Obama; Cybersecurity and Identity Theft Protection Starts at Home

Robert Siciliano Identity Theft Expert

Whether you realize it or not, your computer is one of the biggest threats to your personal security. The Obama administration believes that your computer is also one of the biggest threats to national security.

The message is: Think before you click. Know who’s on the other side of that instant message. What you say or do in cyberspace stays in cyberspace — for many to see, steal and use against you or your government.

The Internet is incredibly powerful and not particularly secure. It is powerful enough to bring people together, to educating, inform, and make life easier. But it’s also used to hurt, scam, and debilitate in so many ways.

The Pentagon’s computer systems are probed 360 million times per day, and one prominent power company has acknowledged that its networks see up to 70,000 scans per day. Every single day, utilities, banks, retailers and just about every computer network are faced with attacks. Many of these hacks are insignificant. Many are conducted with intent to commit crimes such as espionage, financial data theft, or the destruction of crucial information. The criminal hackers could be cyber-terrorists attempting to destroy the U.S. or its economy, malcontents simply wreaking havoc for its own sake, or opportunists looking for a profit.

The U.S. is a prime target for a number of reasons. The most obvious is that we’ve made mistakes that have many in the world hating us. Then there’s our financial system, which offers instant credit to anyone with a Social Security number. And of course, credit card security is an oxymoron, since anyone can use any credit card at any time. We have a bullseye on us and we put it there.

“Weapons of Mass Disruption” are a growing concern. The U.S. and many other countries are electrically and digitally dependent. Our critical infrastructures, including drinking water, sewer systems, phone lines, banks, air traffic, and government systems, all depend on the electric grid. After a major successful attack we’d be back to the dark ages instantly. No electricity, no computers, no gasoline, no refrigeration, no clean water. Think about when the power goes out in your house for a few hours. We’re stymied.

The Pentagon and the Department of Homeland Security are hiring thousands of computer experts to protect our networks. But the weakest link in the chain is not the government, but the citizens. Government has lots of work to do, but moms and pops are the most vulnerable. Enterprise networks have become hardened, while small business and the lowly consumer know enough about information security to get hacked. Awareness is key. You are either part of the problem or the solution.

Read this and every possible blog, article and report you have access to so you can stay on top of what is new and ahead of what is next in technology and the security necessary to keep it safe. Build your IT security vocabulary. Protect yourself and your business.

Those steps include:

Use antivirus software, spyware removal, parental controls and firewalls.

Back up your data locally and in the cloud.

Understand the risks associated with the wireless web especially when using unsecured public networks.

Protect your identity too. The most valuable resource you have is your good name. Allowing anyone to pose as you and let them damage your reputation is almost facilitating a crime. Nobody will protect you, except you.

  • Get a credit freeze. Go to ConsumersUnion.org 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.
  • And invest in Intelius identity theft protection. Not all forms of identity theft protection can be prevented, but identity theft protection services can dramatically reduce your risk.
  • Visit US-Cert here

Robert Siciliano identity theft speaker discussing the mess of data security on Fox News

Invest in Identity Theft Protection and a Credit Freeze

ConsumersUnion provides a resource for consumers to learn what their options are in regards to a “security or credit freeze”.

“There are more than eight million new victims of identity theft each year in the U.S. Many of these victims find that crooks have used stolen personal information like Social Security numbers to open new accounts in their victim’s name. A security freeze gives consumers the choice to “freeze” or lock access to their credit file against anyone trying to open up a new account or to get new credit in their name.”

When a security freeze is in place at all three major credit bureaus, an identity thief cannot open a new account because the potential creditor or seller of services will not be able to check the credit file. When the consumer is applying for credit, he or she can lift the freeze temporarily using a PIN so legitimate applications for credit or services can be processed.”

As essential and effective and as a credit freeze is, it can be cumbersome for some people. I’ve gone through it myself and was a little miffed by the inaccuracies in the administration by the credit bureaus who processed the applications.

For whatever reason when the applications were received they entered the data incorrectly and some of the freezes couldn’t go through. After a few letters and phone calls everything was straightened out.

The process generally involves an “affidavit” that requires name, address, Social Security number, and a copy of a utility bill to verify you are you. Fees for a freeze can be free up to $15.00 per credit bureau. Once this is complete, your identity as far as new account fraud is locked down pretty well. However that’s not enough.

