Category Archives: identity theft

Bargain or Bogus Booking? Learn How to Securely Plan Summer Travel

With summertime just around the corner, families are eagerly looking to book their next getaway. Since vacation is so top-of-mind during the summer months, users are bound to come across websites offering cheap deals on flights, accommodations, and other experiences and activities. With so many websites claiming to offer these “can’t-miss deals,” how do you know who to trust?

It turns out that this is a common concern among folks looking for a little summer getaway. According to our recent survey of 8,000 people across the UK, US, Canada, Australia, France, Germany, Spain, and Singapore, 54% of respondents worry about their identity being stolen while booking and purchasing travel and accommodation online. However, 27% don’t check the authenticity of a website before booking their vacation online. Over half of these respondents say that it doesn’t cross their minds to do so.

These so-called “great deals” can be difficult to pass up. Unfortunately, 30% of respondents have been defrauded thanks to holiday travel deals that were just too good to be true. What’s more, 46.3% of these victims didn’t realize they had been ripped off until they arrived at their holiday rental to find that the booking wasn’t actually valid.

In addition to avoiding bogus bookings, users should also refrain from risky online behavior while enjoying their summer holidays. According to our survey, 44.5% of respondents are putting themselves at risk while traveling by not checking the security of their internet connection or willingly connecting to an unsecured network. 61% also stated that they never use a VPN, while 22% don’t know what a VPN is.

Unfortunately, travel-related attacks aren’t limited to just travelers either; hotels are popular targets for cybercriminals. According to analysis conducted by the McAfee Advanced Threat Research team, the most popular attack vectors are POS malware and account hijacking. Due to these attacks, eager vacationers have had their customer payment, credit card data, and personally identifiable information stolen. In order for users to enjoy a worry-free vacation this summer, it’s important that they are aware of the potential cyberthreats involved when booking their trips online and what they can do to prevent them.

Together with HomeAway, we here at McAfee are working to help inform users of the risks they face when booking through unsecured or unreliable websites as well as when they’re enjoying some summertime R&R. Check out the following tips so you can enjoy your vacation without questioning the status of your cybersecurity:

  • Always connect with caution. If you need to conduct transactions on a public Wi-Fi connection, use a virtual private network (VPN) to help keep your connection secure.
  • Think before you click. Often times, cybercriminals use phishing emails or fake sites to lure consumers into clicking links for products or services that could lead to malware. If you receive an email asking you to click on a link with a suspicious URL, it’s best to avoid interacting with the message altogether.
  • Browse with security protection. Use a comprehensive security solution, like McAfee Total Protection, which includes McAfee WebAdvisor that can help identify malicious websites.
  • Utilize an identity theft solution. With all this personal data floating around online, it’s important to stay aware of any attempts to steal your identity. Use an identity theft solution, such as McAfee Identity Theft Protection, that can help protect personally identifiable information from identity theft and fraud.

And, as always, to stay updated on all of the latest consumer and mobile security threats, follow @McAfee_Home on Twitter, listen to our podcast Hackable?, and ‘Like’ us on Facebook.

The post Bargain or Bogus Booking? Learn How to Securely Plan Summer Travel appeared first on McAfee Blogs.

4 Tips to Protect Your Information During Medical Data Breaches

As the companies we trust with our data become more digital, it’s important for users to realize how this affects their own cybersecurity. Take your medical care provider, for instance. You walk into a doctor’s office and fill out a form on a clipboard. This information is then transferred to a computer where a patient Electronic Health Record is created or added to. We trust that our healthcare provider has taken the proper precautions to safely store this data. Unfortunately, medical data breaches are on the rise with a 70% increase over the past seven years. In fact, medical testing company LabCorp just announced that it experienced a breach affecting approximately 7.7 million customers.

How exactly did this breach occur? The information was exposed as a result of an issue with a third-party billing collections vendor, American Medical Collection Agency (AMCA). The information exposed includes names, addresses, birth dates, balance information, and credit card or bank account information provided by customers to AMCA. This breach comes just a few days after Quest Diagnostics, another company who worked with AMCA, announced that they too experienced a breach affecting 11.9 million users.

Luckily, LabCorp stated that they do not store or maintain Social Security numbers and insurance information for their customers. Additionally, the company provided no ordered test, lab results, or diagnostic information to AMCA. LabCorp stated that they intend to provide 200,000 affected users with more specific information regarding the breach and offer them with identity protection and credit monitoring services for two years. And after receiving information on the possible security compromise, AMCA took down its web payments page and hired an external forensics firm to investigate the situation.

Medical data is essentially nonperishable in nature, making it extremely valuable to cybercrooks. It turns out that quite a few security vulnerabilities exist in the healthcare industry, such as unencrypted traffic between servers, the ability to create admin accounts remotely, and disclosure of private information. These types of vulnerabilities could allow cybercriminals to access healthcare systems, as our McAfee Labs researchers discovered. If someone with malicious intent did access the system, they would have the ability to permanently alter medical images, use medical research data for extortion, and more.

Cybercriminals are constantly pivoting their tactics and changing their targets in order to best complete their schemes. As it turns out, medical data has become a hot commodity for cybercrooks. According to the McAfee Labs Threats Report from March 2018, the healthcare sector has experienced a 210% increase in publicly disclosed security incidents from 2016 to 2017. The McAfee Advanced Threat Research Team concluded that many of the incidents were caused by failures to comply with security best practices or to address vulnerabilities in medical software.

While medical care providers should do all that they can to ensure the security of their patients, there are steps users can take to help maintain their privacy. If you think your personal or financial information might be affected by the recent breaches, check out the following tips to help keep your personal data secure:

  • Place a fraud alert.If you suspect that your data might have been compromised, place a fraud alert on your credit. This not only ensures that any new or recent requests undergo scrutiny, but also allows you to have extra copies of your credit report so you can check for suspicious activity.
  • Freeze your credit.Freezing your credit will make it impossible for criminals to take out loans or open up new accounts in your name. To do this effectively, you will need to freeze your credit at each of the three major credit-reporting agencies (Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian).
  • Consider using identity theft protection.A solution like McAfee Identify Theft Protection will help you to monitor your accounts, alert you of any suspicious activity, and help you to regain any losses in case something goes wrong.
  • Be vigilant about checking your accounts.If you suspect that your personal data has been compromised, frequently check your bank account and credit activity. Many banks and credit card companies offer free alerts that notify you via email or text messages when new purchases are made, if there’s an unusual charge, or when your account balance drops to a certain level. This will help you stop fraudulent activity in its tracks.

And, of course, to stay updated on all of the latest consumer and mobile security threats, follow me and @McAfee_Home on Twitter, listen to our podcast Hackable?, and ‘Like’ us on Facebook.

The post 4 Tips to Protect Your Information During Medical Data Breaches appeared first on McAfee Blogs.

Australia National University Reveals Data Breach Involving 19 Years of Info

Australia National University (ANU) has disclosed a data breach that affected some information of its community members dating back 19 years. On 4 June, ANU Vice-Chancellor Brian Schmidt revealed that the school had discovered a data breach in May. An analysis of the event uncovered that someone had accessed the school’s systems illegally back in […]… Read More

The post Australia National University Reveals Data Breach Involving 19 Years of Info appeared first on The State of Security.

Many are seeing the damage of cybercrime and identity theft firsthand

As massive data breaches continue to make international headlines and the Internet is an integral part of our daily lives, consumers are now grasping the risks they face. In a new F-Secure survey, 71% of respondents say they feel that they will become a victim of cybercrime or identity theft, while 73% expressed similar fears about their kids. “These findings are absolutely staggering and show many people are seeing the damage of cybercrime or identity … More

The post Many are seeing the damage of cybercrime and identity theft firsthand appeared first on Help Net Security.

Attention Graphic Designers: It’s Time to Secure Your Canva Credentials

Online graphic design tools are extremely useful when it comes to creating resumes, social media graphics, invitations, and other designs and documents. Unfortunately, these platforms aren’t immune to malicious online activity. Canva, a popular Australian web design service, was recently breached by a malicious hacker, resulting in 139 million user records compromised.

