Russian Hackers: 14 Ways to Protect Yourself and Your Business

What’s happening in the Ukraine is an example of the worst that humanity has to offer. Millions of people being displaced, and thousands being killed. Our collective governments are walking a fine line in order to help prevent loss of life there and here. In addition, Ukrainians, prior dodging bombs and bullets, dealt with cyberattacks and Russian Hackers on a wide scale.

Unsurprisingly, the White House and CISA published a directive “There is now evolving intelligence that Russia may be exploring options for potential cyberattacks.” To those in the security community, this is nothing new, we know this is been going on forever.

These attacks would be designed to cripple critical infrastructures wherever they are successful. That means going after the Internet itself, the electrical grid, water supplies, and the financial systems. All of this will have a significant impact on the supply chain, including the food supply.

If you haven’t already been, do these things NOW to Protect Yourself and Your Business from Russian

  1. Mandate the use of multi-factor authentication on your systems to make it harder for attackers to get onto your system;
  2. Deploy modern security tools on your computers and devices to continuously look for and mitigate threats;
  3. Check with your cybersecurity professionals to make sure that your systems are patched and protected against all known vulnerabilities, and change passwords across your networks so that previously stolen credentials are useless to malicious actors;
  4. Back up your data and ensure you have offline backups beyond the reach of malicious actors;
  5. Run exercises and drill your emergency plans so that you are prepared to respond quickly to minimize the impact of any attack;
  6. Encrypt your data so it cannot be used if it is stolen;
  7. Provide security awareness training. Educate your employees to common tactics that Russian Hackers and other attackers will use over email or through websites, and encourage them to report if their computers or phones have shown unusual behavior, such as unusual crashes or operating very slowly; and
  8. Engage proactively with your local FBI field office or CISA Regional Office to establish relationships in advance of any cyber incidents. Please encourage your IT and Security leadership to visit the websites of CISA and the FBI where they will find technical information and other useful resources.

9. Focus on bolstering America’s cybersecurity over the long term.

We encourage technology and software companies to:

  1. Build security into your products from the ground up — “bake it in, don’t bolt it on” — to protect both your intellectual property and your customers’ privacy.
  2. Develop software only on a system that is highly secure and accessible only to those actually working on a particular project. This will make it much harder for an intruder to jump from system to system and compromise a product or steal your intellectual property.
  3. Use modern tools to check for known and potential vulnerabilities. (Use Protect Now’s Hacked Email Checking Tool) Developers can fix most software vulnerabilities — if they know about them. There are automated tools that can review code and find most coding errors before software ships, and before a malicious actor takes advantage of them.
  4. Software developers are responsible for all code used in their products, including open source code. Most software is built using many different components and libraries, much of which is open source. Make sure developers know the provenance (i.e., origin) of components they are using and have a “software bill of materials” in case one of those components is later found to have a vulnerability so you can rapidly correct it.
  5. Implement the security practices mandated in the President’s Executive Order, Improving our Nation’s Cybersecurity. Pursuant to that EO, all software the U.S. government purchases is now required to meet security standards in how it is built and deployed. We encourage you to follow those practices more broadly.

Written by Robert Siciliano, CEO of Credit Parent, Head of Training & Security Awareness Expert at Protect Now, #1 Best Selling Amazon author, Media Personality & Architect of CSI Protection Certification.

Wi-Fi Hackers Snoop on Your Phone and Laptop: Here’s How They Do It

Wi-Fi is inherently flawed. Wi-Fi was born convenient, not secure. It is likely that you have heard about how dangerous it is to use an unsecured public Wi-Fi connection, and one reason is because a scammer can easily snoop. It is easier than you might think for a person to hack into your device when it is connected to a public Wi-Fi connection. In some cases they may be able to read your emails and messages, access your passwords, or even get personal information like your bank account number.

wiIt’s possible that your router or any router you connect to has been hacked and you won’t know it. A known tactic called DNS (Domain Name Server) hacking or hijacking, skilled hackers, (both black-hat and white-hat) can crack the security of a business or your home Wi‑Fi resulting in a breach. From there, if they are savvy, they’d set up a spoofed website (like a bank, or ecommerce site) and redirect you there.  From here the goal is to collect login credentials or even monitor or spy on your transaction’s on any website.

