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It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like the Holiday Shopping Season

The holiday season is in full force. Not only is it time to bring out the tinsel while jamming out to holiday music, it’s also time to buckle down on your holiday shopping. Have you made your holiday shopping list yet? Luckily, in the U.S., the biggest shopping days of the year are coming up meaning lots of shopping deals at stores on and offline to help you complete your holiday shopping list.

http://www.dreamstime.com/stock-images-online-risks-sign-road-banner-image34668294There are people out there who are really gung-ho about Black Friday—camping outside a department store the night before and fighting the masses for the half-price widescreen tv. That’s not really my style; I’m more of a Cyber Monday kind of guy. I just fire up my computer or tablet and start clicking and then boxes magically arrive at my house…well maybe not magically.

Online shopping is convenient for the holiday shopper. No lines, no braving the sometimes nasty winter weather, no crowds—you can buy almost anything and never leave your couch. Although online shopping is a great way to complete your holiday shopping list, you should take a couple precautions while online to keep your personal and financial information safe from hackers.  Along with avoiding the 12 Scams of the Holidays, here are the top 5 tips to help you stay safe while shopping online this holiday season.

  • Be wary of deals. Does that 90% off blowout sale of iPhones sounds too good to be true? It probably is. Any offer you see online that has an unbelievable price shouldn’t be believable. Beware of spam emails with links to awesome deals, as it’s particularly dangerous to buy on a site advertised in a spam email. I recommend using web protection, like McAfee® SiteAdvisor® provides easy to results to protect you from going to a malicious website.
  • Use credit cards rather than debit cards. If the site turns out to be fraudulent, your credit card company will usually reimburse you for the purchase; and in the case of credit card fraud, the law should protect you. With debit cards, it can be more difficult to get your money back and you don’t want your account to be drained while you’re sorting things out with your bank. Another option savvy shoppers sometimes use is a one-time use credit card, which includes a randomly generated number that can be used for one transaction only. If the number is stolen it cannot be used again. Using this type of credit card also ensures that a thief does not have access to your real credit card number.
  • Review the company’s policies. Look to see how the merchant uses your personal information and check to make sure that it will not be shared with third parties. You should only disclose facts necessary to complete your purchase and not any additional information about yourself. Also, check the website’s shipping policy and make sure it seems reasonable to you. You want to make sure that you understand all your shipping options and how they will affect your total cost of your online purchase.
  • Check that the site is secure. Find out if a company’s website is secure by looking for a security seal, like the McAfee SECURE™ trustmark, which indicates that the site will protect you from identity theft, credit card fraud, spam and other malicious threats. Make sure the site uses encryption—or scrambling—when transmitting information over the Internet by looking for a lock symbol on the page and checking to make sure that the web address starts with httpS://.
  • Only use secure devices and connections.  If you are using a public computer, information such as your browsing history and even your login information may be accessible to strangers who use the computer after you. Also, never shop using an unsecured wireless network because hackers can access your payment information if the network is not protected.  To protect yourself, do all of your online shopping from your secure home computer. When shopping at home, make sure all your devices are protected with comprehensive security like McAfee LiveSafe™ service which protects all your PCs, tablets and smartphones.

Robert Siciliano is an Online Security Expert to McAfee. He is the author of 99 Things You Wish You Knew Before Your Mobile was Hacked!  Disclosures.

5 ways Criminals hack your PC

Hackers are hell-bent on busting into the network of their targets. They are persistent—never giving up. When you build your defense against cyber criminals, it must be done with the idea that they WILL succeed. When you operate on this assumption rather than thinking that your anti this and anti that are all you need, you’ll have the best cyber security in place.

4DAnother mistake is to assume that hackers hound only small businesses or weak networks. The cyber criminal doesn’t care so much about vulnerabilities; he wants the goods. It’s like a burglar wanting a million dollars worth of jewels that he knows is stashed inside a mansion surrounded by a moat filled with crocodiles. This won’t stop him. It will only determine the dynamics of how he penetrates.

Yes, less sophisticated hackers will target more vulnerable networks, but there’s a lot of hefty hackers out there who aren’t intimidated by persistence. If cyber thieves want a goal badly enough, they’ll get into every nook and cranny to achieve their mission.