State laws with affidavit downloads:

Alaska, ArizonaArkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware,District of Columbia, Florida,GeorgiaHawaiiIdahoIndiana, Illinois, Iowa,Kansas, KentuckyLouisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, MississippiMontana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, e=”text-decoration: underline;”>New Jersey, New Mexico, New YorkNorth Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, PennsylvaniaRhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, VermontWashingtonWest Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming

For more information, see: Frequently Asked Questions about the security freeze.

Robert Siciliano Identity Theft Speaker discussing credit card and debit card fraud on CNBC

National Protect Your Identity Week Facilitates Identity Theft Protection and Education

Robert Siciliano Identity Theft Expert

A recent National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC) survey conducted by Harris Interactive(R) revealed that 45 percent of all U.S. adults, roughly 101 million people, would feel at most risk for identity theft when making a purchase with a credit card that requires the card to be temporarily taken out of their sight, for example, at a restaurant.

By contrast, consumers are least fearful of falling victim to identity theft when using their credit card to make a purchase in person, for instance at a store. Only 21 percent of U.S. adults listed this as a concern, suggesting that consumers are comfortable as long as they can keep an eye on their card.

In an effort to provide consumers with identity theft education and protection, the NFCC announces its second annual National Protect Your Identity Week (PYIW), October 17-24. Joining the NFCC as a full partner this year is the Council of Better Business Bureaus (CBBB), combining the strength of two well-respected nonprofits behind this initiative.

A number of national organizations are also putting their weight behind this initiative, joining the NFCC and CBBB as Supporting PYIW Coalition Members. This Coalition includes: the American Bankers Association Education Foundation, AFSA Education Foundation, Consumer Action, Consumer Federation of America, Credit Union National Association, Federal Trade Commission, Identity Theft Resource Center, Jump$tart Coalition for Financial Literacy, Junior Achievement USA, National Council of LaRaza, National Crime Prevention Council, National Education Association Member Benefits, National Sheriff’s Association, Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, and the National Association of Triads. MSN Money is once again the national online media sponsor.

Consumers can find PYIW educational events in their area by going to www.ProtectYourIDNow.org. Hosted by a local member of the NFCC, BBB or other Coalition Member, consumers can take advantage of identity theft workshops, onsite shredding and credit report reviews. The Web site also includes identity theft prevention tips, videos, an interactive quiz to assess your risk of identity theft, and resources for victims.

A new feature this year on www.ProtectYourIDNow.org is a blog hosted by me. I will be providing insight, information and advice for consumers each day during PYIW and then weekly on the blog throughout the year on topics relevant to identity theft. The goal is to keep the public informed and not just one, but 10 steps ahead of the bad guys.

According to the non-profit Identity Theft Resource Center and other sources, identity theft can be sub-divided into five categories:

  • Business/commercial identity theft (using another’s business name to obtain credit)
  • Criminal identity theft (posing as another when apprehended for a crime)
  • Financial identity theft (using another’s identity to obtain goods and services)
  • Identity cloning (using another’s information to assume his or her identity in daily life)
  • Medical identity theft (using another’s information to obtain medical care or drugs)

We will be discussing these and many others issues of fraud on an ongoing basis.

1. Protecting yourself from new account fraud requires effort. You can attempt to protect your own identity, by getting yourself a credit freeze, or setting up your own fraud alerts. There are pros and cons to each.

2. Invest in Intelius Identity Protection and Prevention. Because when all else fails you’ll have someone watching your back.

Robert Siciliano Identity Theft Speaker with ID Analytics discussing Social Media Identity Theft on Fox Boston

The Scourge of Medical Identity Theft

Robert Siciliano Identity Theft Expert

Medical identity theft can make you sick. As I once eloquently explained on CBS’s Early Show, if medical identity theft happens to you, “you’re screwed.” And it’s true.

Medical identity theft occurs when the perpetrator uses your name and, in some cases, other aspects of your identity, such as insurance information, to obtain medical treatment or medication or to make false claims for treatment or medication. As a result, erroneous or fraudulent entries wind up on your medical records, or sometimes entirely fictional medical records are created in your name. Having somebody else’s ailments noted on your medical records can create a great deal of confusion, potentially even negatively impacting your own health or medical treatment.