Think about this too; you are sitting in a local coffee shop working on your laptop while connected to the shops Wi-Fi. Someone sitting near you could easily download a free wireless network analyzer, and with some inexpensive hardware and software (google “Wifi Pineapple”), they can see exactly what you are doing online…unless your device is protected. They can read emails that you are sending and receiving, and they can do the same with texts.

Using a Wi-Fi Hotspot Safely: Tips

 Knowing what can happen when you are connecting to a public Wi-Fi spot, you want to know how to use them securely. Here are some ideas:

  • Don’t automatically connect to Wi-Fi networks. When initially connecting to a wireless network, we are often faced with a checkbox or option to “automatically connect” to the network in the future. Uncheck this and always manually connect. For example, if your home network is “Netgear” and you are somewhere and your device sees another network named “Netgear,” your device may connect to its namesake—which may not necessarily be as safe, potentially leaving your device vulnerable to anyone monitoring that new network.
  • When setting up a wireless router, there are a few different security protocol options. The basics are WiFi Protected Access (WPA and WPA2) is a certification program that was created in response to several serious weaknesses researchers had found in the previous system, Wired Equivalent Privacy (WEP), was introduced in 1997.
  • Confirm the network you are connecting to. Granted, this is easier said than done. There are rogue networks called “evil twins” that criminals set up; they are designed to lure you into connecting by spoofing the name of a legitimate network. For example, you may use what you see as “Starbucks Wi-Fi” to connect while you’re sipping your latte, but you may also see a listing for “FREE Starbucks Wi-Fi.” Or “ATT WIFI” might be real, but a hacker might have “Free ATT WIFI” as a fake network. Which one—if either—is for real? Such setups are designed to lure you in—and once connected, your data might get filtered through a criminal’s device. If you don’t know if a network is safe or not, feel free to ask.
  • This is a bit 101, but when you log into any website, make sure the connection is encrypted. The URL should start with HTTPS, not HTTP. Most sites today encrypt your session automatically.
  • Use a VPN when you connect to a public Wi-Fi connection. A VPN is a technology that creates a secure connection over an unsecured network. It’s important to use because a scammer can potentially “see” your login information on an unsecured network. For instance, when you log in to your bank account, the hacker may be able to record your information, and even take money from your account. VPNs are free to a monthly/annual fee or a lifetime license.
  • If you are using a private network, make sure that you understand that they, too, are vulnerable. Anyone who has some knowledge can use these networks for evil. Always use a secure connection, and seriously, consider a VPN.

Written by Robert Siciliano, CEO of Credit Parent, Head of Training & Security Awareness Expert at Protect Now, #1 Best Selling Amazon author, Media Personality & Architect of CSI Protection Certification.

Holiday Hacking is Very Risky for You and Your Family

It’s the holidays once again, and each year, people flock to the internet to do online shopping. Hackers know this, and they set themselves up to steal your data.

Every year there is a big hack, and this year will likely be no different. Here are some tips to protect yourself shopping online now and in the future:

Do Business With Trusted Sites

There are zillions of websites that look perfectly legitimate even using HTTPS in the URL. Many of these sites utilize perfect grammar, they incorporate an online “chat” feature where someone engages you immediately, and they even have a functional shopping cart. But they are in fact built specifically to scam you. You will generally stumble upon these sites in Google search when looking for a specific hard to find item.

To prevent being scammed, only pay by a credit card which you can be refunded upon learning of the scam, never wire money, or use Zelle or PayPal or Venmo etc. And search the name of the company and its URL to see if anybody else has been scammed. You might find references via the Better Business Bureau, “Scam detector” or other reputation based sites, or various forums revolving around that specific product category.

Only Use Strong Passwords

You should have a different password for every site you use. Keep in mind that this password might be the only thing stopping someone from accessing your personal information including your address, credit card information, and more. The best passwords should contain upper and lower case letters, symbols, and numbers. Also, avoid choosing anything obvious like the name of your pet, and never, ever use the same password for more than one account.

