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The “Mother of All Data Breaches?” It Could Be Here…

You have probably heard of one data breach after another these days, but this is one that you should really pay attention to: more than 772 million unique emails, along with more than 21 million unique passwords, have been exposed.

data breach

Troy Hunt, who runs the website “Have I Been Pwned,” first reported this breach, and he says that a huge file (87 GB) was uploaded to MEGA, a cloud service. This data was then sent to a popular hacking site, and now hackers have access to all of these passwords and email addresses.

This data breach, known as “Collection #1,” is very serious. However, it could just be the tip of the iceberg. There are claims that there are several more “collections” out there, and it could be as much as one full terabyte worth of data. This could be the newest “mother of all data breaches” if this is found to be true.

So, what does all of this mean for you? It not only means that your information could be part of this breach, but it also could mean that these password and email combinations could be used in a practice known as “credential stuffing.” What is this? It’s when a hacker uses known email and password combinations to hack into accounts. Basically, this could have an impact on anyone who has used an email/password combination on more than one site.

This, of course, is concerning because this particular breach has about 2.7 billion email/password combinations. On top of that, around 140 million of the emails, and 10 million of the passwords, were brand new to the hacking database, which gives the hackers even more ammunition to wreak havoc. The big lesson to be learned here is that you should always use good security practices when you create accounts online. You should never use passwords from one account to another, and you should definitely use two-factor authentication if it is available. If you don’t have a password manager, you might want to set that up, too.

Robert Siciliano personal security and identity theft expert and speaker is the author of Identity Theft Privacy: Security Protection and Fraud Prevention: Your Guide to Protecting Yourself from Identity Theft and Computer Fraud. See him knock’em dead in this Security Awareness Training video

Second Hand USB’s Could Have Personal Info Still Inside

An unsurprising study was recently released that found even when a portable USB drive is erased, not all of the documents and images are always removed. That, of course, is frightening.

Here’s how the research was done:

Researchers went online to sites like eBay, to second-hand shops, and even auction stores. They bought 200 used USB drives, half from the US and half from the UK. Almost 2/3 of the devices had data on them! This data was, for the most part, personal data, and it can also be used by cybercriminals to steal someone’s identity. On top of that, these USB drives can contain malware.

Removing All Data is Difficult

When someone tries to delete or remove data from a USB device, they rarely have success. In fact, of the 100 USB devices the researchers bought in the US, only 18 of them were totally wiped clean. The rest of them had data that had been deleted, but someone could certainly recover it. The UK devices were similar. What’s so surprising about this is that it is extremely easy…and free…for someone to fully delete their device. But most people just don’t put in the effort, and that could definitely hurt them in the future.

USB Devices Can Be Risky

Using these devices can be risky, not only for average people, but also for businesses. In 2017, for example, a USB device was lost, and it contained sensitive information about Heathrow Airport. The government investigated, and eventually fined the company. The information was not encrypted, nor password protected, and it was found on the street by a random passerby.

Because of these risks, some companies, like IBM, have banned the use of USB devices. Instead, employees must use the company’s cloud. Other companies still allow them, of course, but they could be going down a dangerous road. These devices are really cheap to buy, and people can save almost anything on them, but they are also very easy to lose.

There are other issues with USB devices too. First, of course, you have the data on these drives to deal with, but there is also the fact that potential malware could be on the devices. Most companies don’t have the same rules that IBM has, and most consumers don’t think of this at all. This makes people and small businesses very vulnerable. So, if you use USB drives, there is one very important step that you need to take: encrypt it.

Robert Siciliano personal security and identity theft expert and speaker is the author of Identity Theft Privacy: Security Protection and Fraud Prevention: Your Guide to Protecting Yourself from Identity Theft and Computer Fraud. See him knock’em dead in this Security Awareness Training video.

Top 12 Tips to Destroy Your Sensitive Data

Believe it or not, you just can’t shred too much. If you aren’t destroying your sensitive data, my best advice is for you to start now. There are people out there who make a living diving into dumpsters in search of credit card info, bank account number, mortgage statements, and medical bills; all things they can use to steal your identity.  

