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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.

Fake Emails are Becoming a Major Issue for Businesses

You might be surprised to know that more than 3.4 billion fake emails are sent around the globe each day. What does this mean? It means that almost every company out there is vulnerable to cybercrimes in the form of “spoofing” and “phishing.” On top of this, most companies out there have not protected themselves from this type of cyber attack. What’s even more interesting is that the vast majority of these emails are not coming from some foreign land, but they are coming from sources based in the US.

This all sounds pretty dreary, but it’s not all bad. Research is showing that many industries in the US are making strides against these fake emails, though some are working harder than others.

To get the data for this research, companies like Valimail is using data from internal analysis of billions of different email authentication requests. The company also used almost 20 million public records about email to publish its report.

This report shows that email impersonation, which made up 1.2 percent of all emails sent during the first quarter of 2019, is the favorite weapon of cyber criminals to get access to a network. They also try to get access to sensitive information and intellectual property.

Fake emails are a problem, and they are not blocked by cybersecurity defenses that are traditionally used.

These fake emails are one of the biggest sources of cyberattacks. As more businesses recognize email vulnerabilities, organizations should start using authentication technology to protect against fraudulent and untrustworthy senders.

The fact is this: too many cybercriminals are using fake emails to get through these defenses, and better methods to identify senders is needed to make sure that email is more trustworthy both now and in the future.

Protect Yourself

  • The e-mails usually contain at least one link they want you to click. Hover your mouse to see what the URL is. It may appear legit, but note the “http” part.
  • Reputable sites for giant businesses, such as Microsoft and PayPal, will have an “https” in their URL. The phishing link’s URL will usually not have the “s.”
  • A big red flag is if there are typos or poorly constructed sentences, but a phishing e-mail may also have flawless text.
  • Don’t be fooled by company logos, stock imagery, privacy policies, phone numbers and other formalities in the message field. It’s so easy for a hacker to put these elements in there.
  • Be leery of warnings or alerts that don’t sound right. Gee, why would your account be “in danger of being suspended”?

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.

Deepfakes and the Impact on Cybersecurity Now and in the Future

Can you believe what you see in a video? Most people say ‘yes,’ but the truth is, you no longer can. We all know that photos can be altered, but videos? Thanks to artificial intelligence, these, too, are being altered at a very quick rate.

These videos, known as “deepfakes,” are out there, and they are doing a number on cybersecurity. In fact, leaders in the cybersecurity sector are warning consumers that high tech video alteration is here, and it is very difficult to tell with the naked eye whether or not a video is real or fake.

Leaders in cybersecurity shared an example of how this works. Basically, they created a video of a man, Steve Grobman, an executive from McAfee, speaking. However, the words he was speaking were not his own; they were the words of Celeste Fralick, a female data scientist, who had created this deepfake video to make a point. This might seem like a fun trick to play on your friends, but in reality, it could have a huge impact on cybersecurity, as things like phishing and social engineering will become easier than ever for hackers.

Deepfakes and artificial intelligence can also be used for audio too. Meaning a person’s words can be spliced together seamlessly to create full sentences. Joe Rogan the comedian and podcaster who has 1300+ podcasts was used as a demo. But even more disturbing is Joe Rogans voice with Taylor Swifts face.

What could this mean for you? Well, since it’s so relatively easy to make a video like this, it could cause some real issues for the public. One way that it could be used is to start with a photo, and then change a very small part of it. This change would be unable to be noticed by a human, but the change would be enough for AI to see the photo as something else. So, if you can confuse something like artificial intelligence, you could certainly confuse the systems that are built to stop cybersecurity.

This could have a lot of negative impact on all of us, and it could really give a boost to those who make a living in taking advantage of others via cybercrimes.

The good news is that though this type of technology could be used for bad, artificial intelligence could also be used for good things. For example, the technology could be used to create a crime map of where crimes have happened and where arrests could be made, which would make our streets, safer. At the same time, it could also be used by criminals to know where they could commit a crime without being arrested. You could also look at it like this. During World War II, more than two million people were killed by bombs that were dropped from airplanes. Based on that information, Orville Wright, the inventor of the airplane, was asked if he regretted this invention. He said ‘no.’ Why? Because he looked at the airplane as similar as to fire; it could cause terrible destruction, but at the same time, it is so very useful. This new technology is the same, and it will be interesting to see how it comes to truly be used in the future.

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.

Young Kids Getting Sexually Exploited Online More Than Ever Before

An alarming new study is out, and if you are a parent, you should take note…children as young as 8-years old are being sexually exploited via social media. This is a definite downturn from past research, and it seems like one thing is to blame: live streaming.