Update All Device Software

All of us are probably guilty of not updating our software when it needs to be updated. However, there is one type of software you never, ever want to skip updating: your anti-virus software. Anti-virus software helps to prevent hackers from getting access to your accounts, and make sure to update your operating system and other software on your devices.

Always Use Two-Step Verification When You Can

Many companies offer two-step verification for customers If this is available, choose it! This adds one more layer of security that a hacker has to get through, and it’s quite difficult to do because not only do they need access to your account, but also need access to your device. Most major retailers allow this, including Amazon and eBay.

Ignore Strange Looking Emails

Also, keep an eye out for strange looking emails. Many companies send holiday sales emails, for instance, and some hackers will take advantage of this. They will send an email that looks like it comes from a legitimate source, like Macy’s, but it’s actually a fake email that is coming from a weird email address and not Macys.com.

Watch Your Credit Card Statements

It is also important to watch your credit card statements, and if something looks strange, report it immediately. Consider getting notifications and alerts for any charges.

Keep Your Devices Locked

Another thing you can do is make sure all of your devices are locked. A device that is unlocked can easily expose your personal info to hackers, so keep those devices locked with a biometric option, like a finger print, or a strong password.

Don’t Use Unsafe Apps

If you are shopping from an app, make sure it’s a trusted one. You should only download apps from the Apple App Store, the Google Play Store, or Amazon App Store. Also, make sure that you are looking into what permissions you are giving these apps. For example, does an app need access to your contact list? No, it doesn’t.

When Shopping From Your Computer, Stay Safe

Even if you are shopping from a computer or mobile phone, you need to be connected to a safe and secure network. Don’t use public Wi-Fi unless you are also using a virtual private network, or a VPN.

Though it should be the responsibility of online retailers to ensure their sites are safe, but we all know that this just doesn’t always happen. So, make sure you are taking these extra steps to stop hacking.

Written by Robert Siciliano, CEO of Credit Parent, Head of Training & Security Awareness Expert at Protect Now, #1 Best Selling Amazon author, Media Personality & Architect of CSI Protection Certification.

How to Protect Your Email from Hackers

It is easier than you might think to secure your email from hackers. The number one thing you can do is set up two step verification. Even if your username and password is compromised, bad guys will still need your mobile phone to access your account. And of course, never ever click on any links that come through your email unless you are positive it’s coming from a trusted sender. Not clicking on those links is easier said, than done, and even though is sometimes not enough.

Hackers have a saying – “Own the email, and you’ll own the person.” If you get hacked, the scammers will now have access to many, if not all, of the accounts that are associated with your email address.

How do they get access? Well, they send phishing emails, which look very much like real messages from a source you trust like UPS, PayPal, the IRS, your bank, a friend, your mom, etc.

Even people who seem smart or those who are in leadership positions can get tricked into clicking links in emails. Even John Podesta, who was the campaign chairman when Hillary Clinton, fell for a hack like this. He clicked on a link that seemed like it was from Google, but really it was a hacker…and that hacker got into his entire email account.

Don’t Let a Hacker Get Into Your Email Account

If you see a link and you want to or are supposed to click it, there are a few things you should do:

  • Hover your mouse over the URL to see if it looks strange. If the email says it’s coming from Chase Bank, but the URL looks like a bunch of nonsense, it’s probably not safe to click.
  • Many times, however, the URL can look very legitimate. So, you want to look for some other signs.
  • Look at the email for things like misspellings, grammar mistakes, or other odd things.
  • When in doubt, contact the sender via telephone

Additional Tips

  • If you see some type of urgency in the email, such as your account being compromised or your account being suspended, don’t be so quick to click.
  • There might also be some good, unexpected news in the email that you want to click…but again, be smart and only click if you are absolutely sure.
  • Is the message telling you that you must re-set your password? Be careful here. It’s likely a scam.

Emails from UPS, the IRS, PayPal, a major retailer, or your bank could also be suspicious, so again, don’t click until you are totally sure the link is safe.