Here are 12 tips that you can use to help you destroy your sensitive data:

  1. Buy a shredder. That said, I don’t own a shredder. I’ll explain shortly. There are a number of different brands and models out there. Some even shred CDs. This is important if you keep your documents saved on a computer, which you then saved to a CD. Don’t, however, try to shred a CD in a shredder that isn’t equipped to do this job. You will definitely break it.
  2. Skip a “strip-cut” shredder. These shredders produce strips that can be re-constructed. You would be surprised by how many people don’t mind putting these pieces together after finding them in trash. Yes, again, people will go through dumpsters to find this information. Watch the movie “Argo” and you’ll see what I mean.
  3. Shred as small as you can using a cross cut shredder. The smaller the pieces, the more difficult it is to put documents together again. If the pieces are large enough, there are even computer programs that you can use to recreate the documents.
  4. Fill a large cardboard box with your shreddables. You can do this all in one day, or allow the box to fill up over time.
  5. When the box is full, burn it. This way, you are sure the information is gone. Of course, make sure that your municipality allows burning.
  6. You should also shred and destroy items that could get you robbed. For instance, if you buy a huge flat screen television, don’t put the box on your curb. Instead, destroy, shred, or burn that box. If it’s on the curb, it’s like an invitation for thieves to come right in.
  7. Shred all of your documents, including any paper with account numbers or financial information.
  8. Shred credit card receipts, property tax statements, voided checks, anything with a Social Security number, and envelopes with your name and address.
  9. Talk to your accountant to see if they have any other suggestions on what you should shred and what you should store.
  10. Shred anything that can be used to scam you or anyone. Meaning if the data found in the trash or dumpster could be used in a lie, over the phone, in a call to you or a client to get MORE sensitive information, (like a prescription bottle) then shred it.
  11. Try to buy a shredder in person, not online. Why? Because you want to see it and how it shreds, if possible. If do buy a shredder online, make sure to read the reviews. You want to make sure that you are buying one that is high quality.
  12. Don’t bother with a shredder. I have so much to shred (and you should too) that I use a professional document shredding service.

I talked to Harold Paicopolos at Highland Shredding, a Boston Area, (North shore, Woburn Ma) on demand, on-site and drop off shredding service. Harold said “Most businesses have shredding that needs to be done regularly. We provide free shredding bins placed in your office. You simply place all documents to be shredded in the secure bin. Your private information gets properly destroyed, avoiding unnecessary exposure.”

Does your local service offer that? Shredding myself takes too much time. And I know at least with Highlands equipment (check your local service to compare) their equipment randomly rips and tears the documents with a special system of 42 rotating knives. It then compacts the shredded material into very small pieces. Unlike strip shredding, this process is the most secure because no reconstruction can occur.

Robert Siciliano personal security and identity theft expert and speaker 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.

Data security policies need teeth to be effective

Bottom line: If you have a data security policy in place, you need to make sure that it’s up to date and contains all of the necessary elements to make it effective. Here are 10 essential items that should be incorporated into all security policies:

4H1. Manage employee email

Many data breaches occur due to an employee’s misuse of email. These negligent acts can be limited by laying out clear standards related to email and data. For starters, make sure employees do not click on links or open attachments from strangers because this could easily lead to a ransomware attack.

2. Comply with software licenses and copyrights

Some organizations are pretty lax in keeping up with the copyrights and licensing of the software they use, but this is an obligation. Failing to do so could put your company at risk.

3. Address security best practices

You should be addressing the security awareness of your staff by ensuring that they are aware of security best practices for security training, testing and awareness.

4. Alert employees to the risk of using social media

All of your staff should be aware of the risks associated with social media, and consider a social media policy for your company. For example, divulging the wrong information on a social media site could lead to a data breach. Social media policy should be created in line with the security best practices.

5. Manage company-owned devices

Many employees use mobile devices in the workplace, and this opens you up to threats. You must have a formal policy in place to ensure mobile devices are used correctly. Requiring all staff to be responsible with their devices and to password protect their devices should be the minimum requirements.

6. Use password management policies

You also want to make sure that your staff is following a password policy. Passwords should be complex, never shared and changed often.

7. Have an approval process in place for employee-owned devices

With more employees than ever before using personal mobile devices for work, it is imperative that you put policies in place to protect your company’s data. Consider putting a policy in place which mandating an approval process for anyone who wants to use a mobile device at work.

8. Report all security incidents

Any time there is an incident, such as malware found on the network, a report should be made and the event should be investigated immediately by the IT team.