Hackers also determine ahead of time how the victim might respond to an attack. The crime ring will invest time in this, going well-beyond the intended target’s IT tactics. They’ll go as far as learning employees’ after-hour leisure activities. To make it harder for hackers to mine all this information, a company should keep things unpredictable like work routines and not embrace social media.

The hacker creeps around quietly, going undetected while spreading damage. To catch below-the-radar cyber invasions, a business should employ a system that can spot and stamp out these murmurs.

Finally, cyber criminals usually launch a secondary attack as a distraction while the major attack gets underway—kind of like that newsworthy operation of some years ago involving pairs of thieves: One would approach a woman with a baby and tell her the baby was ugly. This distracted her so much that she had no idea that the accomplice was slipping off her purse and scrambling away with it. You must anticipate decoy operations.

Remember, install layers of protection:

  • Antivirus, antispyware, antiphishing, firewall
  • Set up encryption on your wireless router
  • Use a VPN when on free wireless
  • Keep your devices software, apps, browser and OS updated

Robert Siciliano is an identity theft expert to TheBestCompanys.com discussing  identity theft prevention. For Roberts FREE ebook text- SECURE Your@emailaddress -to 411247. Disclosures.

Majority of Executives believe Attackers will overcome Corporate Defenses

Many technology executives don’t have a favorable outlook on their ability to sideswipe cybercriminals, according to research conducted by McKinsey and World Economic Forum.

2DThe research also shows that both big and small businesses lack the ability to make sturdy decisions, and struggle to quantify the effect of risk and resolution plans. As the report authors state, “Much of the damage results from an inadequate response to a breach rather than the breach itself”.

These results come from interviews with more than 200 business leaders such as chief information officers, policy makers, regulators, law enforcement officials and technology vendors spanning the Americas, Europe, Asia, Africa and the Middle East.

Cybercrimes are extremely costly and the cost can hit the trillions of dollars mark.

Several concerning trends regarding how decision makers in the business world perceive cyber risks, attacks and their fallouts were apparent in the research findings:

  • Over 50 percent of all respondents, and 70 percent of financial institution executives, think that cybersecurity is a big risk. Some executives believe that threats from employees equal those from external sources.
  • A majority of executives envision that cyber criminals will continue being a step ahead of corporate defenses. 60 percent believe that the gap between cyber crooks and corporate defense will increase, with, of course, the crooks in the lead.
  • The leaking of proprietary knowledge is a big concern for companies selling products to consumers and businesses.
  • Service companies, though, are more worried about the leaking of their customers’ private information and of disruptions in service.
  • Large organizations, says ongoing McKinsey research, reported cross-sector gaps in risk-management competency.
  • Some companies spend a lot but don’t have much sophistication in risk-management capabilities, while other companies spend little but are relatively good at making risk-management decisions. Even large companies can stand to improve their risk management capabilities substantially.

Robert Siciliano is an Identity Theft Expert to AllClearID. He is the author of99 Things You Wish You Knew Before Your Identity Was Stolen See him knock’em dead in this identity theft prevention video. Disclosures.

Cyber Security Insurance Difficult for Business to Navigate

Cyber insurance is now booming, with about 50 carriers in the industry. An increasing number of companies have cyber insurance to protect against cyber crime. However, businesses claim it’s not easy to get adequate coverage.

4DLosses from data breaches are difficult to quantify. The tangible losses are more easily insured, says a New York Times online report. When it comes to a data breach, there are often related losses such as reputational damage and loss of customer loyalty that are harder to quantify.

Add to this the fact that underwriters don’t yet have sufficient data to estimate the likeliness or cost of an attack; most breaches get missed or aren’t reported publicly.

While an insurance company can tell you the precise odds of a major city office building burning down, nobody knows when the next giant retailer will be hacked. Statistics on hacking risks aren’t constant due to the continuous evolution of cyber crimes.

According to New York Times estimates, companies seeking coverage can only hope for, at best, a $300 million policy, peanuts compared to the billions devoted to property protection. Though this still sounds generous, the cost of a major breach can easily exceed it. Target’s situation is on course for just that, says the New York Times online article. The 2011 Sony breach has already exceeded $2 billion in fallout.