So, how was this breach discovered? The hacker, who goes by the name GnosticPlayers, contacted a security reporter from ZDNet on May 24th and made him aware of the situation. The hacker claims to have stolen data pertaining to 1 billion users from multiple websites. The compromised data from Canva includes names, usernames, email addresses, city, and country information.

Canva claims to securely store all user passwords using the highest standards via a Bcrypt algorithm. Bcrypt is a strong, slow password-hashing algorithm designed to be difficult and time-consuming for hackers to crack since hashing causes one-way encryption. Additionally, each Canva password was salted, meaning that random data was added to passwords to prevent revealing identical passwords used across the platform. According to ZDNet, 61 million users had their passwords encrypted with the Bcrypt algorithm, resulting in 78 million users having their Gmail addresses exposed in the breach.

Canva has notified users of the breach through email and ensured that their payment card and other financial data is safe. However, even if you aren’t a Canva user, it’s important to be aware of what cybersecurity precautions you should take in the event of a data breach. Check out the following tips:

  • Change your passwords. As an added precaution, Canva is encouraging their community of users to change their email and Canva account passwords. If a cybercriminal got a hold of the exposed data, they could gain access to your other accounts if your login credentials were the same across different platforms.
  • Check to see if you’ve been affected. If you’ve used Canva and believe your data might have been exposed, use this tool to check or set an alert to be notified of other potential data breaches.
  • Secure your personal data. Use a security solution like McAfee Identity Theft Protection. If your information is compromised during a breach, Identity Theft Protection helps monitor and keep tabs on your data in case a cybercriminal attempts to use it.

And, as always, to stay updated on all of the latest consumer and mobile security threats, follow @McAfee_Home on Twitter, listen to our podcast Hackable?, and ‘Like’ us on Facebook.

The post Attention Graphic Designers: It’s Time to Secure Your Canva Credentials appeared first on McAfee Blogs.

Identity theft victims could lead us to accept more security-improving friction

Far too many individuals who have never been victims of identity theft and financial crimes don’t understand how devastating those are to victims. “There are many victim services organizations that assist violent crime victims and the understanding of the trauma and the victim experience is not questioned (which is very appropriate and as it should be),” Eva Velasquez, president and CEO of the Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC), told Help Net Security. After all, we … More

The post Identity theft victims could lead us to accept more security-improving friction appeared first on Help Net Security.

Privacy Awareness Week 2019 – Are You In The Dark About Your Online Privacy?

If you haven’t given your online privacy much attention lately then things need to change. In our era of weekly data breaches, the ‘I’ve got nothing to hide’ excuse no longer cuts it. In my opinion, ensuring your privacy is protected online is probably more important than protecting your home and car! A sloppy approach to online privacy can have devastating ramifications to your financial health, your career and even your physical wellbeing.

This week is Privacy Awareness Week in Australia – a great reminder to give our online privacy a ‘check-up’ and work out what we can do to ensure the information we share online (and who sees it) is locked down.

What Do We Need to Protect?

When we think about online privacy, we often think about protecting our password and financial data online. But it’s a little more complicated. There are 2 categories of information that we share in our online life that requires protection.

  1. Personally Identifying Information (PII) – this includes our name, birthdate, address and Medicare number
  2. Non-Personally Identifying Information – this includes the information about what we do online. It’s a combination of the websites we visit, what we buy online, our online searches and the pages we like on our social media profiles. Our online activity creates a digital folder about ourselves and many companies just love this data so they can send targeted ads your way. Ever wondered why you receive ads about holiday destinations after a few wishful holiday Google searches?

Without adequate online privacy, all the information about our online activities can be collected and analysed by third parties. In fact, data collected (legally) about you by websites can be very lucrative! Companies, known as data brokers, collect and maintain data on millions on people and charge handsomely for their services!

Why Do I Need To Worry About My Online Privacy?

Just think for a moment about some of the information that is stored about you online…

  • Your PII is stored in the background of probably every online account you have including social media, news and banking
  • Your online banking and superannuation sites contain details of all your accounts and your net worth
  • Your health and taxation records maybe accessible online which may contain sensitive information you would prefer not to be shared
  • If you haven’t disabled location services on your phone, your whereabouts can be tracked by clever parties on a daily basis
  • Your pictures and videos

While some of this information is stored without your control, there are steps you can take to tighten up access.

Now, think about your daily online activity…

  • Anything you order online via your web browser can be recorded
  • Anytime you send an email with sensitive information, there is a risk this will also be shared
  • Anytime you pay on the go using a facility like Apple Pay, your purchase will be tracked
  • Anything you search for, the articles you read, the movie tickets you buy and even your weekly online grocery order can be tracked

If this comes as a shock to you then you’re not alone. Many Aussies have been in the dark about what information is available about them online. But, don’t throw the towel in – there are strategies to tighten up your online privacy.

How To Get Your Online Privacy Under Control

There are a few simple steps you can take to lock down your valuable online information. So, make yourself a nice cuppa and let’s get to work:

  1. Manage Your Passwords

Your online passwords are as important as your house keys. In fact, in many cases, it is the only thing stopping cybercriminals from accessing our vital information that we have saved online. So, if you want to tighten up access to your online banking, your social media platforms and your favourite online shopping sites then you need to think carefully about how you manage your passwords.

Passwords need to be complex and unique with at least 8-10 characters and a combination of letters, numbers and symbols. And each of your online accounts should have a separate password which should be changed regularly. Too hard? Consider a Password Manager which creates and manages complex passwords for each of your online accounts – a complete no brainer!! McAfee’s Total Protection software includes a Password Manager which stores, auto-fills and generates unique passwords for all your online accounts. All you need to do is remember one master password! Easy!

And don’t forget, if one of your online accounts is affected by a data breach, then you need to change that password ASAP. If you have a password manager, simply have it generate another password for you.

  1. Use Public Wi-Fi With Caution

If you are serious about your online privacy then you need to use public Wi-Fi sparingly. Unsecured public Wi-Fi is a very risky business. Anything you share could easily find its way into the hands of cybercriminals. So, please avoid sharing any sensitive or personal information while using public Wi-Fi. If you travel regularly or spend the bulk of your time on the road then consider investing in a VPN. A VPN (Virtual Private Network) encrypts your activity which means your login details and other sensitive information is protected. McAfee has a great VPN product called Safe Connect. An excellent insurance policy!

  1. Use 2-Factor Authentication

Adding an additional layer of security to protect yourself when accessing your online accounts is another great way of guarding your online privacy. Turn on two-factor authentication for Google, Dropbox, Facebook and whatever other site offers it. For those new to this option, this means that in addition to your password, you will need to provide another form of identification to ensure you are who you say you are. Most commonly, this is a code sent to your mobile phone or generated by a smart phone app.

  1. Keep Your Software Updated

Software updates and patches are often designed to address a security vulnerability so ALWAYS install them so the bad guys can’t take advantage of security hole in your system. If it all becomes to hard, why not automate the updates?

  1. Invest in Security Software for ALL Your Devices

Installing comprehensive security software on all your devices including laptops, tablets and smartphones adds another layer of protection to your vital online information. Check out McAfee’s Total Protection software that will ensure you and your devices are protected against viruses, malware spyware and ransomware.

  1. Consider a Search Engine that Doesn’t Track Your Every Move Online

If you would prefer that your search engines didn’t collect and store the information you enter then consider an alternative ‘privacy focussed’ search engine. Check out DuckDuckGo that doesn’t profile users or track or sell your information to third parties.

  1. Delete All Cookies

Cookies are another way your online activity can be tracked. While some are harmless and used to simply remember things about you such as your login information and language, others known as  tracking cookies remain permanently constantly gathering information about your behaviour and what you click on. So, let’s get rid of them! Head into your web browser’s Privacy settings and clean them out.

