Category Archives: identity theft

The Top Security Breaches in History

By Telemessage, Technology has indeed enabled companies of all sizes and nature to rethink and innovate the way they do business. Through the power of the internet, digital platforms, and

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OPM Still Failing on Security After 2015 Breach

The US Office of Personnel Management (OPM) has still not implemented over a third of the recommendations made by government auditors after a devastating 2015 breach. Some 29 recommendations remain “open” out

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Holiday Stress Can Make You More Careless Online

Holiday stress. Every year, come November, my resting heart rate starts to rise: the festive season is approaching. Not only is there so much to do but there’s so much to spend money on. There are presents to purchase, feasts to prepare and party outfits to buy. Throw in a holiday to fill the long Summer break, and both the credit cards and my stress levels are starting to rapidly increase!

Holiday Financial Stress Results in Poor Decision Making Online

But did you know that this stress can affect our online safety? Research conducted by McAfee shows that almost 80% of us believe the holiday period causes financial stress. And nearly half of us (46%) believe the stress of the holiday season can cause us to behave carelessly online.  Risky behaviours can put our online safety at risk. For instance, using public Wi-Fi to snag a last-minute purchase. Or buying something from an unfamiliar website because it’s cheaper.

Aussie Shoppers Love an Online Bargain 

In 2017, Aussies spent a record $21.3 million online – a whopping 19% increase over 2016. McAfee’s research shows that Aussie consumers love securing a bargain online – who doesn’t!! But many will seek out a great deal even if it means potentially jeopardising their online safety. The research shows that 64% of consumers are willing to use an unfamiliar website if it means they can save money on their purchase. Even more concerning, a third of Aussies admitted to clicking links in suspicious emails for better deals!! Yikes!!

The Thing Is, Cyber Criminals Love Your Holiday Shopping Too

Cyber criminals work very hard to take advantage of us during the busy Holiday season. They come up with all sorts of ingenious ways to target time-poor and budget-conscious consumers online. They know very well that many of us will cut corners with our online security. Particularly if we think we can save money on presents, outfits or even a holiday.

And they scheme accordingly: charity phishing emails, fake online stores, bogus delivery emails, e-voucher scams and more. Cyber criminals have tried and tested strategies to either steal our personal information or our identity.

How You Can Stay Safe While Shopping Online This Holiday Season

So, don’t feel like you need to battle the crowds at Westfield this festive season. You can still shop online safely if you follow a few simple steps:

  1. Connect with Caution

Public Wi-Fi is just so convenient, but it is a risky business. Users could unknowingly share their personal information with cyber criminals who are snooping on the network. So, if you absolutely have to use public Wi-Fi for a great online shopping deal, always use a Virtual Private Network (VPN) such as McAfee Safe Connect which creates a bank-grade encrypted connection.

  1. Think Before You Click

One of the easiest ways for a cyber criminal to target victims is using phishing emails to trick consumers into sharing their personal information. Phishing emails could be disguised as holiday savings or even a shopping notification. Instead of clicking on a link in an email, always check directly with the source to verify an offer or shipment.

  1. Always Shop with Security Protection

Shopping online without security protection is like driving without a seat belt – dangerous! Comprehensive antivirus software like McAfee Total Protection will help shield your devices against malware, phishing attacks and other threats. It also provides a firewall, an anti-spam function, parental controls and a password management tool. A complete no-brainer!

But this year, I’m going to commit to lowering my stress. That way I can really enjoy my time with my family and friends. To get ahead of the game I plan to:

  • Start my online shopping earlier so I don’t ‘cut corners’ with my online safety,
  • Create a realistic budget, and
  • Start filling my freezer with some holiday food – now

And most importantly, get that resting heart rate under control!!

Happy Holidays Everyone!

Alex xx

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At What Age Should Kids Join Social Media?

Last week, I waved goodbye to my eldest son as he moved halfway across the world to study for a year. I was so emotional at the airport – I couldn’t talk! After many cups of tea and even more stares in an airport café, I had no more tears left and was finally able to pull it together. I must have looked like a crazy cat!

Letting go of our kids is tough. Whether it’s their first day of school, their first sleepover, their first girlfriend or boyfriend or their first social media account – these steps towards independence can be enough to send many of us into a tailspin.

How Do We Know When Our Kids Are Ready for More Independence?

Our main job as parents is to raise our kids to be independent, law-abiding individuals who are autonomous. But every child is different with some maturing far quicker than others. So, how do we know when our kids are ready for important life milestones, particularly joining social media?

What Does the Law Say?

While there is no Australian law that dictates the minimum age kids need to be to join social media, most social media platforms require their users to be 13 years old to set up an account. This is a result of a US federal law, the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), which affects any social media platform that US citizens can join. So, therefore it affects nearly all social media platforms worldwide.

What Happens in Reality?

Rightly or wrongly, many kids join social media before the age of 13. Some do this with the consent of their parents, while many don’t. In recognition of the ‘reality of the situation’, many big-time social media players, including Mark Zuckerberg, have been critical of the COPPA legislation claiming it is unrealistic. Zuckerberg even committed to trying to get it overruled – so far, no news!