9. Track employee Internet use

Most staff members will use the Internet at work without much thought, but this could be dangerous. Try to establish some limits for employee Internet use for both safety and productivity.

10. Safeguard your data with a privacy policy

Finally, make sure that all staff members understand your company’s privacy policy. Make sure that data is used correctly and within the confines of the law.

Consultant Robert Siciliano is an expert in personal privacy, security and identity theft prevention. Learn more about Carbonite’s cloud and hybrid backup solutions for small and midsize businesses.

Tips for backing up and protecting your data while traveling

The season of giving is now upon us — but don’t forget, it’s also the season of stealing — and no, I don’t mean your wallet or the gift package at your doorstep, but your Social Security number, credit card information, medical records and any other highly confidential information that you have stored on your computers.

1DThieves want your data — the information stored in your smartphone, laptop and other devices. People are especially vulnerable to this crime when they travel. Don’t let the hustle and bustle of holiday travel detract you from protecting your data!

  • Make sure your devices have updated security software.
  • Remove all the sensitive data (e.g., medical records) from your device prior to travel — but not before you back it up.
  • One way to protect your data is cloud backup. Protecting your data begins with keeping your computer in a safe, secure, locked location, but when you are traveling, this is simply not an option. Therefore, automatically back up data to the cloud. The third layer is to use local backups; ideally sync software that offers routine backups to an external drive.
  • Before the trip, an IT expert should install disk encryption for your laptop– especially if you’ll be bringing along lots of sensitive data. If the laptop ends up in the wrong hands, the crook will see only scrambled data.
  • Even with the aforementioned security measures in place, you should also use a virtual private network when conducting online transactions at public Wi-Fi spots, so that snooping hackers “see” only encrypted transmissions.
  • All of the above tactics still aren’t enough. “Shoulder surfers” could visually snatch your login credentials while you’re typing away at the airport lobby or coffee shop. “Visual hackers” may also use binoculars and cameras. A privacy filter for your screen will conceal what’s on your screen. If they’re right behind youthis technology will alert you. You should use a privacy filter even when your back is to a wall.

Never let your device out of your sight, and if you must, like at a relative’s dinner gathering, lock it up.

Robert Siciliano is an expert in personal privacy, security and identity theft. Learn more about Carbonite Personal plans. See him discussing identity theft prevention. Disclosures.

Best practices for BYOD data storage

The Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) movement has in some ways saved companies money, but in other ways put customer data at risk. Employees are onsite, telecommuting or traveling on business. This means their devices, and company data could be anywhere at any given moment.

7WA company manager or owner realizes that company use of employee mobile devices brings benefits. But employees also use the devices for personal activities, increasing the risk of hackers getting into company data.

The solution is to train these employees in BYOD, information security and awareness. They must be aware of how risky a data breach is, how to secure data, especially if the device is loaded with company data. An overlooked part of that training is knowing how to deal with old data, back up that data and in some cases, delete it.

Data lives in 3 forms: stored on a local device, backed up in the cloud and deleted. Over time, old data begins to accumulate on devices and that can cause problems.

Here are some key considerations and best practices for dealing with the BYOD phenomenon at your business:

  • Ask yourself when old data no longer needed? Data should have expiration dates set up to indicate this.
  • Businesses should realize that “useless” or “old” data may surprisingly be needed sooner or later. This data can be stored offsite, in the cloud, so that if the device is hacked, at least the old data (which may contain valuable information to the hacker) won’t be accessible.
  • Setting up cloud storage that automatically backs up data will ensure that if a device is lost or stolen, the data is still available. Every bit of data, even if it’s seemingly useless, should be backed up.
  • How do you truly delete data? Don’t think for a second you’ll achieve this by hitting the delete button. In many cases, a hacker could still find it and obtain it from the hard drive. What you can’t see is not invisible to a skilled hacker.
  • Want to just get rid of old data altogether? You must destroy the hard drive. This means put it on the ground and hit with a sledgehammer. Then recycle the guts. Or you can professionally shred it.
  • Deploy Mobile Device Management (MDM) software that gives companies the ability to remotely manage devices. Tasks might include locating, locking or wiping a lost or stolen device. MDM can also be used to update software and delete or back up data.

The planning and prevention tactics above apply to businesses and really, everyone. Employees should be rigorously trained on proactive security and the tricks that cyber thieves use.