So, let’s get our online privacy under control this Privacy Awareness Week. But don’t forget about your kids and elderly relatives too! Proactively managing one’s online privacy needs to be a priority for everyone. Why not start a conversation at the dinner table? Perhaps give the family a daily privacy related task every day during Privacy Awareness Week? For example:

Monday – Clean up your passwords or set up a Password Manager

Tuesday –  Research a VPN

Wednesday – Set up 2 factor authentication

Thursday – Ensure all your software is up to date and set up auto-updates where possible

Friday – Research privacy focussed search engines and delete all cookies

Over to you mums and dads. Would love to hear how you go.

Alex xx

 

 

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Avoid a Security Endgame: Learn About the Latest “Avengers” Scam

Marvel Studio’s $2.2 billion box-office hit “Avengers: Endgame” has quickly risen to the second-highest grossing film of all time in its first two weekends. Not surprisingly, cybercriminals have wasted no time in capitalizing on the movie’s success by luring victims with free digital downloads of the film. How? By tempting users with security shortcuts so they can watch the film without worrying about spoilers or sold-out movie tickets.

When a victim goes to download the movie from one of the many scam sites popping up around the web, the streaming appears to begin automatically. What the user doesn’t know is that the footage being streamed is just from the movie’s trailer. Soon after, a message pops up stating that the user needs to create an account to continue with the download. The “free” account prompts the user to create a username and password in advance, which could potentially be useful for cybercriminals due to the common practice of password reuse. Once a victim creates an account, they are asked for billing information and credit card details in order to “verify location” and make sure the service is “licensed to distribute” the movie in the victim’s region. These crooks are then able to scrape the victim’s personal and financial data, potentially leading to online account hacks, stolen funds, identity theft, and more.

Luckily, Marvel fans can protect their online data to avoid a cybersecurity endgame by using the following tips:

  • Look out for potential scam activity. If it seems too good to be true, then it probably is. Be wary of websites promising free movie downloads, especially for movies that are still in theaters.
  • Shield your financial data. Be suspicious of “free downloads” that still require you to fill out billing information. If an unknown website asks for your credit card information or your bank account data, it’s best to avoid the site altogether.
  • Make sure your credentials are unique. With this scam, threat actors could use the login credentials provided by the victim to access their other accounts if they didn’t have a unique login. Avoiding username and password reuse makes it a lot harder for cybercriminals to hack into your other online accounts if they gain access to one.
  • Assemble a team of comprehensive security tools. Using a tool like McAfee WebAdvisor can help you avoid dangerous websites and links and will warn you in the event that you do accidentally click on something malicious.

And, as always, to stay on top of the latest consumer and mobile security threats, be sure to follow @McAfee_Home on Twitter, listen to our podcast Hackable? and ‘Like’ us on Facebook.

The post Avoid a Security Endgame: Learn About the Latest “Avengers” Scam appeared first on McAfee Blogs.

A False Sense of Cybersecurity: The Riskiest States in America

Reading Time: ~5 min.

Like many Americans, you might think your online habits are safe enough—or, at least, not so risky as to put you in danger for cybercrime. As it happens, most of us in the U.S. are nowhere near as secure as we think we are.

As part of our recent survey to better understand people’s attitudes, perspectives, and behaviors relating to online cyber-safety (or “cyber-hygiene”), we calculated each state’s cyber-hygiene score, which you can think of like a test score on people’s understanding and practice of good online habits. I’ve repaired computers and worked in the cybersecurity business for almost 15 years now, and I was shocked by some of the results.

Cut to the chase: just how bad were the results?

Bad. The average across all 50 states was only 60% (that’s a D in letter grades) on our scale. In fact, only 10% of Americans got a 90% or higher (i.e. an A). The riskiest states—Mississippi, Louisiana, California, Alaska, and Connecticut— combined for an average score of 56%. So what made their scores so low?

  • In Mississippi, almost 1 in 4 people don’t use any kind of antivirus and don’t know if they’ve ever been infected by malware.
  • Only 44% of Louisiana residents take any precautions before clicking links in emails leaving themselves vulnerable. (This is a great way to get scammed by a phishing email and end up with a nasty infection on your computer.)
  • Over 43% of Californians and Alaskans share their passwords with friends or family.

What does people’s perception vs. reality look like?

Americans in every state were overconfident. An astounding 88% feel they take the right steps to protect themselves. But remember, only 10% of people scored an A on our test, and the highest scoring state (New Hampshire) still only got an average of 65% (that’s still only a D).

While the average American has a surface level understanding of common cyber threats, there’s a lot of room for education. Many of those interviewed have heard of malware (79%), phishing (70%), and ransomware (49%), but few could explain them. Defending against the most common online threats in today’s landscape requires a basic understanding of how they work. After all, the more cyber aware you are of an attack such as phishing, the greater chance you have to spot and avoid it.

Along with understanding common cyberattacks, it’s also important to recognize threats to your online privacy. An alarming amount of Americans don’t keep their social media accounts private (64%) and reuse their passwords across multiple accounts (63%).

Given the number of news reports involving major companies getting breached, huge worldwide ransomware attacks, etc., we were pretty surprised by these numbers. As you’re reading these, you might be checking off a mental list of all the things you do and don’t know, the actions you do and don’t take when it comes to cybersecurity. What’s important here is that this report should act as a reminder that understanding what kinds of threats are out there will help you take the proper precautions. And, following a few simple steps can make a huge difference in your online safety.

How about some good news?

There is good news. There are some who scored a 90% or above on our test. We call them Cyber-Hygiene Superstars, because they not only take all the basic steps to protect themselves and their data online, but they go above and beyond. Cyber-Hygiene Superstars are evenly spread across the entirety of the U.S., and they help demonstrate to the rest of us that it’s easy to raise our own cyber-hygiene scores.  

Some of the standout behavior of superstars included regularly backing up their data in multiple ways always using antivirus, and using a VPN when connecting to public WiFi Hotspots.

Superstars can also explain common attacks and are less likely to fall victim of phishing attacks and identity theft. They frequently monitor their bank and credit card statements and regularly check their credit scores.

What can you do to improve your cyber-hygiene score?

All in all, it’d be pretty easy for the average American to take their score from a D to at least a B, if not higher. You won’t have to do anything drastic. But just making a few small tweaks to your regular online behavior could work wonders to keep you and your family safe from cybercrime.

  1. Use antivirus/antimalware software.
    There are a lot of free solutions out there. While you typically get what you pay for in terms of internet security, even a free solution is better than no protection at all.
  2. Keep all your software and your operating system up to date.
    This one’s super easy. Most applications and operating systems will tell you when they need an update. All you have to do is click OK instead of delaying the update to a later date.
  3. Don’t share or reuse passwords, and make sure to use strong ones.
    You might think password sharing is no big deal, especially when it comes to streaming or gaming sites, but the more you share, the more likely it is that your passwords could end up being misused. And if the password to just one of your accounts is compromised, then any of your other accounts that use that password could also become compromised. If you’re concerned about having to create and remember a lot of unique passwords, use a secure password manager.
  4. Lock down your social media profiles.
    Making your posts and personal details public and searchable means scammers can find your details and increase their chances of successfully stealing your identity or tricking you into handing over money or sensitive personal information.
  5. If you connect to public WiFi, use a VPN.
    Antivirus software protects the device, but a VPN protects your actual connection to the internet, so what you do and information you send online stays private.
  6. Back up your data.
    Cloud storage is a great solution. But it’s a good idea to do a regular physical backup to an external drive, too, particularly for important files like tax documents.
  7. Don’t enable macros in Microsoft® Office documents.
    If you’re ever trying to open a document and it tells you to enable macros, don’t do it. This is a common tactic for infections.
  8. Use caution when opening email attachments.
    Only open attachments from people you know and trust, and, even then, be extra careful. If you’re really not sure, call the person and confirm that they really sent the file.

Want to see where your state ranks? See the full list or read more about our study and findings here.

Test your knowledge and see where the Webroot Community stacks up against the rest of America: Join our daily contest for a chance to win prizes! Contest ends at 4:00pm MT on May 21, 2019.