And this reality hasn’t escaped the attention of the big players. Earlier this month, Instagram released a parent’s guide in which they acknowledge that ‘many younger children (under 13) use the service, often with their parents’ permission’. The parent’s guide, produced in conjunction with US internet safety group Connect Safely, also advised parents that banning social media may not be the best solution to managing their teen’s digital socialising. Instead they suggest parents should ensure the lines of communication are always open so that they can work with their kids to find appropriate ways of managing their digital lives. Pretty sound advice if you ask me, but Instagram was criticised for offering self-serving advice and encouraging youngsters to get online.

What to Do?

As the mother of four boys, I can unreservedly tell you that a ‘one size fits all’ approach does not cut it when raising kids. Every child is different. Some kids are more robust and resilient while others are more sensitive and emotional. And that’s OK. The worst thing we can do as parents is assume milestones must be met at the same time everyone else’s children do.

Just like with toilet training, sleepovers and co-ed parties, you (as the parent) are the absolute best judge of when your child is ready for these key steps. And social media is no different. Yes, there is a plethora of advice from experts and ‘experienced’ parents to consider but ultimately, it’s your call as the parent.

What To Consider When Deciding When Your Child Should Join Social Media

So, here are some things to consider when deciding if, and when your child should join social media. If your tween has already gone ahead and joined, then why not use these points to refine the current usage strategy.

1. Are They Ready?

Chances are your tween will be busting to get onto social media and will absolutely consider themselves ‘ready’! In fact, they may have already gone ahead and created their own profile without consulting you. But if they haven’t and you have a close connection with your kids, then you have a golden opportunity to assess their readiness.

You may decide that your under 13-year-old is mature enough and help them set up social media accounts and profiles. Many believe social media is an inevitable, unavoidable milestone and that it’s best to manage it proactively to avoid underground activity. You may require passwords to be shared and for posts to be approved before they are uploaded. If they have proved themselves to be trustworthy after a period of time, you may choose to be less involved.

However, if you have a child who is less mature and who tends to be anxious, you may insist they wait till 13. As we all know, it is not always pretty online. A certain level of resilience and a decent dose of perspective is essential to ride out the bumps. If there is any pushback from your tween then just talk a lot about the COPPA legislation!

2. Family Policy

If you have a tribe of kids, you may want to consider a family policy on the age your offspring can join social media. Although I am not a believer in ‘one size fits all’, I can tell you from experience that the perception of fairness in a family is very powerful. The arguments over who gets the bigger piece of cake or whose turn it is to sit in the front seat can drove you bonkers!

3. Workshop the ‘Likes Culture’ Before They Embark on their Social Media Careers

The quest to get likes online can become all encompassing, particularly when you are navigating your way through your teenage years. Before your kids join up, please have several conversations about the dangerous ‘culture of likes’ that is pervading the online world. Likes are viewed as a measure of social acceptance for many teenagers. The number of likes they do (or don’t) receive can affect their self-esteem and confidence which is very concerning. Please ensure your kids are NOT defined by the number of likes on a post and that this number is NOT reflective of their worth.

4. Set the Ground Rules

Regardless of whether your tween is about to embark on the social media journey or whether they have taken the advanced route, a family technology contract can be a great way of clarifying and formalising your expectations of both their social media usage and behaviour online. If you are looking for a good place to start, check out the contract that The Modern Parent uses. Obviously adapt it for your own situation and children’s needs, but ensure it covers key points including time spent online, sharing of personal information and what to do if a stranger tries to befriend you or if you receive online abuse.

Personally, I think 13 is a great age to kick off one’s social media career. I’m a fan of risk management and I really believe the older kids are, the better they can deal with complex online situations. But I also believe you should trust your gut as a parent. You may have a very mature 12-year-old, with a host of older siblings, who is busting to get on Instagram. Working with them to set up a profile, sharing passwords and mentoring them through their entrée to social media may be a much better option than pushing this inevitable step underground and off your radar.

So, over to you parents. This is your call! And just to inspire you a little more, let me just borrow some words from Scottish actor and father of 4 daughters, Ewan McGregor:

 ‘The thing about parenting rules is there aren’t any. That’s what makes it so difficult.’

Good luck!

Alex xx

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Hey there! How much are you worth?

Have you ever stopped to think just how much your life is worth? I mean really think about it. For instance, let’s say you wanted to sell everything you have – your house, your car, your job, your private life, photos and home movies from your childhood, your accounts on various social media, your medical history and so on – how much would you ask for it all?

I thought about this myself and just the thought that someone else would be able to, for example, read the personal things I’ve written to friends, family and lovers on Facebook made me realize that those things are priceless. The same goes for someone getting access to my email and basically having the power to reset all my passwords for all the accounts I’ve registered using that email.

In the real non-digital world there are lots of insurance policies that cover things if they get damaged or stolen. If someone steals my car or I break my TV, I can replace them if they were insured. We don’t really have that option in the digital world, and our digital life contains some very personal and sentimental information. The big difference is that our digital lives can never be erased – what we’ve said or written, pictures we’ve sent, or orders we’ve made are basically stored forever in the hands of the service providers.

I decided to investigate the black market and see what kind of information is being sold there. We all know that you can buy drugs, weapons and stolen goods there, but you can also buy online identities. How much do you think your online identity is worth?