Robert Siciliano is an expert in personal privacy, security and identity theft. Learn more about Carbonite Personal plans. See him discussing identity theft prevention. Disclosures.

What is private Information and what is not?

Data Privacy Day was Wednesday, January 28, and these days the concept of “privacy” can be ambiguous, generic or confusing. What you might think of as private actually isn’t. The definition of personal identifying information, by the U.S. privacy law and information security, is that of data that can be used to contact, identify or locate an individual, or identify him in context.

1PThis means that your name and address aren’t private, which is why they can be found on the Internet (though a small fee may be required for the address, but not always). Even your phone and e-mail aren’t private. What you post on Facebook isn’t private, either.

So what’s private, then? An argument with your best friend. A bad joke that you texted. Your personal journal. These kinds of things are not meant for public use. What about vacation photos that you stored in a cloud service? Well…they’re supposed to be private, but really, they’re at significant risk and shouldn’t be considered totally private.

And it’s not just people on an individual scale that should worry about privacy. It’s businesses also. Companies are always worrying about privacy, which includes how to protect customers’ sensitive information and company trade secrets.

But even if the company’s IT team came up with the most foolproof security in the world against hacking…it still wouldn’t protect 100 percent. Somewhere, somehow, there will be a leak—some careless employee, for instance, who gets lured by a phishing e-mail on their mobile phone…clicks the link, gives out sensitive company information and just like that a hacker has found his way in.

Even when employees are trained in security awareness, this kind of risk will always exist. An insider could be the bad guy who visually hacks sensitive data on the computer screen of an employee who was called away for a brief moment by another employee.

Tips for Training Employees on Security Savvy

  • Make it fun. Give giant chocolate bars, gifts and prizes out to employees for good security behaviors.
  • Post fun photos with funny captions on signage touting content from the company’s security policy document. It’s more likely to be read in this context than simply handed to them straight.
  • Show management is invested. Behavior changes start from the top down,
  • Get other departments involved. Even if they’re small, such as HR, legal and marketing, they will benefit from security training.
  • Stop visual hackers. Equip employees with a 3M Privacy Filter and an ePrivacy Filter which helps bar snooping eyes from being able to see what’s on the user’s screen from virtually every angle.
  • Don’t forbid everything that’s potential trouble. Rather than say, “Don’t go on social media,” say, “Here’s what not do to when you’re on social media.”
  • Make it personal. Inform workers how data breaches could damage them, not just the company. A little shock to their system will motivate them to be more careful.

Robert Siciliano is a Privacy Consultant to 3M discussing Identity Theft and Privacy on YouTube. Disclosures.

Cloud Data Breaches mo’ Money

IT people need to beef up their opinions about cloud security, says a recent report by the Ponemon Institute called “Data Breach: The Cloud Multiplier Effect.”

3DYes, data breaches occur in the cloud. In fact, it can be triple the cost of a data breach involving a brick and mortar medium.

The report put together data from the responses of over 600 IT and IT security people in the U.S. The report has three observations:

  • Many of the respondents don’t think that their companies are adequately inspecting cloud services for security.
  • The cost of a data breach can be pricey.
  • When a business attempts to bring its own cloud, this is the costliest for high value intellectual property.

More Results

  • 72% of the participants thought that their cloud service providers would fail to notify them of a breach if it involved theft of sensitive company data.
  • 71% believed this would be the same outcome for customer data breaches.

Many company decision makers don’t think they have a whole lot of understanding into how much data or what kind is stored in a cloud.

  • 90% thought that a breach could result when backups and storage of classified data were increased by 50 percent over a period of 12 months.
  • 65% believed that if the data center were moved from the U.S. to a location offshore, a breach could result.

All of these findings mentioned here are the result of self-estimations rather than objective analysis of real breaches.

Ponemon also determined that if a breach involved at least 100,000 records of stolen personal data, the economic impact could jump from an average of $2.4 million to $4 million, up to $7.3 million. For a breach of confidential or high-value IP data, the impact would soar from $3 million to $5.4 million.

In addition to the self-reporting loophole, the report had a low response rate: Only 4.2 percent of the targeted 16,330 people responded, and in the end, only 3.8 percent were actually used. Nevertheless, you can’t ignore that even self-estimated attitudes paint a dismal picture of how cloud security is regarded.

