Merchant Credit Card Transaction Monitoring

Robert Siciliano Identity Theft Expert

Security professionals  intuitively think proactively. Our job  is to predict and prevent what the bad guy will do next. My job specifically is to instill this mindset into you, the consumer,  SMB or large corporate enterprise.

Bob Russo, General Manager and Rockstar of the PCI Security Standards Council reminds us all in this Business Week article that it’s not all about prevention. Sage advice below.

“Many businesses are familiar with the PCI Security Standards Council’s requirements, yet many card fraud incidents go undiscovered for long periods of time. In fact, according to Verizon’s 2009 Data Breach Investigations Report, 75% of compromises were discovered at least weeks after the compromise.

Data security is not all about prevention; it also requires detection and monitoring. In the event of a breach or card fraud, proper monitoring can detect and eliminate additional fraud quickly. Thus, with the holiday season in full swing, it’s a great time to reconsider your company’s log management and monitoring. Consider the following tips:

1. Ensure your organization keeps timely, accurate, and unaltered records of what has taken place within the cardholder data environment (who, what, when, and how) to protect it in the event of a data compromise and resulting investigation.

2. Monitoring also can include physical surveillance. Closed-circuit monitoring of POS terminals can detect suspicious or fraudulent behavior.

3. Even when you are at your busiest, you simply cannot afford to overlook monitoring as a primary detector of card fraud and the trigger to eliminating ongoing criminal activity.”

And my advice. For your own good, protect your identity. Get a credit freeze. Go to and follow the steps for your particular state. This is an absolutely necessary tool to secure your credit. In most cases, it prevents new accounts from being opened in your name. This makes your Social Security number useless to a potential identity thief.

Invest in Intelius identity theft protection and prevention. Not all forms of identity theft protection can be prevented, but identity theft protection services can dramatically reduce your risk. (Disclosures)

Robert Siciliano identity theft speaker discussing holiday scams on Foxes Mike and Juliet Show

10 Tips to Secure Online Holiday Shopping

Robert Siciliano Identity Theft Expert

UK officials shut down an amazing 1200 online retailers who scammed millions from unsuspecting shoppers. Most of the sites originated from identity thieves in Asia who tricked victims into believing they were legitimate sites.  Victims then lost money by entered their credit card data, sending checks or giving up banking details.

The sites sold high end designer items from Tiffany & Co, Ugg and jewelry. In some cases the victims actually received the items, but were counterfeit. Like Mom said, if it’s too good to be true it probably is. Of course nobody running the fake sites has been caught.

Criminals set up fake websites and then go through the same process legitimate eTailers do in regards to search engine optimization, search engine marketing and online advertising via adwords. They use key words to boost their rankings on Internet searches to show up along side legitimate sites. These same processes are also being used to infect unsuspecting users with malware.

Many victims who end up on scam sites generally get there via phish emails with offers for high end products for little money.

  1. It’s easy enough to avoid spoofed websites where phishing is the gateway. Common sense says any time you receive an offer via an email automatically be suspect. The same goes with offers via tweets and messages received in any social media. Scammers are committing social media identity theft every day.
  2. If you aren’t familiar with the eTailer don’t even bother clicking the links, especially if it’s a too good to be true offer.
  3. If it’s a known site sending the email and you decide to click links, make sure the address you end up at is in fact the actual domain of the eTailer. Beware of cybersquatting and typosquatting which may look like the domain of the legitimate eTailer.
  4. When placing an order always look for HttpS is the address bar signifying it’s a secure page. Scammer generally won’t take the time to set up secure sites. Note the closed padlock in your browser to back up the HttpS.
  5. Beware of emails coming for eBay scammers. I’m getting 10 a day. The fact is it’s difficult to tell a real from a fake. If you are seeking deals on eBay go right to the site and don’t bother responding to emails. If there is a deal you see in an email search it on eBay.
  6. Whenever you decide to make an eBay purchase look at the eBayers history. eBay is set up on the honor system and if the eBayer is an established seller with great feedback then they should be legitimate.
  7. Don’t worry about credit card fraud. But do pay close attention to your statements. Check them every two weeks online and refute unauthorized charges within 2 billing cycles, otherwise you will pay for an identity thieves gifts.
  8. Don’t use a debit-card online. If your debit card is compromised thats money out of your bank account. Credit cards have more protection and less liability.
  9. Avoid paying by check online/Mailorder. In person is OK. But to an unfamiliar virtual site is not. Once the money is taken from your account and you don’t receive the goods, you are going to have a difficult if not impossible task of getting it back. Use a uniball gel pen that prevents check-washing.
  10. Do business with those you know like and trust. I for one am guilty of buying from eTailers who have the best deals. But I only buy low ticket items from them, generally under $50.00. It’s best to buy high ticket items from eTailers that also have a brick and mortar locations.