Robert Siciliano Quora Breach

YouTube serves up videos of kids, in clothing, that pedophiles consume and share as if it is child porn. It’s gotten so bad that YouTube has had to disable the comments sections of videos with kids in them.

Apps like TikTok are very popular with younger kids, and they are also becoming more popular for the sexual predators who seek out those kids. These apps are difficult to moderate, and since it happens in real time, you have a situation that is almost perfectly set up for exploitation.

Last year, a survey found that approximately 57 percent of 12-year olds and 28% of 10-year olds are accessing live-streaming content. However, legally, the nature of much of this content should not be accessed by children under the age of 13. To make matters worse, about 25 percent of these children have seen something while watching a live stream that they and their parents regretted them seeing

Protecting Your Children

Any child can become a victim here, but as a parent, there are some things you can do to protect your kids. First, you should ask yourself the following questions:

  • Are you posting pictures or video of your children online? Do you allow your kids to do the same? A simple video of your child by the pool has become pedophile porn.
  • Do you have some type of protection in place for your kids when they go online?
  • Have you talked to your children about the dangers of sharing passwords or account information?
  • Do your kids understand what type of behavior is appropriate when online?
  • Do you personally know, or do your kids personally know, the people they interact with online?
  • Can your kids identify questions from others that might be red flags, such as “where do you live?” “What are your parents names?” “Where do you go to school?”
  • Do your kids feel safe coming to you to talk about things that make them feel uncomfortable?

It is also important that you, as a parent, look for red flags in your children’s behavior. Here are some of those signs:

  • Your kid gets angry if you don’t let them go online.
  • Your child become secretive about what they do online, such as hiding their phone when you walk into the room.
  • Your kid withdraws from friends or family to spend time online.

It might sound like the perfect solution is to “turn off the internet” at home, but remember, your kids can access the internet in other ways, including at school and at the homes of their friends. It would be great to build a wall around your kids to keep them safe, but that’s not practical, nor is it in their best interest. Instead, talk to your child about online safety and make sure the entire family understands the dangers that are out there.

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

Who Has Access to Your Personal Info? The Answer Might Surprise You

Are you aware that many people probably have access to your personal info? If you have ever gotten an apartment, have insurance, or applied for a job, someone has done a background check on you, and you might be shocked by what’s in there, including your debts, income, loan payments, and more. On top of this, there are also companies collecting information on you including:

  • Lenders
  • Employers
  • Government agencies
  • Volunteer organizations
  • Landlords
  • Banks/credit unions
  • Insurance companies
  • Debt collectors
  • Utility companies…and more

Thanks to the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), you can get a copy of these reports every year for a small fee, and they are free if there has been any type of adverse action against you. You can also get this information from certain organizations including the following:

Credit Agencies

Most people know the main credit reporting bureaus, Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax. The reports that these companies give you can include your loan and credit card payment history, how much credit you have, info from debt collectors, and other information.

Employment Screening

If you have applied for a job, you might have gone through employee screening. These employers have access to things like your salary history, credit history, education, and even criminal history.

Housing/Tenant Screening

If you have ever rented an apartment or home, your landlord might have done a background check, too. This might include prior evictions and other negative information.

Banking and Check Screening

Your bank also might have information on you, which could include your banking history, such as negative balances on your checking account or unpaid bills.

Medical Insurance

Finally, if you have medical insurance, your insurance company has probably also done a background check on you. These policies include life insurance, health insurance, long-term care insurance, critical illness insurance, or disability insurance.

Lifehacker and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s 2019 report compiled a pretty amazing list below. Check it out.

The nice thing about these things, however, is that you have a right to access all of these reports, too. In most cases, these reports are free. You can ask these organizations what background check companies they are using, and then you might be able to request a free report. Again, if there is any negative information on these reports that cause you to, for instance, not be hired by an employer, you will automatically get a free copy of this report so you can see the derogatory information for yourself, and then take any steps you can to change 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.

How To Determine a Fake Website

There are a lot of scammers out there, and one of the things they do is create fake websites to try to trick you into giving them personal information. Here are some ways that you can determine if a website is fake or not:

How Did I Get Here?

Ask yourself how you got to the site. Did you click a link in an email? Email is the most effective ways scammers direct their victims to fake sites. Same thing goes with links from social media sites, Danger Will Robinson! Don’t click these links. Instead, go to websites via a search through Google or use your bookmarks, or go old school and type it in.

Are There Grammar or Spelling Issues?

Many fake sites are created by foreign entities using “scammer grammar”. So their English is usually broken, and they often make grammar and spelling mistakes. And when they use a translating software, it may not translate two vs too or their vs there etc.