Tips for Protecting Your Account

Here are some final tips that you can use to protect your account:

  • Employers need to engage security awareness training in the form of phishing simulation training.
  • Use strong passwords that are long and difficult to guess. They should be mixed with letters, numbers, and symbols.
  • Use two-factor authentication for all accounts, including your email account.
  • Don’t click on attachments unless you know exactly what they are.

When you really think about it, protecting your email account is one of the most important things that you can do to keep your information safe. Everything here is simple to do and understand, and it can make a big difference in your life, especially when you consider how easy it is to get hacked.

Written by Robert Siciliano, CEO of Credit Parent, Head of Training & Security Awareness Expert at Protect Now, #1 Best Selling Amazon author, Media Personality & Architect of CSI Protection Certification.

Is Two Factor Authentication a Good Thing to Use?

“TechWorld” has some interesting information, such as a story on a report from the National Institute of Standards and Technology. And while you may not see this as being “fun”, it is at a minimum interesting. I’m here to break it down for you.

two factor authenticationIn this report, the public was advised to stop using two factor authentication. However, other people suggest that this is the very best way to prevent identity theft. So, which is it? Let’s take a look.

When you get a message from someone, you surely want to make sure that they are who they say they are. In fact, many of us rely on tools like Caller ID. However, you might want to stop doing that, as caller ID can be faked. As hackers start using this more, they are finding ways to also fake SMS, too, which means technically, they could be faking two-factor or two step authorization/verification which heavily relies on text messaging. So, it is very important to stay vigilant about protecting your information and being careful about what you respond to via text

Why Authorization is Important

When it comes to the importance of authorization in transactions, it’s imperative that you are confident that you can access your info. We now know that it is very easy for a criminal, if they know what they are doing, to get into your accounts by using your password and username. But just a username and a password isn’t enough.

How Two-Factor Authentication Works

When you choose to use two-factor authentication, after entering your password online, you will receive an SMS, one-time use code, which you then use to fully log into your account. For this to work, the following must occur:

  • You must have a mobile device
  • You must know how to access the device (PIN or biometrics)
  • You must have a username and password to an online account
  • You must have the one-time use code, which will be sent to the device

Unless all four of these things are present, the account cannot be accessed. So, even if a hacker has your username and password, if you have two-factor authentication set up, they would also need your device to access the account. This makes it much more difficult to illegally access an account and helps your account to be much safer.

How Hackers are Being Smarter than Two-Factor Authentication

Though it is more difficult for a hacker to get into your account that has two-factor authentication, it is not impossible. Here are some ways that hackers are able to get around it:

Man in the Middle Attack:

  • The hacker gets access to your username and password
  • The hacker tries to login and is denied because you have two-factor authentication set up.
  • The hacker contacts you via social media, email, or phone with some type of trick to get your one-time code.

Phone Cloning:

  • The hacker will go into a brick and mortar cell phone carrier store and pretend they are you. They get a new phone with your number.

Changing the Number

  • The hacker creates a fake website, and you enter your number into it. They then take your number and change it, and then they keep your original number. This sounds more complicated than it is.

There is a Lot of Confidence About SMS Two-Factor Authentication

When you use SMS two-factor authentication, you don’t’ have to worry or have concern if your password gets into the wrong hands. Remember, the criminal who has your password still needs your one-time code…and unless they have your phone, they can’t access it.

Companies that offer two-factor authentication give their customers more confidence, and there is an increased interest in the company’s products and services because transactions are more secure.

So, should you be nervous about SMS two-factor authentication? No, you don’t need to. You really do have an extra level of protection, but remember, it isn’t totally fool proof. There are still ways that a hacker can access your accounts, though it is quite difficult.

You can have confidence in two things – First, that banks continue to come up with easy and friendly way to keep all of us safe with an alternative to two-factor authentication, and second, that you are already a step ahead of hackers thanks to your new-found knowledge from reading this article.

One simple way to engage and activate two factor authentication for all critical websites is to simply do a Google search for “two factor” and then the name of the site. And example would be “two factor Amazon. ”You’ll definitely find plenty of options to enable to factor authentication on every critical website your visit.

ROBERT SICILIANO CSP, is a #1 Best Selling Amazon author, CEO of CreditParent.com, the architect of the CSI Protection certification; a Cyber Social and Identity and Personal Protection security awareness training program.