Robert Siciliano identity theft speaker discussing holiday scams on Foxes Mike and Juliet Show

Holiday Temps Make The Best Identity Thieves

Robert Siciliano Identity Theft Expert

This is the absolute best time of the year to be a dishonest temporary worker. Holiday hustle and bustle overwhelms managers and supervisors and they can’t possibly see everything their employees are doing. It has been said that only 10% of employees are honest, 10% of employees will always steal and 80% will steal based on circumstances. Hiring temps during the holidays becomes the perfect storm for employee theft.

Estimates reveal that 40-50% of all business losses are due to employee theft. Employers need to first vet potential hires so as not to invite a thief into the workplace.


  • Either use a prescreening service or become a master interviewer. Watch for incongruities.
  • Resumes are often “false advertising,” sometimes including outright lies. Look for red-flags and exaggerations.
  • Appearance is telling. To be disheveled and unkempt at an interview is a reflection of one’s character.
  • Interviewees who are well-spoken and ace the interview process may have had lots and lots of jobs.
  • Use employment applications, and check and verify everything.
  • Background checks are only one small, but necessary, element of the screening process.
  • Criminal records checks are insufficient and do not detect employee theft unless prosecuted and convicted.
  • Juvenile convictions do not show on a criminal records check.
  • Drug and alcohol testing.
  • Reference checks.
  • Credit reports.
  • Physical exams.

Hire honest people.

Honest people live by the golden rule, “Do as to others as you would have them do unto you.” Honest people see stealing as demeaning. Honest people believe in karma. Honest people think of the consequences of their actions over a lifetime, not just in the moment. Hire honest people.

Perception is reality.

Assume that after an apparently honest person has been hired, there is still potential for stealing to begin. Orientation is the first place to discourage this behavior. Policies must be openly discussed. Employees are shown aspects of loss prevention and physical security in place. They are further told incidences of theft will be prosecuted under the fullest extent of the law. They are reminded that previous employees were caught and the expenses in fines and to lawyers in a criminal defense cost far more than the goods or cash that were stolen. In Singapore, Iran, Saudi Arabia, they put an average of 500 people a year to death for various nonviolent crimes. That’s perception equaling reality.

Understand the theft probability equation.

Chance of getting caught + consequences of action taken = Level of risk & probability of theft.

  • Low risk: high probability of theft
  • High risk: low probability of theft
  • A reputation for non-action breeds theft. If you fire thieves without prosecution, you will hire thieves in the future.

Increase technology to reduce threats.

ComputerWorld suggests bolstering physical security around temporary cash registers and handheld scanners. It’s easy to install a card-skimming device on a satellite register. Install additional video cameras to monitor the use of such devices.

Review log data daily. System and transaction logs can reveal a lot of information about the security of a payment system. Check them daily for red flags.

Implement “hard” firewall policies. Use a white list of known good addresses to preclude the possibility of card and payment data going anywhere outside the enterprise firewall except to your payment processor.