Methodology
Webroot partnered with Wakefield Research to survey 10,000 Americans, ages 18 and up, with 200 interviews in each of the 50 states. This survey was conducted between February 11 and February 25, 2019, using an email invitation and an online survey instrument. The margin of error is +/- 0.98 percentage points for the total audience of this study and +/- 6.9 percentage points for each state at the 95% confidence level.

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It’s World Password Day – the Perfect Excuse to give your Passwords an Overhaul!

How much of your personal data is stored online? Well, if you are anything like the ‘average Jo’ – the answer is a lot! In 2019, the vast majority of us bank and shop online, have official documentation stored online, have all sorts of personal information stored in our emails and let’s not forget about our photos and videos.

And the scary thing – the only thing that is stopping cybercriminals from accessing our vital information that is saved online is our passwords.

Today is World Password Day – a perfect opportunity to give our password strategy a health check.  Because if we are serious about protecting our vital data that is stored online then we need to get SUPER serious about managing our passwords!

So, let’s give your passwords an overhaul. Why not schedule some time in your calendar to ensure your passwords are in the best shape? Here are my top tips on what you can do today to ensure you are doing all you can to protect your private online data.

How To Give Your Passwords A Health Check:

1. Check To See Whether Your Passwords Have Been Exposed

The first step is to see whether your passwords have been compromised in a data breach. Check out  www.haveibeenpwned.com.au to see whether cybercriminals have already discovered your passwords. If so, then they need to be changed wherever they are used ASAP.

2. Commit to Not Using Common Passwords

Using common passwords such as ‘password’, ‘123456’ or ‘qwerty’ is quite frankly, a waste of time. It would take cybercriminals a matter of seconds to unlock your online banking data. Also avoid using simple personal details within your passwords such as your birthday, name or kids and pet names as a quick scan of your social media accounts would allow cybercriminals to find this in just seconds. Always make your passwords random and obscure. Why not consider a nonsensical sentence?

3. Add Numbers and Symbols to Your Passwords

When you are setting up a new online account, many organisations will require you to add a number or symbol to your proposed password to give it additional ‘password strength’. Passwords that include a variety of capital and lowercase letters, numbers and symbols are far harder to crack so get creative and layer up your passwords.

4. Ensure Every Password Is Unique

Many people use the same password across all of their online accounts. And while this makes life easier, it increases your risk of your vital online data being compromised big time. Remember, if a hacker discovers just one of your passwords – and it’s the only one you use – all of your online personal information is at risk! Therefore, it is crucial to ensure all your passwords are different! I know, it sounds like a lot of work and brain power!

5. Simplify Your Life with a Password Manager

If the idea of creating individual complex passwords for each of your online accounts – oh, and changing them every 2 months, is giving you palpitations, then I have a solution – a password manager!

McAfee’s Total Protection includes Password Manager, which stores, auto-fills and even generates unique passwords. Creating and remembering (!) complex password for each online account is taken care off. All you need to do is remember one master password in order to access the rest of the passwords! And if there is a data breach, it’s super easy to quickly change a password too.

6. Set up Two-Factor Authentication Where Possible

If you have the option to enable two-factor or multi-factor authentication with any of your online accounts, then do it!! In simple terms, this will mean that you need to provide more than one way of identifying yourself before gaining access to your account. Often it is your password plus a code sent to your smartphone or even your fingerprint. It’s an absolute no-brainer as it adds another layer of security making it harder to cybercriminals to access your vital online data.

Now, if you are thinking about skipping out of your password overhaul, then please think again! Passwords are the first line of defence to protect your vital online data from cybercriminals. So, put the kettle on and make today the day!

Till next time!

Alex xx

 

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The Government Claims a Private Sector Fail, But It Just Doesn’t Know How to Pick a Vendor

The Government Accountability Office recently released a report that analyzed the results as well as the relative effectiveness of the identity theft services, including insurance, provided to victims of data breaches and other forms of digital compromise.

The report is entitled, “Range of Consumer Risks Highlights Limitations of Identity Theft Services,” and it largely reiterates the GAO’s 2017 assertion that the identity theft insurance provided to agencies in the wake of a data breach were both unnecessary and largely ineffective. The findings also included a conclusion that credit monitoring, identity monitoring, and identity restoration services were of questionable value. The GAO recommended that Congress should explore whether government agencies should be, or indeed are, at present, legally required to offer victims of federal data breaches any of the services examined in the report.

At the center of the report’s finding was $421 million set aside by the Office of Personnel Management for the purchase of a suite of identity protection products and services following the 2015 data breach that exposed extremely sensitive personal information of 22 million individuals. According to the report, the “obligated” money expended was largely squandered.

“3 million had used the services and approximately 61 individuals had received payouts from insurance claims, for an average of $1,800 per claim… GAO’s review did not identify any studies that analyzed whether consumers who sign up for or purchase identity theft services were less subject to identity theft or detected financial or other fraud more or less quickly than those who monitored their own accounts for free…” To be clear, there is a jump in logic here. Just because the GAO was unable to find data to support these services does not mean the services are ineffective. In fact, it could just as easily be that the services work.

Then there was the GAO’s observation that, “The services also do not prevent or directly address risks of nonfinancial harm such as medical identity theft.” When millions of Social Security Numbers have been exposed, prevention of identity theft is purely aspirational. Frankly, this assertion would not pass muster with the FTC, since it is actually frowned upon to suggest that any service provider can prevent identity theft. The goal is awareness and targeted action, and medical fraud, in particular, is an area where detection is, at best, difficult and resolution is often complicated and requires professional assistance.

While the report raises an important point, it is too limited in scope to pinpoint it effectively. Not all identity theft services are the same. Those offered by the OPM to victims of its massive breach may or may not have been ineffective, but if they were, mostly likely it was because they were inadequate to the task or “mis-underestimated” during on-boarding, not because they’re unnecessary. In other words, it’s not a question of how much money changed hands, it’s how those funds were spent.

Misunderstanding?

In the case of the services offered to victims of the OPM breach, the results do look damning: 61 paid insurance claims out of 3 million service users is the kind of figure unworthy of rounding error status. The above result must not, however, be mistaken for a demonstration of why identity theft insurance isn’t useful, but rather should be understood as a real-life metric of the usefulness of the specific plan provided, and the applicability of that’s plan provisions to the majority of the individuals covered by it.

Consider this counterpoint: If the services provided worked, little to no insurance payments would be necessary. (See above.)

Rather than scrapping the requirement, policies should either be expanded to cover more of the expenses associated with identity theft (there are many), or they should prioritize more robust monitoring tools and full identity fraud remediation solutions with the funds available.

Lack of Participation

Another issue raised by the report is participation on the part of those affected by data breaches. According to data from OPM, only 13 percent of those affected took advantage of the services made available to them–at least as of September 30, 2018. While the number may seem low, anecdotally it’s not really. Regardless, the question remains: Were those services made available in an accessible way that encouraged action on the part of users?

History suggests that paltry participation figures are due in no small part to a lack of awareness among consumers of the dangers posed by the exposure of personal information and the often free (to the consumer) availability of products and services that help manage the damage. Workplace education in this area is lacking, for sure, but that alone doesn’t explain it. Beyond breach fatigue, a larger factor may be lack of confidence in or clarity about the services provided–and that is an issue that belongs to vendor selection, because it’s their job to make clear what’s at risk and how the proffered solutions can help.

As described elsewhere in the report: Organizations that offer services, don’t do it based on what should be the pivotal question here: “how effective these services are.” Instead, “some base their decisions on federal or state legal requirements to offer such services and the expectations of affected customers or employees for some action on the breached entities’ part.” If the standard is to offer a certain amount of protection, they do that. Does it matter what kind? Can it be a generic? That’s the crux of the matter here.

Spoiler alert: It matters what service provider you choose. If you take nothing else away here let it be this: identity protection services and insurance are useless in a low-information environment. Indeed, if the service provider doesn’t produce an ocean of content that explains to users why they need to use the services, then it’s probably not right for mass allocation.