Protecting Your Company and Yourself from COVID-19 Hackers

Many people are asking how they can not only protect themselves, but also their organizations, from all of these COVID-19 hacks that are currently popping up.

As with any other phishing scam, vigilance is extremely important. We are certainly going to have to keep on our toes for months, or even years, as this fallout from the pandemic could be around for a long time.

You have to be suspicious of each and every unsolicited email, phone call, or text, especially if someone is looking for account or contact details, or they ask to share personal information. If you feel like information seekers are asking for too much, you should vet the email, dig deeper, do some web searches, and make sure its legitimate.

Don’t use any links or phone numbers within the email of based on the call until you do this. If you get a recorded message, make sure you don’t press any button when asked. If you do, you may be giving them some type of approval and you end up being a victim.

  • In response to ransomware, you should make sure that you are totally backing up your data on all of your devices.
  • For any online account you have, set up or turn on two-factor or multi-factor authentication when you can. This, at least, makes those accounts less likely to be breached, even if someone does get ahold of some of your information.

You might think this is a pain right now, but it definitely won’t be a pain if your information is breached and you start to lose money.

There are many organizations that are being forced to give their employees access to their networks from home…and in most cases, they never planned for that. This working from home increases the criminals attack surface. So, the network is probably more vulnerable, and in some cases, security policies and processes are even being bypassed to ensure all employees have access to it. This comes at a big risk, and with every employee who has access to the company network, there is an opportunity for a hacker to get inside.

Most cybercriminals who go for this type of hack want to get access to this so they can get sensitive information and turn it into cash. Other hackers want to go big time, and they will use the credentials that they are hacking to use in attacks like “password stuffing/spraying,” to access multiple critical user accounts. With a larger “attack surface”, these companies are definitely at risk and because of staff working from all over the place, any attempt to break into the network could go unnoticed until it is too late.

Corporate cybersecurity and IT teams are working hard, but they, too, are generally working from home. With even more workload and more remote information to go over, this also means that they don’t have the time to pay as close attention as they should. This makes things even more dangerous, so keep your eyes open.

ROBERT SICILIANO CSP, is a #1 Best Selling Amazon author, CEO of CreditParent.com, the architect of the CSI Protection certification; a Cyber Social and Identity and Personal Protection security awareness training program.

12 Ways To Contain the hack, stop the bleeding & eliminating the threat

Hey YOU, SMB, yeah I’m talking to you. There are a number of things that you can do to not only protect your personal information, but also the information you have in your business:

  1. Hire a professional It is entirely possible the small business was hacked because they did not employ technicians to prevent it in the first place. Therefore 3rd parties that specialize is security and breach mitigation should be contacted immediately.  These IT security professionals specialize in containment. Their role will be to forensically determine the nature of the compromise, remove the vulnerability, update any necessary hardware and software, and ensure a breach such as this does not happen in the future.
  2. Disconnecting every affected device from the Internet temporarily The purpose here is to stop any data from leaving the network and to prevent the hacker from communicating with the server. This may mean disabling internet connections or physically unplugging the internet from connected devices
  3. Change and reset passwords – Many hacks begin with compromised passwords. And the moment a network or device goes back online the hacker will log back in unless all credentials have been changed and updated.
  4. Update all software – Begin by scanning all hardware and software with anti-virus programs and removing viruses. Vulnerabilities are often due to outdated software or operating systems riddled with flaws. Updating with critical patches eliminates these threats.  The breached party should have redundant networked hardware systems in place, backed up data, contingency plans to put duplicate systems online immediately in order to maintain operations.
  5. Update your Companies Hardware– Old outdated hardware simply can’t keep up with the requirements of newer robust software or the security software required to keep networks secure.
  6. Back Up All of Your DataYou have to make sure that you are regularly backing up data to a secure location. This data should also be encrypted.
  7. Manage All IdentitiesYou also must make sure that you are managing identities and access to accounts. You must do this across the board, as just one account being accessed could make you or your network extremely vulnerable.
  8. Use Conditional AccessAdditionally, you should make sure to use conditional access that is based on factors such as location or device.
  1. Utilize Multi-Factor Authentication – You can use multi-factor authentication to keep accounts protected, too. You can use this on its own, or with other conditional access methods to ensure those who are trying to access your data are legitimate.
  2. Security Awareness Training– Assuming employees know what to do and more importantly, what not do, is risky. Providing effecting ongoing security awareness, and in the authors opinion “security appreciation training” is partnering with employees to protect the network.
  3. Patching – Set up a system so that you can always ensure that your hardware and software is always patched and updated on a regular basis. This helps to keep your data safe.
  4. Align Your IT Security with Other Business Security – Those who are in the IT industry often feel as if they are struggling to keep up with changing technology, including security tech. The success of a business is based on keeping it secure, and by keeping all types of security in mind, including IT security, has a direct impact on revenue.