Hacked accounts

When investigating hacked accounts from popular services it’s almost impossible to compile valid data because there are so many black-market vendors selling this stuff. It is also difficult to verify the uniqueness of the data being sold. But one thing is certain – this is the most popular type of data being sold on the black market. When talking about data from popular services, I’m referring to things like stolen social media accounts, banking details, remote access to servers or desktops and even data from popular services like Uber, Netflix, Spotify and tons of gaming websites (Steam, PlayStation Network, etc.), dating apps, porn websites.

The most common way to steal this data is via phishing campaigns or by exploiting a web-related vulnerability such as an SQL injection vulnerability. The password dumps contain an email and password combination for the hacked services, but as we know most people reuse their passwords. So, even if a simple website has been hacked, the attackers might get access to accounts on other platforms by using the same email and password combination.

These kinds of attacks are not very sophisticated, but they are very effective. It also shows that cybercriminals are making money from hackers and hacktivists; the people selling these accounts are most likely not the people who hacked and distributed the password dump.

The price for these hacked accounts is very cheap, with most selling for about $1 per account, and if you buy in bulk, you’ll get them even cheaper.

Some vendors even give a lifetime warranty, so if one account stops working, you receive a new account for free. For example, below is a screenshot that shows a vendor selling Netflix accounts.

100 000 email and password combinations

250 000 email and password combinations

Passports and identity papers

When lurking around underground marketplaces I saw a lot of other information being traded, such as fake passports, driving licenses and ID cards/scans. This is where things get a bit more serious – most of the identity papers are not stolen, but they can be used to cause problems in the non-digital world.

People can use your identity with a fake ID card to acquire, for example, phone subscriptions, open bank accounts and so on.

Below is a screenshot of a person selling a registered Swedish passport, and the price is $4000. The same vendor was offering passports from almost all European countries.

Scammers’ toolbox

Most of the items being sold in the underground marketplaces are not new to me; they are all things the industry has been talking about for a very long time. What was interesting was the fact that stolen or fake invoices and other papers/scans such as utility bills were being sold.

People actually steal other people’s mail and collect invoices, for example, which are then used to scam other people. They will collect and organize these invoices by industry and country. The vendors then sell these scans as part of a scammer toolbox.

A scammer can use these scans to target victims in specific countries and even narrow their attacks down to gender, age and industry.

During the research I got to thinking about a friend’s (Inbar Raz) research on Tinder bots and, through my research, I managed to find links between stolen accounts and Tinder bots. These bots are used to earn even more money from stolen accounts. So, the accounts are not just sold on the black market, they are also used in other cybercriminal activities.

What’s interesting about the fake Tinder profiles is that they have the following characteristics in common that make them easy to identify:

  • Lots of matches all at once.
  • Most of the women look like super models.
  • No job title or education info.
  • Stolen Instagram pictures/images but with info stolen from Facebook accounts.
  • Scripted chat messages.

Most of the bots that I’ve researched are related to traffic redirection, clickbait, spam and things like that. So far, I haven’t seen any malware – most of the bots will try to involve you in other crime or to steal your data. Here’s an example of what it might look like.

The first step is that you’re matched with the bot. The bot doesn’t always contact you directly, but waits for you to interact with it before it replies. In some cases the introduction is scripted with some text about how it wants to show you nude photos or something similar and then it posts a link.

When you click on the link you go through several websites redirecting you in a chain. This chain does a lot of things, such as place cookies in your browser, enumerate your settings such as location, browser version and type and probably a lot more. This is done so that when you end up at the landing page they know which page to serve you. In my case, I came from a Swedish IP and the website I was offered was obviously in Swedish, which indicates that they are targeting victims globally.

These websites always have statements and quotes from other users. Most of the information used, including profile photos, name and age, is also taken from stolen accounts. The quote itself is obviously fake, but this approach looks very professional.

This particular website was asking for your email to sign up to a website which basically offered you a job. The actual campaign is called the ‘Profit Formula Scam’ and is a binary option auto-trading scam. It’s been covered in the media before, so I won’t go into any detail here.

Summary

People are generally very naive when it comes to their online identity, especially when it comes to services that don’t appear to affect their privacy in any way. I often hear people say that they don’t care if someone gets access to their account, for example, because they assume that the worst thing that can happen is that their account will be shared with someone they don’t know. But we need to understand that even if it all looks very innocent, we don’t know what the criminals do with the money they earn.

What if they are spending it on drugs or guns, which are then sold to teenagers? What if they finance platforms and servers to spread child porn? We need to understand that criminals often work together with other criminals, which means that maybe drugs are bought from the money they make from selling stolen Netflix accounts on the black market.

One of the most alarming things I noticed was how cheap everything was. Just think about the information someone could gather about you if they got access to your Facebook account – there is surely no way you would be okay with someone selling access to parts of your private life for one dollar.

But people use more than just Facebook. I would assume that most people aged between 15 and 35 have registered for over 20 different services and maybe use about 10 of them frequently. The services that you hardly ever use are a problem because you often forget that you even have an account there.

The most frequently used accounts probably include the likes of Facebook, Instagram, Skype, Snapchat, Tinder (or other dating services) email, and entertainment services such as Spotify, Netflix, HBO and YouTube. Besides this, you may have an account on a governmental or financial website such as your bank, insurance company, etc. We also need to remember that some of these services use Google or Facebook as authentication, which means you don’t use an email and password combination – you simply login with your Facebook or Google account.

