Daily Archives: June 4, 2019

What You Can Do to Reduce Your E-Waste This World Environment Day

Our love of technology and often biological need for new devices has created one of the biggest environmental issues of our time – e-waste. Today is World Environment Day – a great opportunity to ensure we are doing all we can to minimise landfill and protect our precious environment.

Over the last 12 months, BYO shopping bags, paper straws and ‘truly recyclable’ takeaway coffee cups have dominated our national environmental dialogue as essential ways to minimise future landfill. But with the average Aussie family generating a whopping 73 kg per year of e-waste, it’s critical that we turn our attention to our growing e-waste crisis this World Environment Day.

What is e-Waste?

E-Waste refers to old technology that you are no longer using. It includes microwaves, computers, TVs, batteries, screens, chargers, printer cartridges and even kitchen appliances.

High amounts of non-renewable resources such as plastic and precious metals (gold, silver, platinum, nickel, zinc, copper and aluminium) are found in e-waste. So, recycling these materials to make new electronics not only makes good financial sense but it also prevents products from winding up in a landfill.

According to experts, the average Aussie household own a startling 17 devices with predictions that this will increase to 27 by 2022.  So, it’s clear that our e-waste problem needs to be tackled head-on.

How Much e-Waste Is Generated Annually?

In January, the United Nations and World Economic Forum reported that the world produces 50 million tonnes of e-waste a year – around the same mass as 125,000 jumbo jets which is more than all the commercial aircraft ever built!

But interestingly, e-waste isn’t all bad news. In 2017, the UN University estimated the value of raw materials in e-waste to be worth  $US62.5 billion annually which exceeds the GDP (gross domestic product) of 123 countries. So, the opportunities contained in effective e-waste management are not only environmental but financial as economies could be bolstered and jobs could be created.

What Can We Do to Minimise It?

There are definitely steps we can all take to reduce our e-waste. While the obvious (less popular) strategy is to STOP purchasing new electronics, focussing in recycling and repurposing will go a long way to reducing our e-waste footprint. Here are my top tips:

  1. Repair or Refresh Your Current Devices

While we all love the idea of a shiny, new device, it’s often possible to repair or rejuvenate devices to avoid spending big bucks on a new one. Most devices can usually be repaired and even enhanced with a little expert ‘know-how’. I have spent a large chunk of my parenting career repairing and rescuing smartphones that were dropped, ‘washed’ or just deemed not ‘cool enough’. But the good news, it doesn’t take much to fix these issues: screens can be replaced, faults can be rectified, and new covers can be purchased to re-energise ‘the look’. And don’t forget the power of a software upgrade to ensure your phone is operating at its peak performance. If you are an Apple user, why not book a visit to their Genius Bar and let their staff show you how to get your device working at its optimum level?

  1. Sell or Give Away Your Unwanted Electronics

One of the easiest ways to manage your unwanted electronic devices is to rehome them. Gumtree and eBay are great online marketplaces to make a bit of extra cash by selling your obsolete devices. I know my boys have taken great delight in making a few extra bucks selling old phones and iPads over the years. Many charities also welcome donations of pre-loved smartphones or laptops so they can rehome them to people in Australia and overseas who just can’t afford to purchase their own. But don’t forget to wipe the data from your devices, remove your SIM cards and ideally do a factory reset of the phone to protect your privacy.

  1. Repurpose Your Old Smartphone

Instead of throwing out your old phone, why not repurpose it? Consider using it as a standalone GPS device in your car or perhaps dedicate it to your family’s music collection? Or why not turn it into a stand-alone home security camera?  Or even a baby monitor or a Google Home speaker? The possibilities are endless

  1. Turn Your Smartphone into a Child-Friendly Entertainment Device

If your little ones are after their ‘own phone’ then why not turn your old one into a custom child-friendly device? It’s super easy to set a passcode and turn age-appropriate restrictions on. Within minutes, you can lock down the device and turn off access to anything you don’t want your child to get involved with. This includes the camera, web browser and permission to install apps. Genius!