Data breaches have become so commonplace and the threat of identity fraud so widespread that token offerings to those affected are increasingly viewed as a B.S. attempt at better optics while a company is in disaster mode. A vicious cycle ensues: lack of confidence in a breach response leads to lack of participation in identity theft protection offered, and lack of participation is used to justify offering less comprehensive protection–all while identity theft incidents and data breaches increase.

The GAO report raises many salient points about the services offered in the wake of data breaches. The current legislation and its requirements for both identity theft protection services and insurance can rightly be viewed as an expensive boondoggle with little to show when it comes to actual results, but the conclusion of the GAO–to pull back instead of getting the right services in place to protect against future breaches and assist their victims when they can’t be avoided–is worrisome.

We need to focus now more than ever on high-information, robust solutions that provide greater protection as well as more guidance and assistance–not less.

This article originally appeared on Inc.com.

The post The Government Claims a Private Sector Fail, But It Just Doesn’t Know How to Pick a Vendor appeared first on Adam Levin.

Cybercriminals Feast on Earl Enterprises Customer Data Exposed in Data Breach

Most people don’t think about their credit card information being stolen and sold over the dark web while they’re enjoying a night out at an Italian restaurant. However, many people are experiencing this harsh reality. Earl Enterprises, the parent company of Buca di Beppo, Planet Hollywood, Earl of Sandwich, and Mixology 101 in LA, confirmed that the company was involved in a massive data breach, which exposed the credit card information of 2.15 million customers.

The original discovery was made by cybersecurity researcher Brian Krebs, who found the underground hacking forum where the credit card information had been posted for sale. He determined that the data first surfaced on Joker’s Stash, an underground shop that sells large batches of freshly-stolen credit and debit cards on a regular basis. In late February, Joker’s Stash moved a batch of 2.15 million stolen cards onto their system. This breach involved malware remotely installed on the company’s point-of-sale systems, which allowed cybercrooks to steal card details from customers between May 23, 2018, and March 18, 2019. This malicious software was able to capture payment card details including card numbers, expiration dates, and, in some cases, cardholder names. With this information, thieves are able to clone cards and use them as counterfeits to purchase expensive merchandise such as high-value electronics.

It appears that all 67 Buca di Beppo locations in the U.S., a handful of the 31 Earl of Sandwich locations, and the Planet Hollywood locations in Las Vegas, New York, and Orlando were impacted during this breach. Additionally, Tequila Taqueria in Las Vegas, Chicken Guy! in Disney Springs, and Mixology 101 in Los Angeles were also affected by this breach. Earl Enterprises states that online orders were not affected.

While large company data breaches such as this are difficult to avoid, there are a few steps users can take to better protect their personal data from malicious thieves. Check out the following tips:

  • Keep an eye on your bank account. One of the simplest ways to determine whether someone is fraudulently using your credit card information is to monitor your bank statements. If you see any charges that you did not make, report it to the authorities immediately.
  • Check to see if you’ve been affected. If you know you’ve made purchases at an Earl Enterprises establishment in the last ten months, use this tool to check if you could have been potentially affected.
  • Place a fraud alert. If you suspect that your data might have been compromised, place a fraud alert on your credit. This not only ensures that any new or recent requests undergo scrutiny, but also allows you to have extra copies of your credit report so you can check for suspicious activity.
  • Freeze your credit. Freezing your credit will make it impossible for criminals to take out loans or open up new accounts in your name. To do this effectively, you will need to freeze your credit at each of the three major credit-reporting agencies (Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian).
  • Consider using identity theft protection. A solution like McAfee Identify Theft Protection will help you to monitor your accounts and alert you of any suspicious activity.

And, of course, to stay updated on all of the latest consumer and mobile security threats, follow @McAfee_Home on Twitter, listen to our podcast Hackable?, and ‘Like’ us on Facebook.

The post Cybercriminals Feast on Earl Enterprises Customer Data Exposed in Data Breach appeared first on McAfee Blogs.

Hidden & Fake Apps: How Hackers Could Be Targeting Your Connected Home

Like most parents, before you go to sleep each night, you take extra care to lock doors and windows to keep your family safe from any outside threats. The only thing you may have overlooked is the smartphone illuminated on your nightstand. And if you were to add up the smartphones humming all over your house, suddenly you’d have a number of unlocked doors that a determined criminal could enter through. Maybe not tonight — but eventually.

Digital Ecosystem

Over time you’ve purchased and plugged in devices throughout your home. You might have a voice assistant, a baby monitor, a thermostat, a treadmill, a gaming system, a fitness watch, smart TVs, a refrigerator, and many other fun, useful gadgets. Each purchase likely connects to your smartphone. Take stock: You now have a digital ecosystem growing all around you. And while you rarely stop to take notice of this invisible power grid around you, hackers can’t stop thinking about it.

This digital framework that pulsates within your home gives cybercriminals potential new entryways into your life and your data. Depending on your devices, by accessing your smartphone, outsiders may be able to unlock your literal doors while you are away (via your home security system), eavesdrop on your family conversations and collect important information (via your voice assistant), access financial information (via your gaming system, tablet, or laptop).

What you can do:

  • Change factory security settings. Before you fire up that smart TV, drone, or sound system, be sure to change each product’s factory settings and replace it with a bulletproof password to put a layer of protection between you and would-be hackers.
  • Protect your home network. We are connected people living in connected homes. So, part of the wired lifestyle is taking the lead on doing all we can to protect it. One way to do that is at the router level with built-in network security, which can help secure your connected devices.
  • Stay on top of software updates. Cybercrooks rely on consumers to ignore software updates; it makes their job so much easier. So be sure to install updates to your devices, security software, and IoT products when alerted to do so.

Smartphone = Front Gate

The most common entry point to all of these connected things is your smartphone. While you’ve done a lot of things to protect your phone — a lock screen, secure passwords on accounts, and system updates — there are hacking tactics you likely know nothing about. According to McAfee’s recent  Mobile Threat Report, you don’t know because the scope and complexity of mobile hacks are increasing at alarming rates.

Hidden Apps

The latest statistics report that the average person has between 60-90 apps installed on their phones. Multiply that between all the users in your home, and you are looking at anywhere from 200-500 apps living under your digital roof. Hackers gravitate toward digital trends. They go where the most people congregate because that’s where they can grab the most money. Many of us control everything in our homes from our apps, so app downloads are off the charts, which is why crooks have engineered some of their most sophisticated schemes specifically around app users.

Hidden apps are a way that crooks trick users into letting them inside their phones. Typically, hidden apps (such as TimpDoor) get to users via Google Play when they download games or customized tools. TimpDoor will then directly communicate with users via a text with a link to a voice message that gives detailed instructions to enable apps from unknown sources. That link downloads malware which will run in the background after the app closes. Users often forget they’ve downloaded this and go on with life while the malware runs in the background and can access other internal networks on the smartphone.

What you can do:

  • Stay alert. Don’t fall for the traps or click links to other apps sent via text message.
  • Stay legit. Only download apps hosted by the original trusted stores and verified partner sites.
  • Avoid spam. Don’t click on any email links, pop-ups, or direct messages that include suspicious links, password prompts, or fake attachments. Delete and block spam emails and texts.
  • Disable and delete. If you are not using an app, disable it. And, as a safety habit, remove apps from your phone, tablet, or laptop you no longer use.

Fake Apps

Again, crooks go where the most people congregate, and this year it is the 60 million+ downloaded game Fortnite. The Fortnite craze has lead hackers to design fake Fortnite apps masquerading as the real thing. The fraudulent app designers go to great lengths to make the download look legitimate. They offer enticing downloads and promise users a ton of free perks and add ons. Once users download the fake app, crooks can collect money through ads, send text messages with more bad app links, crypto jack users, or install malware or spyware.