SERVICE DESCRIPTION PRICE
Gaming Any type of gaming account, Steam, PSN, Xbox etc. $1 per account
Email Email and Password combination from various leaks. Most likely sold in bulk Various
Facebook Direct access to Facebook account $1 per account
Spotify Spotify premium account $2 per account
Netflix Netflix account $1-5 per account
Desktop Username and password for RDP services, including VNC $5-50 per account
Server Username and password for telnet/ssh $5-50 per account
Ecommerce Access to various ecommerce sites, including Airbnb and similar services $10 per account

When looking at the data it’s quite mind-blowing that you can basically sell someone’s complete digital life for less than $50 dollars. We’re not talking about getting access to bank accounts, but you do get access to services where a credit card might be included such as Spotify, Netflix, Facebook and others.

Besides just taking full control of someone’s digital life, access to these services is used by other criminals, for example, to spread malware or conduct phishing attacks.

The level of availability of these hacked or stolen accounts is very impressive; basically anyone with a computer can get access – you don’t have to be an advanced cybercriminal to know where to find them.

#CyberAware: Teaching Kids to Get Fierce About Protecting Their Identity

Identity ProtectionIt wasn’t Kiley’s fault, but that didn’t change the facts: The lending group denied her college loan due to poor credit, and she didn’t have a plan B. Shocked and numb, she began to dig a little deeper. She discovered that someone had racked up three hefty credit card bills using her Social Security Number (SSN) a few years earlier.

Her parents had a medical crisis and were unable to help with tuition, and Kiley’s scholarships didn’t cover the full tuition. With just months left before leaving to begin her freshman year at school, Kiley was forced to radically adjusted her plans. She enrolled in the community college near home and spent her freshman year learning more than she ever imagined about identity protection and theft.

The Toll: Financial & Emotional

Unfortunately, these horror stories of childhood identity theft are all too real. According to Javelin Strategy & Research, more than 1 million children were the victim of identity fraud in 2017, resulting in losses of $2.6 billion and more than $540 million in out-of-pocket costs to the families.

The financial numbers don’t begin to reflect the emotional cost victims of identity theft often feel. According to the 2017 Identity Theft Aftermath report released by the Identity Theft Resource Center, victims report feeling rage, severe distress, angry, frustrated, paranoid, vulnerable, fearful, and — in 7% of the cases — even suicidal.

Wanted: Your Child’s SSNIdentity Protection

Sadly, because of their clean credit history, cyber crooks love to target kids. Also, identity theft among kids often goes undiscovered for more extended periods of time. Thieves have been known to use a child’s identity to apply for government benefits, open bank or credit card accounts, apply for a loan or utility service, or rent a place to live. Often, until the child grows up and applies for a car or student loan, the theft goes undetected.

Where do hackers get the SSN’s? Data breaches can occur at schools, pediatrician offices, banks, and home robberies. A growing area of concern involves medical identity theft, which gives thieves the ability to access prescription drugs and even expensive medical treatments using someone else’s identity.

6 Ways to Build #CyberAware Kids

  1. Talk, act, repeat. Identity theft isn’t a big deal until it personally affects you or your family only, then, it’s too late. Discuss identity theft with your kids and the fallout. But don’t just talk — put protections in place. Remind your child (again) to keep personal information private. (Yes, this habit includes keeping passwords and personal data private even from BFFs!)
  2.  Encourage kids to be digitally savvy. Help your child understand the tricks hackers play to steal the identities of innocent people. Identity thieves will befriend children online and with the goal of gathering personal that information to steal their identity. Thieves are skilled at trolling social networks looking at user profiles for birth dates, addresses, and names of family members to piece together the identity puzzle. Challenge your kids to be on the hunt for imposters and catfishes. Teach them to be suspicious about links, emails, texts, pop up screens, and direct messages from “cute” but unknown peers on their social media accounts. Teach them to go with their instincts and examine websites, social accounts, and special shopping offers.Identity Protection
  3. Get fierce about data protection. Don’t be quick to share your child’s SSN or secondary information such as date of birth, address, and mothers’ maiden name and teach your kids to do the same. Also, never carry your child’s (or your) physical Social Security card in your wallet or purse. Keep it in a safe place, preferably under lock and key. Only share your child’s data when necessary (school registration, passport application, education savings plan, etc.) and only with trusted individuals.
  4. File a proactive fraud alert. By submitting a fraud alert in your child’s name with the credit bureaus several times a year, you will be able to catch any credit fraud early. Since your child hasn’t built any credit, anything that comes back will be illegal activity. The fraud alert will remain in place for only 90 days. When the time runs out, you’ll need to reactivate the alert. You can achieve the same thing by filing an earnings report from the Social Security Administration. The report will reveal any earnings acquired under your child’s social security number.
  5. Know the warning signs. If a someone is using your child’s data, you may notice: 1) Pre-approved credit card offers addressed to them arriving via mail 2) Collection agencies calling and asking to speak to your child 3) Court notices regarding delinquent bills. If any of these things happen your first step is to call and freeze their credit with the three credit reporting agencies: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion.
  6. Report theft. If you find a violation of your child’s credit of any kind go to  IdentityTheft.gov to report the crime and begin the restoring your child’s credit. This site is easy to navigate and takes you step-by-step down the path of restoring stolen credit.