As of last week, a new rule requires health care providers, health plans, and other entities covered by the the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) to notify individuals of any breaches of their medical information. A breach, in this case, is defined as, “the acquisition, access, use, or disclosure of protected health information in a manner not permitted [by the HIPAA Privacy Rule] that compromises the security or privacy of the protected health information.”

Most states have required corporations to disclose data breaches for the past few years. Ever since the ChoicePoint breach in 2005, states have been implementing notification laws. At the time, ChoicePoint was only required to notify California residents. Once word spread that residents of other states had also been compromised in the breach, ChoicePoint became the poster child for what not to do in response to a data breach.

Since health care facilities often handle and store some of the same sensitive personal information that corporations do, these facilities are now subject to similar regulations. But protecting yourself from medical identity theft isn’t as easy as protecting yourself from financial identity theft.

  1. Medical ID cards, insurance cards and medical statements that come in the mail can all be used to steal your medical identity. Install a locking mailbox to prevent your mail from being stolen.
  2. Don’t carry cards in your wallet unless absolutely necessary like when you have an actual appointment.
  3. Protect medical information documents. Shred all throw away documentation and lock it up when it’s in your home or office.
  4. Treat your medical identity similarly as you treat your financial identity by getting similar protections. If the thief can’t steal your financial identity then your medical identity may be less attractive. Protecting yourself from new account fraud requires more effort. You can attempt to protect your own identity, by getting yourself a credit freeze, or setting up your own fraud alerts. There are pros and cons to each.

Robert Siciliano identity theft speaker discusses medical identity theft on the CBS Early Show

Criminal Hackers Get to Momma and DaDa Via Children

Robert Siciliano Identity Theft Expert

I’m particularly irate about this. There’s criminal hackers, then there’s complete lowlife scumbag criminal hackers that hack children. InternetNews reports hackers took over sections of the PBS.org Web site earlier this week, installing malicious JavaScript code on the site’s “Curious George” page that infects visitors with a slew of software exploits.

For the uninitiated Curious George is a little happy go lucky bumbling monkey that continually gets himself in a pickle. His curiosity almost kills the monkey in every episode. Thank heavens for “”The Man in the Yellow Hat” which is Georges keeper and occasional life saver. A 41 year old male knows this when he waits 38 years to spawn.

Security research firm Purewire found that when visitors tried to log onto a fake authentication page they were served with an error page that took them to a malicious domain where the malware attempted to compromise users’ desktop applications.

So here you are in your kitchen making a bunt cake. You continually glance over in amazement that a 3 year old, who cant color in the lines or spell or count above 20 or even tie her own shoes, but she can navigate through an inexhaustible gaming and learning website of PBSKids. She whacks away at the keyboard from morning till evening. So intensely she hacks that when it’s time to pull her away from the computer to maybe, ahh eat? She takes a fit because you caught her mid Sid The Science Kid.

Little do you know that while little miss Mitnick was tap tap tapping away, some frigging cheesebag was trying to rifle all your data via a Clifford The Big Red Dog JavaScript reliant puzzle.  Is there no shame? Boundaries? Apparently not.

It is not immediately evident how hackers compromised the site. They may have taken advantage of a known flaw and  exploited a SQL injection vulnerability.

Kids playing were met with a pop-up message requesting authentication to enter a username and password during a game. “But DaDa, I don’t know my words yet”.  From here, no matter what was entered they were directed to an error page that had malicious code. The JavaScript then loaded malware targeting flaws in Adobe Acrobat Reader, AOL Radio AmpX and SuperBuddy and Apple QuickTime. If the affected computer was not up to date with all their critical security patches then they got the bug.

Lax security practices by consumers are giving scammers a base from which to launch attacks. USA Today reports IBM Internet Security Systems blocked 5000 SQL injections every day in the first two quarters of 2008. By midyear, the number had grown to 25,000 a day. By late fall, attacks climbed to 450,000 daily.

The key to identity theft protection and preventing your computer from becoming a zombie is to engage in every update for every browser, software and media player that you use, keeping your operating system updated and use anti-virus software such as McAfee Total Protection.

And if your 3 year old happens to engage a toothless criminal hacker from the Eastern Bloc and you haven’t been up to date, make sure you have a backup plan if your data is compromised.

1. Protecting yourself from new account fraud requires more effort. You can attempt to protect your own identity, by getting yourself a credit freeze, or setting up your own fraud alerts. There are pros and cons to each.