What you can do:

  • Don’t install apps from unknown sources. Not all gaming companies distribute via Google Play or the App Store. This makes it even harder for users to know that the app they are downloading is legit. Do all you can to verify the legitimacy of the site you are downloading from.
  • Delete suspicious acting apps. If you download an app and it begins to request access to anything outside of its service, delete it immediately from your device.
  • Update devices regularly. Keep new bugs and threats at bay by updating your devices automatically.
  • Monitor bank statements. Check statements regularly to monitor the activity of the card linked to your Fortnite account. If you notice repeat or multiple transactions from your account or see charges that you don’t recognize, alert your bank immediately.
  • Be a savvy app user. Verify an app’s legitimacy. Read other user reviews and be discerning before you download anything. This practice also applies to partner sites that sell game hacks, credits, patches, or virtual assets players use to gain rank within a game. Beware of “free” downloads and avoid illegal file-sharing sites. Free downloads can be hotbeds for malware. Stick with the safer, paid options from a reputable source.

The post Hidden & Fake Apps: How Hackers Could Be Targeting Your Connected Home appeared first on McAfee Blogs.

How to Safeguard Your Family Against A Medical Data Breach

Medical Data BreachThe risk to your family’s healthcare data often begins with that piece of paper on a clipboard your physician or hospital asks you to fill out or in the online application for healthcare you completed.

That data gets transferred into a computer where a patient Electronic Health Record (EHR) is created or added to. From there, depending on the security measures your physician, healthcare facility, or healthcare provider has put in place, your data is either safely stored or up for grabs.

It’s a double-edged sword: We all need healthcare but to access it we have to hand over our most sensitive data armed only with the hope that the people on the other side of the glass window will do their part to protect it.

Breaches on the Rise

Feeling a tad vulnerable? You aren’t alone. The stats on medical breaches don’t do much to assuage consumer fears.

A recent study in the Journal of the American Medical Association reveals that the number of annual health data breaches increased 70% over the past seven years, with 75% of the breached, lost, or stolen records being breached by a hacking or IT incident at a cost close to consumers at nearly $6 billion.

The IoT Factor

Medical Data Breach

Not only are medical facilities vulnerable to hackers, but with the growth of the Internet of Things (IoT) consumer products — which, in short, means everything is digitally connected to everything else — also provide entry points for hackers. Wireless devices at risk include insulin pumps and monitors, Fitbits, scales, thermometers, heart and blood pressure monitors.

To protect yourself when using these devices, experts recommend staying on top of device updates and inputting as little personal information as possible when launching and maintaining the app or device.

The Dark Web

The engine driving healthcare attacks of all kinds is the Dark Web where criminals can buy, sell, and trade stolen consumer data without detection. Healthcare data is precious because it often includes a much more complete picture of a person including social security number, credit card/banking information, birthdate, address, health care card information, and patient history.

With this kind of data, many corrupt acts are possible including identity theft, fraudulent medical claims, tax fraud, credit card fraud, and the list goes on. Complete medical profiles garner higher prices on the Dark Web.

Some of the most valuable data to criminals are children’s health information (stolen from pediatrician offices) since a child’s credit records are clean and more useful tools in credit card fraud.

According to Raj Samani, Chief Scientist and McAfee Fellow, Advanced Threat Research, predictions for 2019 include criminals working even more diligently in the Dark Web marketplace to devise and launch more significant threats.

“The game of cat and mouse the security industry plays with ransomware developers will escalate, and the industry will need to respond more quickly and effectively than ever before,” Says Samani.

Medical Data Breach

Healthcare professionals, hospitals, and health insurance companies, while giving criminals an entry point, though responsible, aren’t the bad guys. They are being fined by the government for breaches and lack of proper security, and targeted and extorted by cyber crooks, while simultaneously focusing on patient care and outcomes. Another factor working against them is the lack of qualified cybersecurity professionals equipped to protect healthcare practices and facilities.

Protecting ourselves and our families in the face of this kind of threat can feel overwhelming and even futile. It’s not. Every layer of protection you build between you and a hacker, matters. There are some things you can do to strengthen your family’s healthcare data practices.

Ways to Safeguard Medical Data

Don’t be quick to share your SSN. Your family’s patient information needs to be treated like financial data because it has that same power. For that reason, don’t give away your Social Security Number — even if a medical provider asks for it. The American Medical Association (AMA) discourages medical professionals from collecting patient SSNs nowadays in light of all the security breaches.

Keep your healthcare card close. Treat your healthcare card like a banking card. Know where it is, only offer it to physicians when checking in for an appointment, and report it immediately if it’s missing.

Monitor statements. The Federal Trade Commission recommends consumers keep a close eye on medical bills. If someone has compromised your data, you will notice bogus charges right away. Pay close attention to your “explanation of benefits,” and immediately contact your healthcare provider if anything appears suspicious.

Ask about security. While it’s not likely you can change your healthcare provider’s security practices on the spot, the more consumers inquire about security standards, the more accountable healthcare providers are to following strong data protection practices.

Pay attention to apps, wearables. Understand how app owners are using your data. Where is the data stored? Who is it shared with? If the app seems sketchy on privacy, find a better one.

How to Protect IoT Devices

Medical Data Breach

According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), IoT devices, while improving medical care and outcomes, have their own set of safety precautions consumers need to follow.

  • Change default usernames and passwords
  • Isolate IoT devices on their protected networks
  • Configure network firewalls to inhibit traffic from unauthorized IP addresses
  • Implement security recommendations from the device manufacturer and, if appropriate, turn off devices when not in use
  • Visit reputable websites that specialize in cybersecurity analysis when purchasing an IoT device
  • Ensure devices and their associated security patches are up-to-date
  • Apply cybersecurity best practices when connecting devices to a wireless network
  • Invest in a secure router with appropriate security and authentication practices

The post How to Safeguard Your Family Against A Medical Data Breach appeared first on McAfee Blogs.

How to Steer Clear of Tax Season Scams

*This blog contains research discovered by Elizabeth Farrell

It’s that time of year again – tax season! Whether you’ve already filed in the hopes of an early refund or have yet to start the process, one thing is for sure: cybercriminals will certainly use tax season as a means to get victims to give up their personal and financial information. This time of year is advantageous for malicious actors since the IRS and tax preparers are some of the few people who actually need your personal data. As a result, consumers are targeted with various scams impersonating trusted sources like the IRS or DIY tax software companies. Fortunately, every year the IRS outlines the most prevalent tax scams, such as voice phishing, email phishing, and fake tax software scams. Let’s explore the details of these threats.

So, how do cybercriminals use voice phishing to impersonate the IRS? Voice phishing, a form of criminal phone fraud, uses social engineering tactics to gain access to victims’ personal and financial information. For tax scams, criminals will make unsolicited calls posing as the IRS and leave voicemails requesting an immediate callback. The crooks will then demand that the victim pay a phony tax bill in the form of a wire transfer, prepaid debit card or gift card. In one case outlined by Forbes, victims received emails in their inbox that allegedly contained voicemails from the IRS. The emails didn’t actually contain any voicemails but instead directed victims to a suspicious SharePoint URL. Last year, a number of SharePoint phishing scams occurred as an attempt to steal Office 365 credentials, so it’s not surprising that cybercriminals are using this technique to access taxpayers’ personal data now as well.

In addition to voice phishing schemes, malicious actors are also using email to try and get consumers to give up their personal and financial information. This year alone, almost 400 IRS phishing URLs have been reported. Even back in December, we saw a surge of new email phishing scams trying to fool consumers into thinking the message was coming from the IRS or other members of the tax community. In a typical email phishing scheme, scammers try to obtain personal tax information like usernames and passwords by using spoofed email addresses and stolen logos. In many cases, the emails contain suspicious hyperlinks that redirect users to a fake site or PDF attachments that may download malware or viruses. If a victim clicks on these malicious links or attachments, they can seriously endanger their tax data by giving identity thieves the opportunity to steal their refund. What’s more, cybercriminals are also using subject lines like “IRS Important Notice” and “IRS Taxpayer Notice” and demanding payment or threatening to seize the victim’s tax refund.

Cybercriminals are even going so far as to impersonate trusted brands like TurboTax for their scams. In this case, DIY tax preparers who search for TurboTax software on Google are shown ads for pirated versions of TurboTax. The victims will pay a fee for the software via PayPal, only to have their computer infected with malware after downloading the software. You may be wondering, how do victims happen upon this malicious software through a simple Google search? Unfortunately, scammers have been paying to have their spoofed sites show up in search results, increasing the chances that an innocent taxpayer will fall victim to their scheme.