The best policies cover costs associated with alerting customers, plus forensics, call center setups, consumer identity monitoring, legal fees and a crisis management firm. But that may only dent the disaster. Policies don’t address loss in profits due to customers jumping ship. A policy can’t prevent a marred brand reputation. “Although a solid cyber policy will cover notification, crisis management expenses, defense costs, damages and the costs associated with regulatory action, it would not cover other, potentially much larger losses, such as reputational injury and loss of brand and market share,” says Roberta Anderson, an insurance coverage and cybersecurity attorney with the law firm of K&L Gates, LLP.  “Those losses are difficult to value and remain uninsurable in the market today.”

Expect the cyber insurance industry to continue swelling while cyber crime continues to remain several steps ahead of businesses and security systems.

Robert Siciliano is an Identity Theft Expert to AllClear ID. He is the author of 99 Things You Wish You Knew Before Your Identity Was Stolen See him knock’em dead in this identity theft prevention video. Disclosures.

What is a Backdoor Threat?

Did you accidentally leave the back door open? This thought can be scary because you know that leaving the back door open at home could allow someone to enter your home and take your personal belongings.

6DThe same is true for a backdoor in the computer world. It is a vulnerability that gives an attacker unauthorized access to a system by bypassing normal security mechanisms. This threat works in the background, hiding itself from the user, and it’s very difficult to detect and remove.

Cybercriminals commonly use malware to install backdoors, giving them remote administrative access to a system. Once an attacker has access to a system through a backdoor, they can potentially modify files, steal personal information, install unwanted software, and even take control of the entire computer.

These kinds of attacks represent a serious risk to users of both computers and mobile devices since an attacker can potentially gain access to your personal files, as well as sensitive financial and identity information.

Say, for instance, an attacker uses a backdoor to install keylogging software on your computer, allowing them to see everything that you type, including passwords. And once this information is in the hands of the cybercriminals, your accounts could be compromised, opening the door to identity theft.

Here are a few tips to protect you from back door threats:

  • Use comprehensive security software on your computers and mobile devices, like McAfee LiveSafe™ service, to protect you from malware.
  • Never click on an email attachment or a link sent from people you don’t know and watch what you download from the web.
  • Be careful about which sites you visit, since less secure sites could contain a so-called “drive-by download”  which is able to install malware on your computer simply by visiting a compromised web page. You can check the safety of a website before you visit it by using our free McAfee® SiteAdvisor® tool, which tells you if a site is safe or not right in your search window.
  • Only install programs that you really need, minimizing your exposure to potential vulnerabilities.

Make sure you don’t leave any back doors open. Stay safe online!

Robert Siciliano is an Online Security Expert to McAfee. He is the author of 99 Things You Wish You Knew Before Your Mobile was Hacked!  Disclosures.

Analyze Security to reduce Threats

A deep analysis into security (security analytics programs) unveils some riveting areas that need to be addressed if business users are serious about reducing threats of data breaches.

1DReveal data leaks. Convinced your business is “data leak proof”? See what stones that security analytics turn over. Don’t be surprised if the leaks that are discovered have been ongoing, as this is a common finding. You can’t fix a problem that you don’t know exists.

An evolution of questions. Analytics programs can create questions that the business owner never thought to wonder about. Analytics can reveal trends and make them visible under the business owner’s nose.

Once these questions and trends are out of the closet, decision makers in the organization can have a guideline and even come up with additional questions for how to reduce the risk of threats.

Connections between data sources. Kind of along the same concept described in the previous point, security analytics programs can bring forth associations between sources of data that the IT security team many not have unearthed by itself.

Think of data from different sources being poured into a big funnel, and then what comes out the other end are obvious patterns and associations between all that data, even though it was “poured” from differing sources. When “mixed” together, the data reveals connections among it.

Uncovering these associations is important so that businesses can have a better understanding of disparate segments of their network, various departmental information, etc.

Discovery of operational IT issues. Take the previous points a step further and you get a revelation of patterns and connections in the IT operations realm—associations that can help mitigate problems with workflow and efficiency.