2. Invest in Intelius Identity Protection and Prevention. Because when all else fails you’ll have someone watching your back.

Includes:

·         Triple Bureau Credit monitoring – monitors changes in your credit profiles from Equifax, Experian and TransUnion-includes email alerts of any suspicious changes

·         Social Security Number and Public Record Monitoring – monitors the internet and public sources for fraudulent social security number, aliases, addresses, and phone numbers

·         Junk Mail Reduction – stop identity thieves from using personal information from your mailbox, trash or even phone calls by eliminating junk mail, credit card offers and telemarketing calls

·         Neighborhood Watch – includes a sex offender report, list of neighbors and a neighbor report on each of your neighbors

·          Identity Theft Specialists  – if in the unlikely event you become a victim of identity theft our Identity Theft experts will work with you to restore your identity and good name

·         Credit Report Dispute – if you find errors on your credit report we will help you resolve them quickly

·         Protection Insurance and Specialists -Identity Protect has you covered with up to $25,000 in Identity Theft Recovery Insurance and access to Personal Identity Theft Resolution Specialists.

Robert Siciliano Identity Theft Speaker discussing soulless criminal hackers on Fox News

Carders, Dumps, and Identity Theft

Robert Siciliano Identity Theft Expert

WE DO NOT SELL DUMPS. DO NOT EMAIL OR CALL US.

WE DO NOT SELL DUMPS

Albert Gonzalez and his gang of criminal hackers were responsible for data breaches in retailers and payment processors, with some estimates saying they breached over 230 million records combined. Gonzalez, considered a proficient criminal hacker, provided “dumps,” a term which refers to stolen credit card data, to “carders”. “Carders” are the people who buy, sell, and trade stolen credit card data online. This video provides an example of an online forum where stolen data is bought and sold. Gonzalez pleaded guilty to his crimes and will be serving the next fifteen years in jail. He and his gang used a combination of schemes that have caused a significant increase in counterfeit fraud.

Hackers rely on a variety of techniques to obtain credit card data. One such technique is wardriving, in which criminals hack into wireless networks and install spyware. Another is phishing, in which spoofed emails prompt the victim to enter account information. Phexting or smishing are similar to phishing, but with text messages instead of emails. Some hackers use keylogging software to spy on victims’ PCs. Others affix devices to the faces of ATMs and gas pumps in order to skim credit and debit card data.

Gonzalez and his gang used another, more advanced technique known as an “SQL injection.” SQL stands for “Structured Query Language.”  The term refers to a virus that infects an application by exploiting a security vulnerability. WordPress, a blogging platform, is an example of a commonly used application that has been found vulnerable to these types of attacks. There are hundreds of other applications that can fall victim to an SQL injection.

IBM Internet Security Systems discovered 50% more web pages infected in the last quarter of 2008 than in the entire year of 2007. In 2005, a now defunct third party payment processor called CardSystems suffered an SQL injection, compromising a reported 40 million credit cards.

While Gonzalez has gone down, carders are still very active. A group of white hat hackers that calls itself War Against Cyber Crime recently succeeded in breaking into Pakbugs.com, a Pakistan-based carder forum, and published a list of members’ login details and email addresses. Pakbugs.com has since dropped offline.

With 213 million cardholders and 1.2 billion credit cards in the U.S., there’s no shortage of opportunity for carders to maintain their current pace. When a carder uses one of your existing credit cards, it’s called “account takeover.” When they use your personal information to open up new credit accounts in your name, it’s called “new account fraud” or “application fraud.”

1. Protecting yourself from account takeover is relatively easy. Simply pay attention to your statements every month and refute unauthorized charges immediately. I check my charges online once every two weeks. If I’m traveling extensively, especially out of the country, I let the credit card company know ahead of time, so they won’t shut down my card while I’m on the road.

2. Protecting yourself from new account fraud requires more effort. You can attempt to protect your own identity, by getting yourself a credit freeze, or setting up your own fraud alerts. There are pros and cons to each.

3. Invest in Intelius Identity Protection and Prevention. Because when all else fails you’ll have someone watching your back.