ROBERT SICILIANO CSP, is a #1 Best Selling Amazon author, CEO of CreditParent.com, the architect of the CSI Protection certification; a Cyber Social and Identity Protection security awareness training program.

How a Wi-Fi Hacker Snoops on Your Laptop and Mobile

You have likely heard of the dangers of using unsecure public Wi-Fi, so you know that hackers are out there snooping. It is pretty easy to hack into a laptop or mobile device that is on a public Wi-Fi connection with no protection. Hackers can read your emails, steal passwords, and even hijack your website log ins.

Let’s imagine that you are in a local coffee shop with your laptop. All someone has to do is download a wireless network analyzer, which usually has a free trial, and with the right hardware and additional software they can often see what everyone is viewing online…unless they are protected. In some cases they can also read your emails that are going out and received, as well as texts you might be sending. Scary, right?

Tips on How to Use a Wi-Fi Hotspot Safely

You now know what you are up against when you connect to a public Wi-Fi spot, but you should also know that you can use them with some safety in mind. Here are some tips:

  • When you log onto a website, only use an encrypted connection. This means use the URL that begins with HTTPS, not HTTP. Keep an eye on that as you move from page to page because some sites will send you to an unsecured page, which makes you vulnerable.
  • There are also many websites out there that will allow you to encrypt your browsing session automatically. Facebook, for instance, has this. To turn it on, go to your “Security” settings on the site, and then enable “Secure Browsing.”
  • If you are going to check your email, login to your web browser and then ensure that your connection to your email client is encrypted. (Check by looking at HTTPS). If you are using Outlook, or another email client, make sure that your settings are set for encryption.
  • Don’t use any service that is not encrypted when you are on a public Wi-Fi connection.
  • Consider using a VPN when you are connecting to a public Wi-Fi connection. There is a small fee for this, but it’s well worth it.
  • Beware of “evil twins” which are rogue networks designed to mimic legitimate networks. Example “ATT WiFi” my be “Free ATT WiFi”. Other than downloading special software that detects evil twins, the best case is to ask someone who’s knowledgeable as to which network is the safest.
  • If you are on a private network, make sure you realize that they are also vulnerable. Anyone who knows how can spy on the network. Again, use WPA or WPA2 security so the connection is encrypted. However, if someone guesses or knows the password, they can still spy on any device that is connected

ROBERT SICILIANO CSP, is a #1 Best Selling Amazon author, CEO of CreditParent.com, the architect of the CSI Protection certification; a Cyber Social and Identity Protection security awareness training program.

A Guide to How Hackers Hack

You have surely heard of hackers, but do you really know how they work? Hackers are well known for being bad guys, though there are certainly good hackers out there too. Here’s a brief guide to help you understand how a hacker can hack:

Directions for Hacking are Easy to Come By

Hackers don’t have to look far for help, especially if they don’t know much about hacking. First is a well-known website known as Kali Linux. It has a ton of tools available for hackers, and the site features many links to other hacking resources. Of course, people who want to hack often go to YouTube, and there are more than 300,000 videos there that teach people how to hack. There are also thousands of other websites out there with easy to follow hacking instructions, and you can find them in about a minute.