Building digitally resilient kids is one of the primary tasks of parents today. Part of that resilience is taking the time to talk about this new, digital frontier that is powerful but has a lot of security cracks in it that can negatively impact your family. Getting fierce about identity protection can save your child (and you) hours and even years of heartache and financial loss.

 

Toni Birdsong is a Family Safety Evangelist to McAfee. You can find her onTwitter @McAfee_Family. (Disclosures)

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Aussie Ruby Rose is McAfee’s Most Dangerous Celebrity

Keeping up to date with celebrity gossip is a sport for many of us. Staying on top of what your favourite celebrity wore to the latest Hollywood shindig and, of course who they were with can be very time consuming and often require extensive searching! But did you know that searching for your favourite celebrity can actually put your personal security at risk?

Every year McAfee, the device-to-cloud cybersecurity company, undertakes global research, entitled Most Dangerous Celebrities, to identify which celebrities generate the riskiest search results which could potentially expose fans to malicious websites and risky downloads. And in 2018, the top spot was filled for the first time ever by an Australian celebrity: actress and television presenter Ruby Rose.

The very talented Ruby Rose kicked off her career as a hugely popular VJ (video jockey) on MTV. Before long, she went on to enjoy great success as a model, television presenter and then actress with her role as Stella Carlin in the cult series Orange Is The New Black. Ruby’s casting as Batwoman in the upcoming television series would have no doubt assisted in propelling her to first position.

Who Are the Most Dangerous Celebrities to Search For in 2018?

In the global list of Most Dangerous Celebrities, American reality TV star, Kristin Cavallari finished behind Rose at No. 2, followed by French actress Marion Cotillard (No. 3), the original Wonder Woman Lynda Carter (No. 4), Aussie actress Rose Byrne (No. 5), star of Will and Grace Debra Messing (No. 6), reality TV star Kourtney Kardashian (No. 7), actress Amber Heard (No. 8), American morning TV show host Kelly Ripa (No. 9), and finally Orange Is The New Black actor, Brad William Henke round out the top 10.

American actress Lucy Liu topped Australia’s list of the Most Dangerous Celebrities to search for. The top 10 list was littered with Aussie celebrities as well, including Naomi Watts (No. 2), Cate Blanchett (No 4.), Elle Macpherson (No.9) and Margot Robbie (No.10).

Interestingly, Aussie morning TV show host Sonya Kruger came in at number 17 on the list, a notable mention after appearing alongside other Australian TV stars, such as Carrie Bickmore and Georgie Gardiner in the recent fake Facebook ads scamming unsuspecting victims into purchasing face cream subscriptions. The recent Facebook scam demonstrates how cybercriminals capitalise on our love of celebrity when trying to trap unsuspecting consumers into scams.

Cybercriminals Capitalise on our ‘Celebrity Culture’

Online scammers and cybercriminals are always looking at new ways to get their hands on our private information with the aim of making big bucks. Tapping into our love of celebrity, cybercriminals will create professional looking websites that contain downloads which contain spyware or malware. These malicious celebrity sites may also require users to set up an account. Unsuspecting visitors will then provide their email addresses and passwords to the site not realising that their details have been compromised.

Our fast-paced modern lives mean that we often cut corners in the name of speed and convenience. Some of us are just so keen to view the promised content about our favourite celebrity that we drop our guard and don’t take the time to ensure the site is legitimate.

But not taking the time to ensure a link is safe means fans are not only putting their devices at risk of infection from viruses, but themselves at risk of identity theft.

How to Avoid Being Targeted by a Cyber Criminal

One of the best ways of staying safe online and avoiding falling victim to a scam is to adopt safe searches practices. Here are my top tips to ensure you stay out of trouble!

1. Think Before You Click

Users looking for a sneak-peek of Ruby Rose’s upcoming Batwoman series should be cautious and only download directly from a reliable source. The safest thing to do is to wait for the official release instead of visiting a third-party website that could contain malware.

2. Apply Updates as Soon as they are Available

Device and app updates will often include security fixes. Applying updates is an important step to help ensure devices stay protected.

3. Browse with Security Protection

Searching and browsing without security software is a little like navigating a foreign city with any guidelines. McAfee Total Protection is a comprehensive security solution that can help keep devices protected against malware, phishing attacks, and other threats. It includes McAfee WebAdvisor which can help identify malicious websites – very helpful!

4. Use Parental Control Software

Kids are fans of celebrities too, so ensure that limits are set on the child’s device and use software that can help minimise exposure to potentially malicious or inappropriate websites.

Whether you celebrity watch because you are enamoured, envious or inspired, please don’t let your hobby put you at risk of identity theft. Ensure you (and your kids) search safely so you can stay out of the way of cybercrims and their scams!

Alex x

 

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#CyberAware: Will You Help Make the Internet a Safe Place for Families?

National Cyber Security Awareness MonthDon’t we all kinda secretly hope, even pretend, that our biggest fears are in the process of remedying themselves? Like believing that the police will know to stay close should we wander into a sketchy part of town. Or that our doors and windows will promptly self-lock should we forget to do so. Such a world would be ideal — and oh, so, peaceful — but it just isn’t reality. When it comes to making sure our families are safe we’ve got to be the ones to be aware, responsible, and take the needed action.