Includes:

·         Triple Bureau Credit monitoring – monitors changes in your credit profiles from Equifax, Experian and TransUnion-includes email alerts of any suspicious changes

·         Social Security Number and Public Record Monitoring – monitors the internet and public sources for fraudulent social security number, aliases, addresses, and phone numbers

·         Junk Mail Reduction – stop identity thieves from using personal information from your mailbox, trash or even phone calls by eliminating junk mail, credit card offers and telemarketing calls

·         Neighborhood Watch – includes a sex offender report, list of neighbors and a neighbor report on each of your neighbors

·          Identity Theft Specialists  – if in the unlikely event you become a victim of identity theft our Identity Theft experts will work with you to restore your identity and good name

·         Credit Report Dispute – if you find errors on your credit report we will help you resolve them quickly

·         Protection Insurance and Specialists -Identity Protect has you covered with up to $25,000 in Identity Theft Recovery Insurance and access to Personal Identity Theft Resolution Specialists.

Robert Siciliano Identity Theft Speaker discussing credit card and debit card fraud on CNBC

Another Identity Theft Ring Busted

Identity Theft Expert Robert Siciliano

The feds are getting better at busting criminals every day. Seventeen criminals, many from Eastern Europe, pilfered more than 95,000 stolen credit card numbers and $4 million worth of fraudulent transactions.

The New York Times reports the men were involved in a vast conspiracy known as the Western Express Cybercrime Group, which trafficked in stolen credit card information through the Internet and used it to create forged credit cards and to sell goods on eBay. They used digital currencies like e-gold and Webmoney to launder their proceeds.

Several of the scammers — Viatcheslav Vasilyev, Vladimir Kramarenko, Egor Shevelev, Dzimitry Burak and Oleg Kovelin — were charged with corruption. Vasilyev, 33, and Kramarenko, 31, were arrested at their homes in Prague, have been extradited to Manhattan. Shevelev, 23, was arrested in Greece last year, is still awaiting extradition. Burak, 26, a citizen of Belarus and Kovelin, 28, a citizen of Moldova have not been arrested

Vasilyev and Kramarenko recruited work from home employees to advertise and sell electronics on eBay. When someone would purchase an item, the two men would pocket the buyer’s payment, give a cut to their recruit, then use a stolen credit card number to purchase the item from a retail store and send it to the buyer. In essence, they used eBay to obtain a legitimate buyer’s credit card number through a legitimate channel and didn’t actually “hack” anything. They simply set up pseudo-fake auctions that, in most cases, delivered the product, but also obtained the victim’s credit card number and then made fraudulent charges.

Burak and Shevelev were “carders” who sold stolen credit card information on a website called Dumpsmarket and, probably, in chat rooms. “Dumps” is a criminal term for stolen credit cards and “carders” are the scammers who buy and sell them. Kovelin was a criminal hacker who stole victims’ financial information via phishing emails and more than likely used the victims’ own account information against them.

Protect yourself:

  1. Check your credit card statements often, especially after using an online auction site. Refute unauthorized charged within 60 days to be made whole by the issuing bank.
  2. Don’t just buy the lowest priced product on and auction site. Use auction sellers who have been approved my many and have a solid track record.
  3. Anytime you ever receive an email asking for personal information, credit information, banking etc, do not enter it. Just hit delete. Often victims will receive and email from a trusted source like eBay directly to their account because they have been actively engaging the fraudulent auctioneer. eBays system doesn’t recommend giving your credit card information outside their network in an email.
  4. Get a credit freeze. Go to ConsumersUnion.org 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.
  5. 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.

Identity Theft Speaker Robert Siciliano discusses a study done by McAfee on mules bilked in work-at-home scams on Fox News

Identity Theft Is Easy Over P2P

Robert Siciliano Identity Theft Expert

Peer to peer file sharing is a great technology used to share data over peer networks. It’s also great software to get hacked and have your identity stolen.

Installing P2P software allows anyone, including criminal hackers, to access your data. This can result in data breaches, credit card fraud and identity theft. This is the easiest and, frankly, the most fun kind of hacking. I’ve seen numerous reports of government agencies, drug companies, mortgage brokers and others discovering P2P software on their networks after personal data was leaked.

The Register reports that a Washington state man has been sentenced to more than three years in federal prison after admitting to using file-sharing program LimeWire to steal tax returns and other sensitive documents. He searched LimeWire users’ hard drives for files containing words such as “statement,” “account,” and “tax.pdf.” He would then download tax returns, bank statements, and other sensitive documents and use them to steal identities.