Software is Easy to Find, too

Directions for hacking is one part of it, but there is also software available that makes the job of hacking quite easy. Here are some of the options available:

  • Cain & Able – This tool helps a hacker intercept traffic on a network, and then can use that information to get passwords, which helps them get into accounts. More than 400,000 people have downloaded this software.
  • Burp Suite – Hackers use this tool to map out the structure and pages of a website, and then they use the information to attack the site.
  • John the Ripper – People use this tool for dictionary attacks. Basically, it takes text strings, encrypts them, and then uses the information for an attack.
  • Angry IP Scanner – This is a free tool that allows the user to scan a network for open ports. Once they find one, they can easily gain access.

Hackers Also Use Hardware

In addition to downloading software for hacking, it’s also possible for hackers to use hardware. One is called Wi-Fi Pineapple, which is a small, portable object that the hacker can use with any hotspot. They use it to find a laptop that is searching for an access point. Once the Pineapple sees an open connection, the hacker can read texts, emails, and see what websites you are viewing.

Protect Yourself from Hacks

There are many things that you can do to protect yourself from hackers. First, make sure you are using an encrypted website, one with HTTPS instead of HTTP in the address. Also, consider using a VPN when browsing. This encrypts your data so a hacker cannot read it. There’s a ton more to do. Go here: https://safr.me/blog/

ROBERT SICILIANO CSP, is a #1 Best Selling Amazon author, CEO of CreditParent.com, the architect of the CSI Protection certification; a Cyber Social and Identity Protection security awareness training program.

Gift Cards: The Newest Scam that You Should Be Aware of

Hackers are making a lot of money thanks to phishing attacks these days, and now they are also focusing on gift card scams. One of the most notorious scam groups, Scarlet Widow, which is out of Nigeria, has been boosting its efforts to scam people with gift cards since 2015. This group generally focuses on people in the UK and US and also is known for tax scams, romance scams, and rental cons.

Are you at risk of getting scammed by Scarlet Widow? The group generally focuses on medium to large US businesses and nonprofits including the United Way, Boy Scouts of American, and YMCA chapter. The scammers send emails to employees of these organizations, and though most people understand that the emails are, indeed, scams, it only takes one person to put your organization at risk.

The Targets

From November 2017 to the present, Scarlet Widow has targeted thousands of nonprofits and individuals. It also targets the education industry and tax industry. Scarlet Widow only succeeds by getting access to these organizations’ email accounts. They might put malware in the emails or use malicious phishing links. Either way, eventually, these people are going to be able to scam the organizations.

The Scam

Though traditional phishing scams work for Scarlet Widow, it is really focusing on the gift card scam these days. In October 2018, more than a quarter of people who have been scammed during the year said that they were victims of a gift card scam. Scammers love these because they can get the cash quickly, they can be anonymous, and it’s very difficult to reverse. All the scammers have to do is convince someone to buy a gift card, then send them a photo, and they can take the money that is on there.

Scarlet Widow generally focuses on Google Play and iTunes gift cards, but other scammers will ask for cards from places like Target, Walgreens, or CVS. You might think it sounds strange that these people could con others into paying for business services with gift cards but remember…these scammers are experts at manipulation. They will certainly come up with some story with a sense of urgency, and people fall for it all of the time. For instance, there was an administrator in Australia who sent a scammer $1,800 in iTunes gift cards. The email she got seemed as if it was from the head of the finance department, so she believed it was legitimate. However, it was just a scammer.

A security awareness training financial advisor client of mine was conned too. Actually it was his assistant. She received an email that looked like it was coming from him requesting 5 $500.00 Apple gift cards to send to their top 5 clients. She went right out to Walgreens, bought 5 cards and the instructions were to scratch off back to reveal the codes and email pictures of the cards and codes back to him. Which she did. And then the scammers disappeared.

Though there are limitations to scammers using gift cards, these nefarious groups will use any method they can think of to get more money funneling in. So, if you ever get a request from a contractor or organization leader asking for a gift card, use an extreme amount of caution.

ROBERT SICILIANO CSP, is a #1 Best Selling Amazon author, CEO of CreditParent.com, the architect of the CSI Protection certification; a Cyber Social and Identity Protection security awareness training program.