  1. Organise Your Current Fleet Before You Buy Anything New

Before you invest in new devices, organise what you already own to make sure you really need to make that purchase. A clean-up of desks, cupboards and kitchen drawers may yield a stash of chargers, USB sticks, hard drives and even old smartphones you had forgotten about. And consider sharing gadgets and chargers between family members to avoid buying new items.

  1. Recycle, Recycle, Recycle

But if you decide, it’s time to say farewell to your old devices, PLEASE recycle them properly. Many e-waste experts, including Craig Reucassel environmental champion from the ABC’s ‘War on Waste’, believe the biggest challenge to reducing e-waste is getting devices out of people’ s drawers and garages and into designated recycling stations.

But the good news is that there are a number of user-friendly recycling options available:

  1. TechCollect is a free Australia-wide e-waste recycling initiative which is funded by some of the leading tech brands with the aim of avoiding landfill. Check out their website for the closest recycling centre to you.
  2. Mobile Muster provides mobile phone recycling facilities in Australia with over 3000 drop locations. Check out your closest drop-off point on their website.
  3. Many local councils also offer recycling options for e-waste. Why not contact yours to find out your options?
  4. Consider recycling your smartphone to support your favourite charity. It is now possible to recycle your phone and benefit your favourite charity at the same time. For no cost to the consumer, the Aussie Recycling Program (ARP) will recycle your phone and donate the profits to your nominated charity. They will either sell it on, recycle it or break it down into small parts that can be sold to manufacturers.

With e-waste set to become one of the biggest environmental issues of our generation, it’s time we all took responsibility for our unloved tech goods. If you are a closet hoarder, it’s time to workshop these issues quickly. Because our failure to take action could mean our discarded devices with their toxic by-products end up in landfill potentially polluting our waterways and food supply. So, let’s make this a priority!

Alex xx

 

 

 

The post What You Can Do to Reduce Your E-Waste This World Environment Day appeared first on McAfee Blogs.

LabCorp: 7.7 Million Consumers Hit in Collections Firm Breach

Medical testing giant LabCorp. said today personal and financial data on some 7.7 million consumers were exposed by a breach at a third-party billing collections firm. That third party — the American Medical Collection Agency (AMCA) — also recently notified competing firm Quest Diagnostics that an intrusion in its payments Web site exposed personal, financial and medical data on nearly 12 million Quest patients.

Just a few days ago, the news was all about how Quest had suffered a major breach. But today’s disclosure by LabCorp. suggests we are nowhere near done hearing about other companies with millions of consumers victimized because of this incident: The AMCA is a New York company with a storied history of aggressively collecting debt for a broad range of businesses, including medical labs and hospitals, direct marketers, telecom companies, and state and local traffic/toll agencies.

In a filing today with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, LabCorp. said it learned that the breach at AMCA persisted between Aug. 1, 2018 and March 30, 2019. It said the information exposed could include first and last name, date of birth, address, phone, date of service, provider, and balance information.

“AMCA’s affected system also included credit card or bank account information that was provided by the consumer to AMCA (for those who sought to pay their balance),” the filing reads. “LabCorp provided no ordered test, laboratory results, or diagnostic information to AMCA. AMCA has advised LabCorp that Social Security Numbers and insurance identification information are not stored or maintained for LabCorp consumers.”

LabCorp further said the AMCA has informed LabCorp “it is in the process of sending notices to approximately 200,000 LabCorp consumers whose credit card or bank account information may have been accessed. AMCA has not yet provided LabCorp a list of the affected LabCorp consumers or more specific information about them.”

The LabCorp disclosure comes just days after competing lab testing firm Quest Diagnostics disclosed that the hack of AMCA exposed the personal, financial and medical data on approximately 11.9 million patients.

Quest said it first heard from the AMCA about the breach on May 14, but that it wasn’t until two weeks later that AMCA disclosed the number of patients affected and what information was accessed, which includes financial information (e.g., credit card numbers and bank account information), medical information and Social Security Numbers.

Quest says it has since stopped doing business with the AMCA and has hired a security firm to investigate the incident. Much like LabCorp, Quest also alleges the AMCA still hasn’t said which 11.9 million patients were impacted and that the company was withholding information about the incident.