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

Data Breaches Equal Job Loss

Is it coincidence that Beth Jacob CIO resigned from her job as chief information officer of Target Corporation? Or could this possibly be connected to the data breach that slammed Target in December of 2013, affecting as many as 70 million customers? Being a CIO is no easy task, especially when you have thousands of criminals trying to breach your networks every minute of every day.

4DTarget also announced that its information security procedures and compliance division will be completely revamped. The retail giant will also be seeking an interim CIO.

That’s not all. Gregg Steinhafel, Target’s former chief executive, recently lost his job with the retailer due to the data breach. He had been with the company for 35 years.

Should weaknesses in computer safety be blamed on Chief Executive Officers? Yes, because ultimately, the CEO is responsible for protecting the customer’s sensitive data. For instance, Steinhafel was at the helm when thieves hacked customer data records such as credit card information and home addresses, from the retailer’s computer system. Boards are also latching onto this issue and will be very influential in the before and after of a breach.

The company CEO isn’t just responsible for sales; this individual is responsible for security. Target’s data breach is a rude awakening for CEOs everywhere; data security breaches influence sales—very negatively—not to mention customer loyalty.

And then there’s the enormous expense of recovering from the breach and regaining customer trust. In Target’s case it rings in at $17 million thus far. And it is growing. Ultimately, the costs for everything related to the data breach is projected to soar into the billions.

The Secret Service, which is involved in the ongoing investigation, reports that it may take years to nail the hackers.

Law Enforcements motto is “Serve and Protect” and people gripe “where’s a cop when you need one” suggesting Law Enforcement is supposed to be there to protect us at all times. This misconception has created an entire culture of “its not my job/responsibility/problem”. YES. IT. IS. As a company front line employee, an officer or a CEO, security is your responsibility. Security is everyone’s responsibility.

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.

7 Ways we leak our Private Data

Smartphone apps. There are apps wanting your location when they do not need it. Are there any apps requesting your location? You should deny them this information unless it’s absolutely necessary.

2PAnother way your phone knows where you are in terms of location is through the data of a photo. Put up lots of photos on Facebook, and the metadata will contain your location. A stranger can then figure out your where you’ve parked yourself.

Solve this problem with these apps for iOS and Android: deGeo and Pixelgarde, respectively. They’ll rid your GPS data prior to the photos getting posted.

Too close for comfort. When services are linked together, your private information is more likely to get leaked. An example would be to hook an app into Facebook. If you link an account, that’s set to private, with a second, public account, anyone might see your activities. Unknowingly granting unwanted access to an app can result in data leakage. To make the process of figuring out all the different privacy rules, you can use MyPermissions. Don’t be lax on privacy issues.

Always being connected. Always staying connected to social networks means they can track your activities via cookies. If you don’t need to be connected online, then disconnect your device from the cyber world. However, it’s easy to forget to keep doing this.

A browser extension can solve this problem by preventing entities from tracking where you visit online. You should also make a habit of deleting cookies from your browser.

And if you want to know how your phone “knows” your shopping habits, it’s because your Wi-Fi is enabled when you walk into stores or even past a retailer without ever stepping inside; stores implement wireless technology to collect your data, even track your walking pattern inside the store. Turn your Wi-Fi connection off when being near retailers.

A retailer’s free service. Sign up for this and they’ll probably collect data from you, somehow, some way. The customer reward card that you get at the supermarket will likely collect lots of your private information.

Not encrypting. Encryption, by scrambling messages, prevents snoops from reading the messages you’re sending while they’re in transit, but the messages can still be found on your device. However, encryption is one way to reduce the amount of data that gets in unwanted hands. Encryption isn’t just for using a public computer; use it on your home computer and mobile too.

Using free WiFi. Every time you log into free WiFi you are either giving your data away through the carrier who logs your device or criminal hackers are sniffing out your information via unencrypted wireless. Never log into free WiFi without a virtual private network (VPN ) like that offered by Hotspot Shield.

Using a public computer to log into a private service. When you access one of your accounts on a computer at a coffee shop or hotel, this can leave your data on that computer. The browser’s private mode is the solution: use it. If you’re particularly concerned, use Tails, a private operating system.

Robert Siciliano is an Identity Theft Expert to Hotspot Shield VPN. He is the author of 99 Things You Wish You Knew Before Your Identity Was Stolen See him discussing internet and wireless security on Good Morning America. Disclosures.