Our Shared Responsibility

This holds true in making the internet a safe place. As much as we’d like to pretend there’s a protective barrier between us and the bad guys online, there’s no single government entity that is solely responsible for securing the internet. Every individual must play his or her role in protecting their portion of cyberspace, including the devices and networks they use. And, that’s what October — National Cyber Security Awareness Month (NCSAM) — is all about.

At McAfee, we focus on these matters every day but this month especially, we are linking arms will safety organizations, bloggers, businesses, and YOU — parents, consumers, educators, and digital citizens — to zero in on ways we can all do our part to make the internet safe and secure for everyone. (Hey, sometimes the home team needs a huddle, right!?)

8 specific things you can do!

National Cyber Security Awareness Month

  1. Become a NCSAM Champion. The National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSAM) is encouraging everyone — individuals, schools, businesses, government organizations, universities — to sign up, take action, and make a difference in online safety and security. It’s free and simple to register. Once you sign up you will get an email with a toolbox packed with fun, shareable memes to post for #CyberAware October.
  2. Tap your social powers. Throughout October, share, share, share great content you discover. Use the hashtag #CyberAware, so the safety conversation reaches and inspires more people. Also, join the Twitter chat using the hashtag #ChatSTC each Thursday in October at 3 p.m., ET/Noon, PT. Learn, connect with other parents and safety pros, and chime in.National Cyber Security Awareness Month
  3. Hold a family tech talk. Be even more intentional this month. Learn and discuss suggestions from STOP. THINK. CONNECT.™ on how each family member can protect their devices and information.
  4. Print it and post it: Print out a STOP. THINK. CONNECT.™ tip sheet and display it in areas where family members spend time online.
  5. Understand and execute the basics. Information is awesome. But how much of that information do we truly put into action? Take 10 minutes to read 10 Tips to Stay Safe Online and another 10 minutes to make sure you take the time to install a firewall, strengthen your passwords, and make sure your home network as secure as it can be.National Cyber Security Awareness Month
  6. If you care — share! Send an email to friends and family informing them that October is National Cybersecurity Awareness Month and encourage them to visit staysafeonline.org for tips and resources.
  7. Turn on multi-factor authentication. Protect your financial, email and social media accounts with two-step authentication for passwords.
  8. Update, update, update! This overlooked but powerful way to shore up your devices is crucial. Update your software and turn on automatic updates to protect your home network and personal devices.

Isn’t it awesome to think that you aren’t alone in striving to keep your family’s digital life — and future — safe? A lot of people are working together during National Cyber Security Awareness Month to educate and be more proactive in blocking criminals online. Working together, no doubt, we’ll get there quicker and be able to create and enjoy a safer internet.

 

 

Toni Birdsong is a Family Safety Evangelist to McAfee. You can find her onTwitter @McAfee_Family. (Disclosures)

The post #CyberAware: Will You Help Make the Internet a Safe Place for Families? appeared first on McAfee Blogs.

Could the Photos You’re Sharing Online Be Putting Your Child at Risk?

sharing photos risksConfession time. I’m a mom that is part of the problem. The problem of posting photos of my kids online without asking for their permission and knowing deep down that I’m so excited about sharing, I’m not paying much attention at all to the risks.

Why do I do it? Because I’m madly in love with my two wee ones (who aren’t so wee anymore). Because I’m a proud parent who wants to celebrate their milestones in a way that feels meaningful in our digital world. And, if I’m honest, I think posting pictures of my kids publically helps fill up their love tank and remind them they are cherished and that they matter. . . even if the way I’m communicating happens to be very public.

Am I that different than most parents? According to a recent McAfee survey, I’m in the majority.

Theoretically, I represent one of the 1,000 interviewed for McAfee’s recent Age of Consent survey* that rendered some interesting results.

Can you relate?

  • 30% of parents post a photo of their child to social media daily.
  • 58% of parents do not ask for permission from their children before posting images of them on social media.
  • 22% think that their child is too young to provide permission; 19% claim that it’s their own choice, not their child’s choice.

The surprising part:

  • 71% of parents who share images of their kids online agree that the images could end up in the wrong hands.
  • Parents’ biggest concerns with sharing photos online include pedophilia (49%), stalking (48%), and kidnapping (45%).
  • Other risks of sharing photos online may also be other children seeing the image and engaging in cyberbullying (31%), their child feeling embarrassed (30%), and their child feeling worried or anxious (23%).

If this mere sampling of 1,000 parents (myself included) represents the sharing attitudes of even a fraction of the people who use Facebook (estimated to be one billion globally), then rethinking the way in which we share photos isn’t a bad idea.

We know that asking parents, grandparents, friends, and kids themselves to stop uploading photos altogether would be about as practical as asking the entire state of Texas to line up and do the hokey pokey. It’s not going to happen, nor does it have to.

But we can dilute the risks of photo sharing. Together, we can agree to post smarter, to pause a little longer. We can look out for one another’s privacy, and share in ways that keep us all safe.