In other words, an issue with IT operations could be something that’s causing a drain on productivity, or, something that’s not creating a problem per se, but can be improved to spark productivity.

Uncover policy violations. Analytics can turn up policy violations you had no idea were occurring. Not all violations are malicious, but once they’re uncovered, they cannot be covered up; the next step is to do something about it.

Robert Siciliano is an Identity Theft Expert to AllClearID. He is the author of 99 Things You Wish You Knew Before Your Identity Was Stolen See him knock’em dead in this identity theft prevention video. Disclosures.

Cybersecurity Matters in The Election

The term “cyberattack” or cyberwarfare is defined as “politically motivated hacking to conduct sabotage and espionage. It is a form of information warfare sometimes seen as analogous to conventional warfare although this analogy is controversial for both its accuracy and its political motivation.”

“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 New York Times reports “Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta warned Thursday that the United States was facing the possibility of a “cyber-Pearl Harbor” and was increasingly vulnerable to foreign computer hackers who could dismantle the nation’s power grid, transportation system, financial networks and government.”

The threats of a cyberattack are real. Unfortunately tis is one of those “it’s not IF but WHEN” scenarios.

The AP reports “President Barack Obama wants owners and operators of essential U.S. infrastructure to meet minimum cybersecurity standards that the private sector and federal agencies would develop together.”And “Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney says within his first 100 days in office he would order all federal agencies to develop a national strategy to deter and defend the country from cyberattacks.”

Whomever is elected president will face an unknown unseen digital enemy unlike any other president has seen in history.

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 tool that must be used intelligently and cautiously. Do your part to protect your little network and we will all be that much safer.

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.

Robert Siciliano, personal security expert contributor to Just Ask GemaltoDisclosures

Be Proactive During Cyber Security Awareness Month

We use the web to search, shop and to connect with friends and family. And in the process criminals are trying steal from us.

It used to be that a person only had to know not to open a file in an attachment from someone they didn’t know. Today there are more ways than ever that your PC can be hijacked.

Today you can simply visit a website thinking you are safe and the bad guy was there before you and injected code on the site and now it infects your out-dated browser. That’s a “drive by” and it’s very common today.

Protect yourself:

Update your browser. Internet Explorer and Firefox are the most exploited browsers. Whenever there is an update to these browsers take advantage of it.   Keep the default settings and don’t go to the bowels of the web where a virus is most likely to be. Consider the Google Chrome browser as it’s currently less of a target.. Systems using old or outdated browsers such as IE 5, 6, or older versions of Firefox offer the path of least resistance.

Update your operating system. Computers with old, outdated, or unsupported operating systems like Windows 95, 98, and 2000 are extremely vulnerable. No matter what brand of computer you are on you have to update the critical security patches for your Windows operating system. Microsoft will no longer support Windows XP after 2014, so start thinking about upgrading to Windows 7 or wait for windows 8 (which is pretty sweet). Go to Windows Update. Keep your critical security patches up-to-date by setting Windows Update to run automatically as well.

Update Adobe Reader and Flash. Adobe PDFs and Flash Player are ubiquitous on almost every PC. Which makes them a prime target for criminals. To update Reader go to Help then Check for Updates. To update Flash go here.

Don’t be suckered into scareware. A popup launches and it looks like a window on your PC. Next thing a scan begins. The scan tells you that a virus has infected your PC. And for $49.95 you can download software that magically appears just in time to save the day.

Beware of social media scams. Numerous Twitter (and Facebook) accounts including those of President Obama, Britney Spears, Fox News and others were taken over and used to make fun of, ridicule, harass or commit fraud. Often these hacks may occur via phish email

Surfing pornography websites increases your risk, as does frequenting gaming websites hosted in foreign countries. And don’t engage in risky online activities that invite attacks.

Downloading pirated content from P2P (peer-to-peer) websites is also risky. Remember, there is no honor among thieves.

Make sure to set your antivirus software to update automatically. Use a paid product that provides antivirus, antiphishing, antispyware and a firewall.

Robert Siciliano, personal security expert contributor to Just Ask GemaltoDisclosures

A look into the cyber security legislation: What does it mean for citizens?