The AMCA declined to answer any questions about whether the breach of its payment’s page impacted anyone who entered payment data into the company’s site during the breach. But through an outside PR firm, it issued the following statement:

“We are investigating a data incident involving an unauthorized user accessing the American Medical Collection Agency system,” reads a written statement attributed to the AMCA. “Upon receiving information from a security compliance firm that works with credit card companies of a possible security compromise, we conducted an internal review, and then took down our web payments page.”

The statement continues:

“We hired a third-party external forensics firm to investigate any potential security breach in our systems, migrated our web payments portal services to a third-party vendor, and retained additional experts to advise on, and implement, steps to increase our systems’ security. We have also advised law enforcement of this incident. We remain committed to our system’s security, data privacy, and the protection of personal information.”

ANALYSIS

The AMCA also does business under the name “Retrieval-Masters Creditors Bureau,” a company that has been in business since 1977. Retrieval-Masters also has an atrocious reputation for allegedly harassing consumers for debts they never owed.

A search on the company’s name at the complaints page of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) turns up almost 700 complaints for Retrieval-Masters. The company has an abysmal “F” rating from the Better Business Bureau, with 60 complaints closed against it in the last three years.

Reviewing a number of those complaints reveals some of the AMCA’s other current and/or previous clients, including New Jersey’s EZPass system. Recent consumer complaints about the AMCA also invoke the name of American Traffic Solutions, which services rental car fleets and processes some 50 million toll transactions per year. ATS did not respond to requests for comment.

My guess is we will soon hear about many other companies and millions more consumers impacted by this breach at the AMCA. Certainly, companies like Quest and LabCorp. have a duty to ensure contractors are properly safeguarding their patients’ personal, medical and financial information.

But this AMCA incident is the latest example of a breach at a little-known company that nevertheless holds vast quantities of sensitive data that was being shared or stored in ways that were beyond the control of affected consumers.

On May 24, KrebsOnSecurity broke the news that the Web site for Fortune 500 real estate title insurance giant First American Financial [NYSE:FAF] leaked 885 million documents related to mortgage deals going back to 2003, until notified by KrebsOnSecurity. The digitized records — including bank account numbers and statements, mortgage and tax records, Social Security numbers, wire transaction receipts, and drivers license images — were available without authentication to anyone with a Web browser.

Many readers wrote in to say they’d never heard of First American, but it is the largest title insurance company in the United States. Title insurance is generally required for all home mortgages, and it protects the buyer from any previously unknown claims against the property. First American currently handles about one in every four title insurance transactions — usually as part of the mortgage closing process — which means tens of millions of Americans were potentially exposed by the company’s inexplicably lax security.

Is Trouble Brewing for Owners of Smart Coffee Makers and Kettles?

There’s an undeniable appeal to a smart coffee maker that knows when you wake up so you’re never left without a freshly brewed pot. Or a smart tea kettle that heats water to the perfect temperature for brewing your favorite varietal. But does the convenience of automation put your personal data up for grabs? Could smart coffee makers and kettles actually leave you vulnerable to cybercrime?    

On the latest episode of “Hackable?” we answer these important questions about the proliferation of smart home devices — and settle the coffee vs tea debate once and for all with a hacking competition between two teams of white-hats. Listen and learn if there’s more trouble brewing for owners of smart coffee makers or tea kettles.   

Listen now to the award-winning podcast “Hackable?” 


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IDG Contributor Network: Security and the boardroom: From advantage to imperative

Over the past year, all around the world, corporate IT teams watched in horror as one expensive and damaging corporate security breach after another popped up in the headlines. But the flashy ones that made the news are only a fraction of the ones that actually occurred. The use of digital technology expands every day, and so does the number of cyber criminals lurking on the Darknet who are ready and willing to take advantage of any weaknesses in the tech they can spot. As a result, as highlighted in CSO’s 2018 US State of Cybercrime Survey, organizations of all shapes and sizes have borne an onslaught of cyber-attacks and incurred billions in financial losses.

To read this article in full, please click here