Ways to help minimize photo sharing risks:

  • Pause before uploading. That photo of your child is awesome but have you stopped to analyze it? Ask yourself: Is there anything in this photo that could be used as an identifier? Have I inadvertently given away personal information such as a birthdate, a visible home addresses, a school uniform, financial details, or potential passwords? Is the photo I’m about to upload something I’d be okay with a stranger seeing? sharing photos risks
  • Review your privacy settings. It’s easy to forget that when we upload a photo, we lose complete control over who will see, modify, and share that photo again (anywhere they choose and in any way they choose). You can minimize the scope of your audience to only trusted friends and family by customizing your privacy settings within each social network.  Platforms like Facebook and Instagram have privacy settings that allow you to share posts (and account access) with select people. Use the controls available to boost your family privacy.
  • Voice your sharing preferences with others. While it may be awkward, it’s okay (even admirable) to request friends and family to reign in or refrain from posting photos of your children online. This rule also applies to other people’s public comments about your vacation plans, new house, children’s names or birthdates, or any other content that gives away too much data. Don’t hesitate to promptly delete those comments by others and explain yourself in a private message if necessary.
  • Turn off geotagging on photos. Did you know that the photo you upload has metadata assigned to it that can tell others your exact location? That’s right. Many social networks will tag a user’s location when that user uploads a photo. To make sure this doesn’t happen, simply turn off geotagging abilities on your phone. This precaution is particularly important when posting photos away from home.
  • Be mindful of identity theft. Identity theft is no joke. Photos can reveal a lot about your lifestyle, your habits, and they can unintentionally give away your data. Consider using an identity theft protection solution like McAfee Identity Theft Protection that can help protect your identity and safeguard your personal information.

* McAfee commissioned OnePoll to conduct a survey of 1,000 parents of children ages one month to 16 years old in the U.S.

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A Look Back at the Equifax Data Breach, One Year Later

WannaCry, Petya, and Equifax first come to mind when you think of the most impactful cyber events in recent years, with the first-year anniversary of the latter coming up September 7th. Impacting nearly 150 million Americans (essentially half the country), the breach changed the nature of identity theft. Now, just before its anniversary, let’s take a look back on the impact of the Equifax data breach, what it all means for consumers, and the current state of identity theft.

Equifax reported that the breach exposed as many as 147.9 million consumer accounts, potentially compromising information such as names, dates of birth, addresses, and Social Security numbers.

To its credit, Equifax launched a program to alert potentially affected consumers that their data may have been exposed, and offered a free year subscription to its credit monitoring service, TrustID.

Unfortunately, identity theft breaches are not an uncommon occurrence. Such incidents are up 44% overall with 1,579 reports last year, and there are likely even more that went unreported. Exposed records due to data breaches are up 389%. Roughly 179 million records have been stolen, with 14.2 million credit card numbers exposed in 2017, an 88% increase over 2016. What’s more, 158 million Social Security numbers were exposed last year, an increase of more than 8 times from 2016. And all this theft has added up – consumers reported $905 million in total fraud losses last year, a 21% increase. So, it only makes sense that identity theft ranked as roughly 14% of all consumer complaints to the FTC last year.

However, despite all the publicity about major data breaches, consumers have done very little or have changed very little largely due to optimism bias. In fact, a recent McAfee survey shows that despite increased consumer concerns, only 37% of individuals use an identity theft protection solution and 28% have no plans to sign up for an ID theft protection solution.

So now the next question is, what should consumers do to protect themselves against identity theft? Start by following these tips:

  • Place a fraud alert. If you know your data has been compromised, place a fraud alert on your credit so that any new or recent requests undergo scrutiny. This also entitles you to extra copies of your credit report, so you can check for anything suspicious. If you find an account you did not open, report it to the police or Federal Trade Commission, as well as the creditor involved so you can close the fraudulent account. Then, make sure you correct your credit report by filing a dispute with each of the three credit bureaus.
  • Freeze your credit. This allows you to seal your credit reports so no one else can take out new accounts or loans in your name. You can do this without impacting your existing lines of credit, such as credit cards. If you want to apply for services or open new accounts, you can temporarily “unfreeze” your credit using a personal identification code only you have.
  • Invest in an identity theft monitoring and recovery solution. With the increase in data breaches, people everywhere are facing the possibility of identity theft. That’s precisely why they should leverage a solution tool such as McAfee Identity Theft Protection, which allows users to take a proactive approach to protecting their identities with personal and financial monitoring and recovery tools to help keep their identities personal and secured.

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.

The post A Look Back at the Equifax Data Breach, One Year Later appeared first on McAfee Blogs.

The Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief and Consumer Protection Act: What Parents Should Know

When we think about credit cards, we usually think of our own – what we use them for, how our credit is doing, and most importantly, that they remain in our hands and not in that of a cybercriminal. But something many parents forget – the cyberthreats that could potentially impact our financial information could very well impact our children’s, given they have credit cards of their own. As a matter of fact, there’s a new law that helps parents with exactly that – protecting their kids’ credit, amongst a few other things. It’s called the Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief and Consumer Protection Act, and it takes effect on September 21st of this year.

So, what does this law mean for parents and their kids? With this law, free credit freezes will be available for anyone – including children under the age of 16 – in the country (currently, there may be fees depending on state laws). That way, if a cybercriminal tries to open up an account with a minor’s information, the impacted family can freeze that account immediately. Additionally, it will extend fraud alerts from 90 days to a full year.

