion. Apply that principle to data security, and you get the title of today’s episode – “Data Breaches, Exposures, and Leaks! Oh, My!

Facebook and LinkedIn’s Recent Data Leaks

People may have seen media coverage about the recent data leaks at Facebook and LinkedIn. Personal information like full names, emails and phone numbers posted to user profiles were found in the identity marketplaces where cybercriminals buy and sell data.

In the case of Facebook, which would be the third-largest country in the world behind China and India if it were a Nation/State, the information on some half-a-billion people was exposed. Approximately 30 million live in the U.S. An even larger number of LinkedIn users were impacted by a similar event. To date, 837 million profiles have been exposed.

Facebook and LinkedIn Events Not Considered Data Breaches

These two recent data leaks have created quite the controversy in data privacy and security circles. People may have noticed that the ITRC has not referred to these events as data breaches. It’s because they technically and legally are not, at least under U.S. law. European Data Protection authorities have launched an investigation into both companies for potential violations of privacy laws. However, in the U.S., it’s a lot more complicated.

If you are a Facebook or LinkedIn user, you voluntarily provide the information posted to those and other social media websites. The companies try to limit the ability to copy user’s data. However, depending on how you configure your privacy settings, that information is, in fact, available for viewing by anyone. And if it can be seen, it can be misused.

Facebook and LinkedIn Suffered “Scraping”

There is a legitimate technique known as “scraping,” where companies copy large amounts of information that otherwise would require manual entry into a database. It is perfectly legal and typically involves getting permission and being transparent about how the data is used.

There are still some grey areas when it comes to private information being posted publicly on websites. In fact, there is a case pending before the U.S. Supreme Court directly on this question of copying information from LinkedIn. Lower courts have said publicly posted information is fair game for scraping even if LinkedIn’s terms and conditions say it is not.

Facebook and LinkedIn Events Fall Between the Cracks of Current Laws

What makes the recent data leaks at Facebook and LinkedIn so troubling is that they fall between the cracks of existing laws. If a criminal gained access to a company’s customer records that included names, addresses, phone numbers and email addresses, that would be a crime and considered a data breach.

Copying the same information posted voluntarily and publicly is not considered illegal today. Also, the current laws did not envision the ability to copy millions of unrelated records and combine them into a single database that could be used to commit identity fraud.

The ITRC to Create “Data Leak” Category of Identity Data Compromises

Even though these recent data leaks are not data breaches, the ITRC is creating an additional category of identity data compromises to keep track of and report these kinds of events. We’re going to call this new category “data leaks.”

It is also a good time to issue a reminder. Be careful what you post online. If you don’t want people you don’t know or trust to see your private information, don’t post it online.

Contact the ITRC

If anyone has questions about keeping their personal information private and how to protect it, they can visit www.idtheftcenter.org, where they will find helpful tips on these and many other topics. 

If someone thinks they have been the victim of an identity crime or a data breach – like the recent data leaks – and needs help figuring out what to do next, they should contact us. People can speak with an expert advisor on the phone, chat live on the web or exchange emails during our normal business hours (6 a.m.-5 p.m. PST). Visit www.idtheftcenter.org to get started. 

 Be sure to check out the most recent episode of our sister podcast, The Fraudian Slip. We will be back next week with another episode of the Weekly Breach Breakdown. 

  • The proper disposal of e-waste – old electronic devices that are no longer used – is a priority, particularly for protecting personal data. The Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC) reported 78 data compromises in 2020 around “physical attacks”; 52 percent of them from device theft and improper disposal.
  • E-waste puts personal information at risk and can have environmental impacts, too. It is why individuals need to adopt good e-waste solutions by educating themselves on the issue, re-evaluating their needs for more electronics and safeguarding their information.
  • Most people do not know how to recycle e-waste. Individuals should reuse electronics, if possible, and donate their old devices to be recycled if not. When people get rid of old electronics, they should put all of the data on a backup system and then wipe the device clean of personal information.
  • For more information, or if you believe you are a victim of identity theft, contact the ITRC toll-free by phone (888.400.5530) or live-chat. Just go to www.idtheftcenter.org to get started.

According to the Identity Theft Resource Center’s (ITRC) 2020 Data Breach Report, there were 78 “physical attacks” in 2020. Device theft and improper disposal (which includes electronic devices) made up 52 percent of the attacks. The Verizon 2020 Data Breach Investigations Report finds more than one thousand cases of loss involving mobile devices in 2019.

As technology continues to evolve, users and manufacturers are finding more ways to keep safety, environmental impact and security measures in mind – which revolve around how to recycle e-waste. Issues range from the risk of fire from batteries, devices being sent to landfills, and disposal of information that could lead back to a user’s account and put them at risk of identity theft.

What Are E-Waste Solutions?

There are a handful of e-waste solutions consumers should keep in mind.

  1. Education: People should learn about the dangers of e-waste and what they can do about it.
  2. Re-evaluating the need: One e-waste solution is to minimize e-waste itself. Do you need that extra device? What are you doing with your devices once you are done with them? Are you reusing electronics? Re-evaluating your need for electronics can help cut down on how many devices end up in a landfill.
  3. Safeguarding information: Before you dispose of any electronics, you should make sure you save your data on a backup system or hard drive and then wipe the device clean. That way, no one can access your files if the device is improperly recycled or ends up in the wrong hands. If you are getting rid of a phone, do a factory reset to restore the phone to “empty status.” By taking these steps, you are protecting your personal information.

How to Recycle E-Waste

Instead of discarding electronics, the best e-waste solution is to reuse or recycle devices. Local governments are increasingly hosting e-cycling initiatives. These programs keep electronics out of landfills and ensure devices are wiped clean of all user data. You can search online for e-cycling centers near you before disposing of electronics, including IoT devices and medical devices.

Many device manufacturers also accept old devices to be refurbished or recycled and provide credit toward a new device. Some will take a device from any manufacturer for recycling. Check with your device maker to see if they offer a recycling program.

Contact the ITRC

It is vital everyone does their part to help address e-waste to protect the environment and people’s personal information. If you have questions about how to recycle e-waste, other e-waste solutions, or you believe you are the victim of identity theft, contact us. You can speak with one of our expert advisors toll-free by phone (888.400.5530) or live-chat. Just go to www.idtheftcenter.org to get started.