I did a story with a Fox News reporter and a local family who had four kids, including a 15-year-old with an iPod full of music, but no money. I asked her dad where she got all her music and he replied, “I have no idea.” He had no idea that his daughter had installed P2P software on the family computer and was sharing all their data with the world. The reporter asked me how much personal information I could find on the P2P network in five minutes. I responded, “Let’s do it in one minute.”

There are millions of PCs loaded with P2P software, and parents are usually clueless about the exposure of their data. P2P offers a path of least resistance into a person’s computer, so be smart and make sure you aren’t opening a door to identity thieves.

  • Don’t install P2P software on your computer.
  • If you aren’t sure whether a family member or employee has installed P2P software, check to see whether anything unfamiliar has been installed. A look at your “All Programs Menu” will show nearly every program on your computer. If you find an unfamiliar program, do an online search to see what it is you’ve found.
  • Set administrative privileges to prevent the installation of new software without your knowledge.
  • If you must use P2P software, be sure that you don’t share your hard drive’s data. When you install and configure the software, don’t let the P2P program select data for you.
  • Get a credit freeze. Go to ConsumersUnion.org 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.
  • And invest in Intelius identity theft protection. Not all forms of identity theft protection can be prevented, but identity theft protection services can dramatically reduce your risk.

Robert Siciliano, identity theft speaker, discusses P2P hacks on Fox.

Are Cookies An Invason Of Privacy Or Identity Theft Concern?

Robert Siciliano Identity Theft Expert

Ive taken lots of heat for my comments on a Fox News report that the Office of Management and Budget is considering reversing a nine year ban on using “cookies” to track users’ preferences and interests on federal websites. The shift in policy is being billed as a way for government to enter the 21st century and for federal agencies to use the same technology utilized on news sites, retail sites and social media networks.

My comments under fire involve some “scaremongering” and potential inaccuracies in relation to cookies and what they do.

“Without explaining this reversal of policy, the OMB is seeking to allow the mass collection of personal information of every user of a federal government website,” said Michael Macleod-Ball, acting director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Washington Legislative office. “Until OMB answers the multitude of questions surrounding this policy shift, we will continue to raise our strenuous objections.”

A cookie is a small piece of text or code that is stored on your computer in order to track data. Cookies contains bits of information such as user preferences, shopping cart contents and sometimes user names and passwords. Cookies allow your web browser to communicate with a website. Cookies are not the same as spyware or viruses, although they are related. Many anti-spyware products will detect cookies from certain sites, but while cookies have the potential to be malicious, most are not.

A colleague sent me a note after reviewing my comments regarding cookies and stated:  “Cookies have been around since the mid-to-late ’90’s, and most people still don’t understand what they are or what they do. If you go to http://osvdb.org and do a search for “cookies”, you’ll see there have traditionally been tons of vulnerabilities surrounding them. From a privacy standpoint, they’re also a potential issue depending on how they’re used, but that really depends on a site’s environment. Saying that “cookies store passwords” isn’t really true in most cases based on evidence I’ve seen over the last several years. They might store session IDs or be manipulated to allow admin access to a site, sure… but that’s not true across the board for every (or even most) sites.”

However Informationweek reports Internet users are revealing information that identifies them through the use of social networking sites cookies.

What was said in the video in relation to what cookies do was more of an analogy than stating fact. I was trying to simply give a bit of perspective and explain what the privacy concerns may be. Its a complicated issue that has the ACLU and others up in arms.

The government tracks criminals using specially developed spyware that gathers a wide range of information, including IP and MAC addresses, operating systems, Internet browsers, open ports, running programs, user names, and recently visited URLs. This scares privacy advocates, for good reason.

But cookies are generally not invasive. They are typically used to produce usage statistics within a single site, or to produce anonymous user profiles across multiple sites, in order to determine which advertisements would be most relevant. Many websites become unusable if your browser does not accept cookies. Social networking sites are particularly dependent on cookies.

Federal government agencies have banned cookies in their own sites since 2000 in response to demands from privacy advocates. Some claim that the proposal to reverse the ban comes in response to Google’s recent lobbying efforts. Whitehouse.gov posts YouTube videos that contain Google’s third party cookies. The entire issue requires a bit more transparency for all those involved.

Advertisers have long known that cookies are useful for customizing the user experience. The government seems interested in taking advantage of this benefit as well. If that is the real motivation, it’s great. But privacy advocates aren’t happy, since the government tends to take a mile when given an inch.