Money is a prime motivator for many consumers, and malicious actors are fully prepared to exploit this. Many people are concerned about how much they might owe or are predicting how much they’ll get back on their tax refund, and scammers play to both of these emotions. So, as hundreds of taxpayers are waiting for a potential tax return, it’s important that they navigate tax season wisely. Check out the following tips to avoid being spoofed by cybercriminals and identity thieves:

  • File before cybercriminals do it for you. The easiest defense you can take against tax seasons schemes is to get your hands on your W-2 and file as soon as possible. The more prompt you are to file, the less likely your data will be raked in by a cybercriminal.
  • Obtain a copy of your credit report. FYI – you’re entitled to a free copy of your credit report from each of the major bureaus once a year. So, make it a habit to request a copy of your file every three to four months, each time from a different credit bureau. That way, you can keep better track of and monitor any suspicious activity and act early if something appears fishy.
  • Beware of phishing attempts. It’s clear that phishing is the primary tactic crooks are leveraging this tax season, so it’s crucial you stay vigilant around your inbox. This means if any unfamiliar or remotely suspicious emails come through requesting tax data, double check their legitimacy with a manager or the security department before you respond. Be wary of strange file attachment names such as “virus-for-you.doc.” Remember: the IRS only contacts people by snail mail, so if you get an email from someone claiming to be from the IRS, stay away.
  • Watch out for spoofed websites. Scammers have extremely sophisticated tools that help disguise phony web addresses for DIY tax software, such as stolen company logos and site designs. To avoid falling for this, go directly to the source. Type the address of a website directly into the address bar of your browser instead of following a link from an email or internet search. If you receive any suspicious links in your email, investigating the domain is usually a good way to tell if the source is legitimate or not.
  • Consider an identity theft protection solution. If for some reason your personal data does become compromised, be sure to use an identity theft solution such as McAfee Identity Theft Protection, which allows users to take a proactive approach to protect their identities with personal and financial monitoring and recovery tools to help keep their identities personal and secured.

And, as always, stay on top of the latest consumer and mobile security threats by following @McAfee_Home on Twitter, listen to our podcast Hackable?, and ‘Like’ us on Facebook.

The post How to Steer Clear of Tax Season Scams appeared first on McAfee Blogs.

The Risks of Public Wi-Fi and How to Close the Security Gap

public wi-fi risksAs I write this blog post, I’m digitally exposed, and I know it. For the past week, I’ve had to log on to a hospital’s public Wi-Fi each day to work while a loved one recuperates.

What seems like a routine, casual connection to the hospital’s Wi-Fi isn’t. Using public Wi-Fi is a daily choice loaded with risk. Sure, I’m conducting business and knocking out my to-do list like a rock star but at what cost to my security?

The Risks

By using public Wi-Fi, I’ve opened my online activity and personal data (via my laptop) up to a variety of threats including eavesdropping, malware distribution, and bitcoin mining. There’s even a chance I could have logged on to a malicious hotspot that looked like the hospital network.

Like many public Wi-Fi spots, the hospital’s network could lack encryption, which is a security measure that scrambles the information sent from my computer to the hospital’s router so other people can’t read it. Minus encryption, whatever I send over the hospital’s network could potentially be intercepted and used maliciously by cybercriminals.

Because logging on to public Wi-Fi is often a necessity — like my situation this week — security isn’t always the first thing on our minds. But over the past year, a new normal is emerging. A lot of us are thinking twice. With data breaches, privacy concerns, the increase in the market for stolen credentials, and increasingly sophisticated online scams making the headlines every day, the risks of using public Wi-Fi are front and center.

Rising Star: VPNpublic wi-fi risks

The solution to risky public Wi-Fi? A Virtual Private Network (VPN). A VPN allows users to securely access a private network and share data remotely through public networks. Much like a firewall protects the data on your computer, a VPN protects your online activity by encrypting your data when you connect to the internet from a remote or public location. A VPN also conceals your location, IP address, and online activity.

Using a VPN helps protect you from potential hackers using public Wi-Fi, which is one of their favorite easy-to-access security loopholes.

Who Needs a VPN?

If you (or your family members) travel and love to shop online, access your bank account, watch movies, and do everyday business via your phone or laptop, a VPN would allow you to connect safely and encrypt your data no matter where you are.

A VPN can mask, or scramble, your physical location, banking account credentials, and credit card information.

Also, if you have a family data plan you’ve likely encouraged your kids to save data by connecting to public Wi-Fi whenever possible. Using a VPN, this habit would be secured from criminal sniffers and snoopers.

A VPN allows you to connect to a proxy server that will access online sites on your behalf and enables a secure connection most anywhere you go. A VPN also allows hides your IP address and allows you to browse anonymously from any location.

How VPNs work

To use a VPN you subscribe to VPN service, download the app onto your desktop or phone, set up your account, and then log onto a VPN server to conduct your online activity privately.

If you are still logging on to public Wi-Fi, here are a few tips to keep you safe until VPNs become as popular as Wi-Fi.

Stay Safe on Public Wi-Fi 

Verify your connection. Fake networks that mine your data abound. If you are logging on to Wi-Fi in a coffee shop, hotel, airport, or library, verify the exact name of the network with an employee. Also, only use Wi-Fi that requires a password to log on.public wi-fi risks

Don’t get distracted. For adults, as well as kids, it’s easy to get distracted and absorbed with our screens — this is risky when on public Wi-Fi, according to Diana Graber, author of Raising Humans in a Digital World. “Knowing how to guard their personal information online is one of the most important skills parents need to equip their young kids with today,” says Graber. “Lots of young people visit public spaces, like a local coffee shop or library, and use public Wi-Fi to do homework, for example. It’s not uncommon for them to get distracted by something else online or even tempted to buy something, without realizing their personal information (or yours!) might be at risk.”

Disable auto Wi-Fi connect. If your phone automatically joins surrounding networks, you can disable this function in your settings. Avoid linking to unknown or unrecognized networks.

Turn off Wi-Fi when done. Your computer or phone can still transmit data even when you are not using it. Be sure to disable your Wi-Fi from the network when you are finished using it.

Avoid financial transactions. If you must use public Wi-Fi, don’t conduct a sensitive transaction such as banking, shopping, or any kind of activity that requires your social security or credit card numbers or password use. Wait until you get to a secured home network to conduct personal business.

Look for the HTTPS. Fake or unsecured websites will not have the HTTPS in their address. Also, look for the little lock icon in the address bar to confirm a secure connection.

Secure your devices. Use a personal VPN as an extra layer of security against hackers and malware.

The post The Risks of Public Wi-Fi and How to Close the Security Gap appeared first on McAfee Blogs.

#PrivacyAware: Will You Champion Your Family’s Online Privacy?

online privacyThe perky cashier stopped my transaction midway to ask for my email and phone number.

Not now. Not ever. No more. I’ve had enough. I thought to myself.

“I’d rather not, thank you,” I replied.

The cashier finished my transaction and moved on to the next customer without a second thought.

And, my email and phone number lived in one less place that day.

This seemingly insignificant exchange happened over a year ago, but it represents the day I decided to get serious and champion my (and my family’s) privacy.

I just said no. And I’ve been doing it a lot more ever since.