For your own good, protect your identity. Get a credit freeze. Go to and follow the steps for your particular state. This is an absolutely necessary tool to secure your credit. In most cases, it prevents new accounts from being opened in your name. This makes your Social Security number useless to a potential identity thief.

Invest in Intelius identity theft protection and prevention. Not all forms of identity theft protection can be prevented, but identity theft protection services can dramatically reduce your risk. “Disclosures”

Robert Siciliano identity theft speaker discussing holiday scams on Foxes Mike and Juliet Show

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MIT Says Handing Over Your Identity Data Protects You

Robert Siciliano Identity Theft Expert

Identity is a simple concept that has become a complex problem. It has become complex due to fraud. Fraud, motivated by money and the ease of obtaining credit and taking over an account. Because identity has yet to be effectively established, anyone can be you.

Currently, identity is generally established when a person provides a single source of data such as a Social Security number, password, credit card number and so forth. Complicating things further, in the U.S. we have as many as 200 forms of ID circulating from state to state, plus another 14,000 birth certificates and 49 versions of the Social Security card. We use “for profit” third party information brokers and the lowly vital statistics agency that works for each state to manage the data.

According to a new proposal in New Scientist, our digital identities will be more secure if they are based on data from our everyday life, culled from cell phones and online transactions. The idea comes from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Human Dynamics Laboratory. The lab is a pioneer of “reality mining,” which is the practice of studying how people behave by using the crumbs of digital data our actions produce.

Reality mining is “what you do and who you do it with.” Or in MIT-over-my-head-speak: “Reality Mining defines the collection of machine-sensed environmental data pertaining to human social behavior. This new paradigm of data mining makes possible the modeling of conversation context, proximity sensing, and temporospatial location throughout large communities of individuals. Mobile phones are used for data collection, opening social network analysis to new methods of empirical (information gained by means of observation) stochastic (random) modeling.”

Even Google can’t define the word “temporospatial.” Find it. I dare you.

The research is based on the use of mobile phones to provide insight into individual and group behavior. They captured communication, proximity, location, and activity information from 100 subjects at MIT over a year. This data represents over 350,000 hours (~40 years) of continuous data on human behavior. Some of the research questions include:

  • How do social networks evolve over time?
  • How predictable are most people’s lives?
  • How does information flow?

The idea is to capture and harness all this information that represents “what you do and who you do it with.” Managing this would consist of the creation of a central body, supported by a combination of cellphone networks, banks and government bodies. The bank, being one of the supporters, could provide “slices” of data to third parties that want to check a person’s identity.

This is different than “who you are and what you know.” Currently, positive ID is only possible by using a biometric. A biometric can be either static (anatomical, physiological) or dynamic (behavioral). Examples static biometrics include your iris, fingerprint, face, and DNA. Dynamic biometrics include your signature gesture, voice, keyboard, and perhaps gait. Also referred to as something you are. Verification is used when the identity of a person cannot be definitely established. Technologies used provide real time assessment of the validity of an asserted identity. We don’t know who the individual is but we try to get as close as we can to verify his or her asserted identity. Included in this class are out of wallet questions, PINS, passwords, tokens, cards, IP addresses, behavioral based trend data, credit cards, etc. These usually fall into the realm of something you have or something you know.

Currently, identity isn’t established. There is no accountability. That’s why we have identity theft. Anyone can become you just by saying so. In the meantime, until the big heads at MIT figure this out, protect your identity.

Get a credit freeze. Go to and follow the steps for your particular state. This is an absolutely necessary tool to secure your credit. In most cases, it prevents new accounts from being opened in your name. This makes your Social Security number useless to a potential identity thief.

Invest in Intelius identity theft protection and prevention. Not all forms of identity theft protection can be prevented, but identity theft protection services can dramatically reduce your risk. “Disclosures”

Robert Siciliano, identity theft speaker, discusses Social Security numbers on Fox News