Are There Endorsements?

Endorsements are often seen as safe, but just because you see them on a site doesn’t mean they are real. A fake website might say that the product was featured by multiple news outlets, for instance, but that doesn’t mean it really was. The same goes for trust or authenticating badges. Click on these badges. Most valid ones lead to a legitimate site explaining what the badge means.

Look at the Website Address

A common scam is to come up with a relatively similar website URL to legitimate sites. Ths also known as typosquatting or cybersquatting. For instance, you might want to shop at https://www.Coach.com for a new purse. That is the real site for Coach purses. However, a scammer might create a website like //www.C0ach.com, or //www.coachpurse.com.  Both of these are fake. Also, look for secure sites that have HTTPS, not HTTP. You can also go to Google and search “is www.C0ach.com legit”, which may pull up sites debunking the legitimacy of the URL.

Can You Buy With a Credit Card? 

Most valid websites take credit cards. Credit cards give you some protection, too. If they don’t take plastic, and only want a check, or a wire transfer, be suspect, or really don’t bother.

Are the Prices Amazing?

Is it too good to be true? If the cost of the items on a particular page seem much lower than you have found elsewhere, it’s probably a scam. For instance, if you are still looking for a Coach purse and find the one you want for $100 less than you have seen on other valid sites, you probably shouldn’t buy it.

Check Consumer Reviews

Finally, check out consumer reviews. Also, take a look at the Better Business Bureau listing for the company. The BBB has a scam tracker, too, that you can use if you think something seems amiss. Also, consider options like SiteJabber.com, which is a site that collects online reviews for websites. Just keep in mind that some reviews might be fake, so you really have to take a broad view when determining if a site is legit or one to quit.

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.

Protect your USPS Mail from Getting Stolen

USPSID stands for U.S. Postal Service Informed Delivery. It is a good thing to sign up for because it informs you of your expected deliveries.

But there’s a problem: Someone ELSE could pose as you and sign up for this service, getting your mail before you have a chance to.

In fact, it has already happened. Crooks have signed up as other address owners and collected their mail.

This can lead to credit card fraud if some of that mail includes new credit cards or credit card applications.

And what if the mail includes a check? The thief could find a way to get it cashed. What a thief could do with your mail is limited only by his or her imagination.

Krebsonsecurity.com reports that seven crooks in Michigan used the USPS to, not surprisingly, apply for credit cards via those applications that we all get.

Then they waited for the new cards to arrive. They knew just when they’d arrive, too, and planned to raid the owner’s mailbox on that date. Of course, the owners never even knew that the cards were applied for.

The crooks obtained the cards and spent a total of about $400,000. Needless to say, they didn’t bother stealing the bills.

Though a key on your mailbox will surely help, you can add an extra layer of protection by emailing eSafe@usps.gov to opt out of the service. This will prevent anyone from using it in your name.

KrebsOnSecurity reports that this email address may be inactive. So at least have your mailbox fashioned with a lock – even if you do get a response from that email address.

Another thing you can do is get a credit freeze, though this doesn’t guarantee 100 percent that a thief won’t be able to sign up your address with the USPS, but the freeze will prevent new credit cards being opened in your name.

What Else Can You Do?

  • Check your existing credit card statements every month for any odd or unfamiliar charges and report them immediately even if the amount is small.
  • Contact credit reporting agencies (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion) and sign up for alerts to any changes in your credit report.
  • Can’t be said enough: Get a locking mailbox, there’s simply too much sensitive information not to.

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.

 

10 Ways to Prevent Holiday Shopping Scams

The winter holidays: a time for festivities and … fraud-tivities.

Gift Card Grab

Never, ever enter your credit card or other sensitive information to claim a gift card that comes via email.

Never Buy Over Public WiFi

Shopping over public WiFi means your credit card, bank account or login data could get picked up by a cyber thief. Use a VPN.

Coupon Cautious

If a coupon deal seems too good to be true, then assume it is. End of story. Next.

Password Housekeeping

  • Change the passwords for all your sensitive accounts.
  • No two passwords should be the same.
  • Passwords should be a random salad of upper and lower case letters, numbers and symbols – at least 12 total.
  • A password manager can ease the hassle.

Two Step Verification

  • A login attempt will send a one-time numerical code to the user’s phone.
  • The user must type that code into the account login field to gain access.
  • Prevents unauthorized logins unless the unauthorized user has your phone AND login credentials.