A few changes I’ve made:

  • Pay attention to privacy policies (especially of banks and health care providers).
  • Read the terms and conditions of apps before downloading.
  • Block cookies from websites.
  • Refuse to purchase from companies that (appear to) take privacy lightly.
  • Max my privacy settings on social networks.
  • Change my passwords regularly and keep them strong!
  • Delete apps I no longer use.
  • Stay on top of software updates on all devices and add extra protection.
  • Have become hyper-aware before giving out my email, address, phone number, or birth date.
  • Limit the number of photos and details shared on social media.

~~~

The amount of personal information we share every day online — and off — is staggering. There’s information we post directly online such as our birth date, our location, our likes, and dislikes. Then there’s the data that’s given off unknowingly via web cookies, Metadata, downloads, and apps.

While some data breaches are out of our control, at the end of the day, we — along with our family members — are one giant data leak.

Studies show that on average by the age of 13, parents have posted 1,300 photos and videos of their child to social media. By the time kids get devices of their own, they are posting to social media 26 times per day on average — a total of nearly 70,000 posts by age 18.

The Risksonline privacy

When we overshare personal data a few things can happen. Digital fallout includes data misuse by companies, identity theft, credit card fraud, medical fraud, home break-ins, reputation damage, location and purchasing tracking, ransomware, and other risks.

The Mind Shift

The first step toward boosting your family’s privacy is to start thinking differently about privacy. Treat your data like gold (after all, that’s the way hackers see it). Guiding your family in this mind-shift will require genuine, consistent effort.

Talk to your family about privacy. Elevate its worth and the consequences when it’s undervalued or shared carelessly.

Teach your kids to treat their personal information — their browsing habits, clicks, address, personal routine, school name, passwords, and connected devices — with great care. Consider implementing this 11 Step Privacy Take Back Plan.

This mind and attitude shift will take time but, hopefully, your kids will learn to pause and think before handing over personal information to an app, a social network, a retail store, or even to friends.

Data Protection Tips*

  1. Share with care. Think before posting about yourself and others online. Consider what it reveals, who might see it and how it could be perceived now and in the future.
  2. Own your online presence. Set the privacy and security settings on websites and apps to your comfort level for information sharing. Each device, application or browser you use will have different features to limit how and with whom you share information.online privacy
  3. Think before you act. Information about you, such as the games you like to play, your contacts list, where you shop and your geographic location, has tremendous value. Be thoughtful about who gets that information and understand how it’s collected through websites and apps.
  4. Lock down your login. Your usernames and passwords are not enough to protect critical accounts like email, banking, and social media. Strengthen online accounts and use strong authentication tools like a unique, one-time code through an app on your mobile device.

* Provided by the National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA).

January 28 National Data Privacy Day. The day highlights one of the most critical issues facing families today — protecting personal information in a hyper-connected world. It’s a great opportunity to commit to taking real steps to protect your online privacy. For more information on National Data Privacy Day or to get involved, go to Stay Safe Online.

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How Safe is Your Child’s School WiFi?

School WiFi. For many of our digital natives, school WiFi may even be a more important part of their daily life than the canteen!! And that is saying something…

You’d be hard pressed to find a child who rocked up to school without a device in their backpack in our digital age. The vast majority of schools have embraced the many positive learning benefits that internet-connected devices offer our kids. The traditional blackboard and textbook lessons that were confined to the four walls of the classroom are gone. Instead our kids can research, discover, collaborate, create and most importantly, learn like never before.

But in order for this new learning to occur, our kids need to be internet connected. And this is where school WiFi comes into play.

Do Parents Need to Be Concerned About School WiFi?

As parents, we have a responsibility to ensure our kids are safe and not at risk – and that includes when they are using the WiFi at school. Ideally, your child’s school should have a secure WiFi network but unfortunately, that doesn’t mean that they do. School budgets are tight and top-notch secure WiFi networks are expensive, so in some cases, security maybe jeopardised.

The other factor we shouldn’t ignore is that our batch of digital natives are very tech literate. The possibility that one of them may choose to cause some mayhem to their school WiFi network should also not be ignored!!

At the end of the day, the security of a WiFi network is all about whether it has tight access controls. If it allows only approved devices and people to connect via a secure login then it is more secure than public WiFi. However, if it is open to anyone or easy for anyone to connect to it, then you need to treat it like public WiFi.

What Are the Risks?

An unsecured school WiFi network is as risky as public WiFi which, according to the Harvard Business Review, is as risky as rolling a dice,

Students and staff who use an unsecured WiFi network are at risk of receiving phishing emails, being the victim of a ransomware attack or even having their data or personal details stolen. There is also a risk that the entire school’s operations could be disrupted and possibly even closed down through a DDOS – a Denial of Service Attack.

What Can Parents Do to Ensure Their Kids Are Safe Using School WiFi?

There are several steps parents can take to minimise the risks when their offspring use school WiFi.

  1. Talk To Your School

The first thing to do is speak to your child’s school to understand exactly how secure their network is. I’d recommend asking who has access to the network, what security practices they have in place and how they manage your child’s private data.

  1. Install Security Software

Operating a device without security software is no different to leaving your front door unlocked. Installing security software on all devices, including smartphones, will provide protection against viruses, online threats, risky websites and dangerous downloads. Check out McAfee’s Total Protection security software for total peace of mind!

  1. Keep Device Software Up To Date

Software updates are commonly designed to address security issues. So ensuring ALL your devices are up to date is a relatively easy way of minimising the risk of being hacked.

  1. Schedule Regular Data Back Up

If you are the victim of a ransomware attack and your data is backed up then you won’t even have to consider paying the hefty fee to retrieve your (or your child’s) data. Backing up data regularly should be not negotiable however life can often get in the way. Why not schedule automatic backups? I personally love online backup options such as Dropbox and Google Drive however you may choose to invest in a hard drive.

  1. Public Wi-Fi Rules?

If after talking to your school, you aren’t convinced that your child’s school WiFi network is secure, then I recommend that your kids should treat it as if it was public WiFi. This means that they should NEVER conduct any financial transactions using it and never share any personal details. But the absolute best way of ensuring your child is safe using an unsecured WiFi network, is to use a Virtual Private Network (VPN). A VPN like McAfee’s Safe Connect creates an encrypted tunnel so anything that is shared over WiFi is completely safe.

As a mum of 4, I am very keen to ensure my kids are engaged with their learning. And in our digital times, this means devices and WiFi. So, let’s support our kids and their teachers in their quest for interactive, digital learning but please don’t forget to check in and ensure your kids are as safe as possible while using WiFi at school.

Take Care

Alex xx

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Cybercriminals Disguised as Apple Are After Users’ Personal Data: Insights on This Threat

With the holidays rapidly approaching, many consumers are receiving order confirmation emails updating them on their online purchases for friends and family. What they don’t expect to see is an email that appears to be a purchase confirmation from the Apple App Store containing a PDF attachment of a receipt for a $30 app. This is actually a stealthy phishing email, which has been circulating the internet, prompting users to click on a link if the transaction was unauthorized.

So how exactly does this phishing campaign work? In this case, the cybercriminals rely on the victim to be thrown off by the email stating that they purchased an app when they know that they didn’t. When the user clicks on the link in the receipt stating that the transaction was unauthorized, they are redirected to a page that looks almost identical to Apple’s legitimate Apple Account management portal. The user is prompted to enter their login credentials, only to receive a message claiming that their account has been locked for security reasons. If the user attempts to unlock their account, they are directed to a page prompting them to fill out personal details including their name, date of birth, and social security number for “account verification.”

Once the victim enters their personal and financial information, they are directed to a temporary page stating that they have been logged out to restore access to their account. The user is then directed to the legitimate Apple ID account management site, stating “this session was timed out for your security,” which only helps this attack seem extra convincing. The victim is led to believe that this process was completely normal, while the cybercriminals now have enough information to perform complete identity theft.

Although this attack does have some sneaky behaviors, there are a number of steps users can take to protect themselves from phishing scams like this one:

  • Be wary of suspicious emails. If you receive an email from an unknown source or notice that the “from” address itself seems peculiar, avoid interacting with the message altogether.
  • Go directly to the source. Be skeptical of emails claiming to be from companies asking to confirm a purchase that you don’t recognize. Instead of clicking on a link within the email, it’s best to go straight to the company’s website to check the status of your account or contact customer service.
  • Use a comprehensive security solution. It can be difficult to determine if a website, link, or file is risky or contains malicious content. Add an extra layer of security with a product like McAfee Total Protection.

And, of course, to stay on top of the latest consumer and mobile security threats, be sure to follow me and @McAfee_Home on Twitter, listen to our podcast Hackable? and ‘Like’ us on Facebook.

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