The White House issued a statement in regards to our critical infrastructure – such as the electricity grid, financial sector, and transportation networks that sustain our way of life – have suffered repeated cyber intrusions, and cyber crime has increased dramatically over the last decade. The President has thus made cyber security an Administration priority.

From The Desk of President Obama: “We count on computer networks to deliver our oil and gas, our power and our water. We rely on them for public transportation and air traffic control… But just as we failed in the past to invest in our physical infrastructure – our roads, our bridges and rails – we’ve failed to invest in the security of our digital infrastructure… This status quo is no longer acceptable – not when there’s so much at stake. We can and we must do better.”

Members of both parties in Congress have also recognized this need and introduced approximately 50 cyber-related bills in the last session of Congress. The proposed legislation is focused on improving cyber security for the American people, our Nation’s critical infrastructure, and the Federal Government’s own networks and computers.

#1 National Data Breach Reporting. State laws have helped consumers protect themselves against identity theft while also incentivizing businesses to have better cyber security, thus helping to stem the tide of identity theft.

#2 Penalties for Computer Criminals. The laws regarding penalties for computer crime are not fully synchronized with those for other types of crime.

#3 Protecting our Nation’s Critical Infrastructure. Our safety and way of life depend upon our critical infrastructure as well as the strength of our economy. The Administration is already working to protect critical infrastructure from cyber threats.

#4 Protecting Federal Government Computers and Networks.  Over the past five years, the Federal Government has greatly increased the effort and resources we devote to securing our computer systems.

#5 New Framework to Protect Individuals’ Privacy and Civil Liberties. The Administration’s proposal ensures the protection of individuals’ privacy and civil liberties through a framework designed expressly to address the challenges of cyber security.

Our Nation is at risk. The cyber security vulnerabilities in our government and critical infrastructure are a risk to national security, public safety, and economic prosperity.

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 tool that must be used intelligently and cautiously. Do your part to protect your little network and we will all be that much safer.

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.

Robert Siciliano, personal security expert contributor to Just Ask Gemalto. Disclosures

Shoring Up National Cyber Security Infrastructure

The wild, wild web is the most exciting, alluring, and all-around awesome thing available to us today. It’s also something we have come to rely on to a fault. And that’s a little scary. The Internet is a decentralized wilderness, used by billions of devices worldwide.

Joe Lieberman, chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, introduced a controversial bill designed to empower the United States to shut down the Internet, explaining, “For all of its user-friendly allure, the Internet can also be a dangerous place with electronic pipelines that run directly into everything from personal bank accounts to key infrastructure to government and industrial secrets, our economic security, national security and public safety are now all at risk from new kinds of enemies — cyber-warriors, cyber-spies, cyber-terrorists and cyber-criminals.”

Regardless of the politics behind the issue, shutting down the Internet would have dire consequence on everything from electricity, water delivery, transportation, and food production. We simply aren’t prepared for that kind of shift.

But the question remains, how do we shore up our nation’s critical infrastructure against online attacks?

States, governments, and corporations are investing billions in online infrastructure. Thousands of cyber security professionals are being trained to keep us safe. I can only hope that many are decentralizing their systems in order to become self-reliant if necessary.

While technologists and government leaders are sorting this out, the weakest link in the chain is still…drum roll, please…you.

Corporations and government agencies are legally required to secure their systems, at least minimally. But no such standards exist for the consumer. No laws require you to take a single step for the sake of your own security. Software vendors should certainly be held accountable if their products aren’t secure, but this alone is inadequate.

If you buy a bike for your child, for example, it’s up to you to teach him to ride safely, and to require him to wear a helmet. In many places, children are legally required to wear bike helmets. Similarly, you can’t drive a car without a license, and you can’t get that license without proper training.

It should be the same with technology. Before you come to rely on a smartphone or PC, you ought to receive training on how to use it securely. I have enough faith in people to believe that if we truly understand the consequences of inaction, we’ll come together and act to resolve whatever problems we face. We need to get together on this issue and do something about it…like, yesterday.

Robert Siciliano, personal security expert contributor to Just Ask Gemalto, discusses the possibility of an Internet crash on Fox Boston. (Disclosures)