Think Before You Click

  • Never click links that arrive in your in-box that supposedly linking to a reputable retailer’s site announcing a fantastic sale.
  • Kohl’s, Macy’s, Walmart and other giant retailers don’t do this. And if they do, ignore them.
  • So who does this? Scammers. They hope you’ll click the link because it’ll download a virus.
  • The other tactic is that the link will take you to a mock spoofed site of the retailer, lure you into making a purchase, and then a thief will steal your credit card data.

Bank and Credit Card Security

  • Find out what kind of security measures your bank has and then use them such as caps on charges or push notifications.
  • Consider using a virtual credit card number that allows a one-time purchase. It temporarily replaces your actual credit card number and is worthless to a thief.

Job Scams

Forget the online ad that promises $50/hour or $100 for completing a survey. If you really need money then get a real job.

Monthly Self-Exam

For financial health: Every month review all your financial statements to see if there is any suspicious activity. Even an unknown charge for $1.89 is suspicious, because sometimes, crooks make tiny purchases to gage the account holder’s suspicion index. Report these immediately.

Https vs. http

  • The “s” at the end means the site is secure.
  • Do all your shopping off of https sites.
  • In line with this, update your browser as well.

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.

Protect Yourself From Gift Card Scams

So maybe Christmas now means the very predictable gift card swap, but hey, who can’t use a gift card? But beware, there are a ton of scams. This includes physical, not just digital, gift cards.

Regardless of who gave you the card, you should always practice security measures. Below are two common ways that fraudsters operate.

Transform Gift Card to Cash Twice.

If someone gives you a $200 gift card to an electronics store and then it’s stolen, you technically have lost money, as this is the same as someone stealing a wad of cash from your pocket.

Nevertheless, you’ll feel the loss just as much. Crooks who steal gift cards have numerous ways of using them.

  • Joe Thief has plans on buying a $200 item with your stolen gift card from your gym locker.
  • But first he places an ad for the card online, pricing it at a big discount of $130 saying he doesn’t need anything, he just needs money.
  • Someone out there spots this deal and sends Joe the money via PayPal or Venmo.
  • Joe then uses the $200 gift card to buy an item and sells it on eBay
  • And he just netted $130 on selling a stolen gift card that he never shipped.

Infiltration of Online Gift Card Accounts

Joe Thief might also use a computer program called a botnet to get into an online gift card account.

  • You must log into your gift card account with characters.
  • Botnets also log into these accounts. Botnets are sent by Joe Thief to randomly guess your login characters with a brute force attack: a computerized creation of different permutations of numbers and letters – by the millions in a single attack.
  • The botnet just might get a hit – yours.

Here’s How to Protect Yourself

  • Be leery of deals posted online, in magazines or in person that seem too good to be true and are not advertised by reputable retailers.
  • Buy gift cards straight from the source.
  • Don’t buy gift cards at high traffic locations, at which it’s easier for Joe to conceal his tampering.
  • Change the card’s security code.
  • Create long and jumbled usernames and passwords to lessen the chance of a brute force hit.
  • The moment you suspect fraudulent activity, report it to the retailer.
  • Spend the card right away.

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.

How Your Username Can Be used to Track You

You probably have a few usernames, or you might have just one that you use for every site. Either way, your user names can be used not just to identify you online, but it can also be used to track you and find out information about you. How do people track you based on your user name? They do the following:

They Start with a Google Search

The first thing people do to track your username is do a Google search. You will be amazed by all of the information that is out there. However, Google is not the only game in town, so the best scammers will search on other search engines, too, including Bing,  USA.gov, various information broker sites and within social media.

They Then Move on to Social Networks

With so many people on social networks, it is a good possibility that a scammer can find you there, too, especially if they know the username that you use over and over again. It’s easy to find someone on sites like Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, and Instagram, and in many cases, this is a gold mine of information for them.  Once they find your account, they can do any number of things like save your profile image, and then do a reverse image source. This often helps them find even more information.

Don’t Forget the Blogs

Savvy searchers will also do searches of a username on blogging sites like Tumblr, Blogger, and LiveJournal. Unless your blog is locked down, and most are not, they can read them.

Do a General Sweep of Username Searches

There are other sites, too, that allow people to search by username. For example, you can search for a username on Spotify. This could tell them what types of music you like. They also might look on a site like Reddit, and they can see any comments you have made. They aren’t done yet, though…you can even search for usernames on sites like Amazon.com and eBay. As you can imagine, once they go through all of these steps, they can know a ton about you.

You might think that this is an invasion of privacy, but all of this information is totally legal, totally available, and totally free.

And many of you are TOTALLY putting it ALL out there!

If you put your information out there, it is there for anyone to look at and use as they will. So, consider changing up your usernames, and while you are at it, take a look at your accounts and content to make sure nothing there’s going to get you in trouble, and beef up the security options.

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.