As a result of this law, Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion will each set up a web page for requesting fraud alerts and credit freezes. The FTC will also post links to those web pages on IdentityTheft.gov.

So, with this law coming into effect in no time, what next steps should parents take to reap its benefits? Start by following these tips:

  • Find out if your child has a credit report. First and foremost, head here and go to the ‘Child Identity Theft’ section. It will have instructions on how to find out if your child has a credit report. Most young children shouldn’t have credit files, but if they do, the page includes contact information for credit agencies and advice on how to freeze credit.
  • Keep the record of freezes in a safe place. If you do have to freeze a credit report, keep the records stored in a safe place. Make sure your family can find it when needed, and a crook can’t access it.
  • Invest in an identity theft monitoring and recovery solution. The best way to protect you or a family member from identity theft is by being proactive. That’s precisely why you should leverage a solution tool such as McAfee Identity Theft Protection, which allows users to take a proactive approach to protecting their identities with personal and financial monitoring and recovery tools to help keep their identities personal and secured.

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.

The post The Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief and Consumer Protection Act: What Parents Should Know appeared first on McAfee Blogs.

College Bound? 7 Important Technology Habits for Students

You’ve loved, shaped, and equipped your child to succeed in college and move in day is finally here.  But there’s still one variable that can turn your child’s freshman year upside down, and that’s technology.

That’s right, that essential laptop and indispensable smartphone your child owns could also prove to be his or her biggest headache if not secured and used responsibly. College students can be targets of identity theft, malware, online scams, credit card fraud, property theft, and internet addiction.

The other part of this new equation? You, parent, are no longer in the picture. Your child is now 100% on his or her own. Equipping time is over. Weekly tech monitoring and family chats are in the rearview mirror. Will they succeed? Of course, they will. But one last parenting chat on safety sure can’t hurt. Here are a couple of reminders to share with your college-bound kids.

7  Technology Habits for Students

1. Minimize use of public computers. Campuses rely on shared computers. Because campus networks aren’t always secure, this can open you up to identity theft. If you have to log on to a public computer be it a cafe, library, or lab, be sure to change any passwords each time you return. If you are working with a study group, don’t share passwords. Public devices can be prone to hackers seeking to steal login credentials and credit card numbers. If you do use public devices, get in the habit of browsing in the privacy mode. Clear browser history, cookies, and quit all applications before logging off.

2. Beware when shopping online. Online shopping is often the easiest way for students to purchase essentials. Be sure to use a secure internet connection when hitting that “purchase” button. Reputable sites encrypt data during transactions by using SSL technologies. Look for the tiny padlock icon in the address bar or a URL that begins with “https” (the “s” stands for secure) instead of “http.” Examine the site and look for misspellings, inconsistencies. Go with your instincts if you think a website is bogus, don’t risk the purchase. Online credit card fraud is on the rise, so beware.

3. Guard your privacy. College is a tough place to learn that not all people are trustworthy — even those who appear to be friends. Sadly, many kids learn about online theft the hard way. Never share passwords, credit card numbers, or student ID numbers. Be aware of shoulder surfing which is when someone peers over your shoulder to see what’s on your computer screen. Avoid leaving computer screens open in dorm rooms or libraries where anyone can check your browsing history, use an open screen, or access financial information. Also, never lend your laptop or tablet to someone else since it houses personal information and make sure that all of your screens are password protected.

4.  Beware of campus crooks. Thieves troll college campuses looking for opportunities to steal smartphones, laptops, wearables, and tablets for personal use or resale. Don’t carry your tech around uncased or leave it unguarded. Conceal it in a backpack. Even if you feel comfortable in your new community, don’t leave your phone even for a few seconds to pick up your food or coffee at a nearby counter. If you are in the library or study lab and need a bathroom break, take your laptop with you. Thieves are swift, and you don’t want to lose a semester’s worth of work in a matter of seconds.

5. Use public Wi-Fi with caution. Everyone loves to meet at the coffee shop for study sessions — and that includes hackers. Yes, it’s convenient, but use public Wi-Fi with care. Consider using VPN software, which creates a secure private network and blocks people from accessing your laptop or activity. To protect yourself, be sure to change your passwords often. This is easy if you use a free password manager like True Key.

6. Social media = productivity killer. Be aware of your online time. Mindless surfing, internet games, and excessive video gaming with roommates can have an adverse effect on your grades as well as your mental health.  Use online website blockers to help protect your study time.

7. Social media = career killer. We can all agree: College is a blast. However, keep the party photos and inappropriate captions offline. Your career will thank you. Remember: Most everything you do today is being captured or recorded – even if you’re not the one with the camera. The internet is forever, and a long-forgotten photo can make it’s way back around when you least expect it.

8. Don’t get too comfortable too fast. Until you understand who you can trust in your new community, consider locking your social media accounts. Disable GPS on mobile apps for security, don’t share home and dorm addresses, email, or phone numbers. While it may be the farthest thing from your mind right now — campus stalking case are real.

toni page birdsong

Toni Birdsong is a Family Safety Evangelist to McAfee. You can find her onTwitter @McAfee_Family. (Disclosures)

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