There are a few fundamental ways to keep yourself secure. Browsers all give you the option of simply turning cookies off.  Make sure that yourInternet security software is updated, and install spyware removal software if it isn’t included in your basic security suite. Lock down your wireless connection. Use strong passwords that include upper and lowercase letters as well as numbers, and never share them. Get a credit freeze. Go to ConsumersUnion.org and follow the steps for your particular state. In most cases, this prevents new accounts from being opened in your name. Download CCleaner, a free system optimization, privacy and cleaning tool that removes unused files including cookies from your system, which frees up disk space and allows Windows to run faster. It also cleans traces of your online activities. And invest in Intelius identity theft protection. Not all forms of identity theft can be prevented, but identity theft protection services can dramatically reduce your risk.

Robert Siciliano, identity theft speaker, discusses a proposal to allow the use of cookies on federal websites on Fox News, and again on Breitbart.tv.

College Students At Risk For Identity Theft

Identity Theft Expert Robert Siciliano

Why? Because they don’t care! September is National Campus Safety Awareness Month, and I’m teaming up with Uni-Ball pens to urge college students to protect their personal safety and security. Uni-Ball pens and the Identity Theft Resource Center surveyed 1,000 college students and 1,000 parents. This Campus Security Survey revealed that while about 74% of parents believe students are at a moderate to high risk for identity theft, and 30% of all identity theft victims are between 18 and 29, only 21% of students are concerned about identity theft.

It’s no surprise that most college students are indifferent when it comes to their personal and information security. When you are in your late teens or early twenties, you feel a sense of invincibility. However, once you have a few years under your belt, you begin to mature and gradually realize the world isn’t all about keg parties and raves. Hopefully if all goes well, you adopt some wisdom by the time you’re 30.

Here are a few more interesting statistics from the Campus Security Survey.

  • 89% of parents have discussed safety measures with their kids, yet kids continue to engage in risky behavior
  • 40% of students leave their apartment or dorm doors unlocked
  • 40% of students have provided their Social Security numbers online
  • 50% of students shred sensitive data
  • 9% of students share online passwords with friends
  • 1 in 10 have allowed strangers into their apartments
  • Only 11% use a secure pen (which can prevent check washing fraud) when write checks

College students have always been easy marks because their credit is ripe for the taking. Students’ Social Security numbers have traditionally been openly displayed on student badges, testing information, in filing cabinets and databases all over campus. Landlords and those involved in campus housing also have access to students identifying information.

The study concluded, “Students who ignore their own personal security are not only putting themselves at risk for identity theft, they are also putting their parents at risk. While getting established in the real world, it’s common practice among college students to use their parents’ names, bank account numbers and other personal information to co-sign loans and leases, write tuition and housing checks, register online to receive grades and more. So when online criminals strike, they are often manipulating parents’ personal data, not just the students’.” Any parent sending their children off to college should be concerned.

How to protect yourself:

  1. Lock your doors! The transient nature of college life means people are coming and going and thievery is more likely to happen. Just because you may come from a small town and do not lock your doors, that doesn’t make it okay at school.
  2. Limit the amount of information you give out. While you may have to give out certain private data, refuse whenever possible.
  3. Shred everything! Old bank statements, credit card statements, credit card offers and other account number bearing documents need to be shredded when no longer needed.
  4. Lock down your PCs. Make sure your Internet security software is up to date. Install spyware removal software. Lock down your wireless connection. Use strong passwords that include upper and lowercase letters as well as numbers. And never share passwords.
  5. Secure your signature. Use Uni-Ball gel pens to write rent checks and sign documents. They cost as little as $2 and contain Uni “Super Ink,” which is specially formulated to reduce document fraud and check washing, a popular form of identity theft.
  6. Be alert for online scams. Never respond to emails or text messages that are purportedly coming from your bank. Always log into your bank account manually via your favorites menu.
  7. Invest in Intelius Identity theft protection and prevention. Not all forms of identity theft can be prevented, but identity theft protection services can dramatically reduce your risk.
  8. Get a credit freeze. Go to ConsumersUnion.org and follow the steps for your particular state. In most cases, this prevents new accounts from being opened in your name.

Robert Siciliano, identity theft speaker, discusses identity theft protection and check washing on TBS’s Movie and a Makeover.