Archive for September, 2012

One by one, like toy soldiers under fire, the country’s largest banks are being peppered with distributed denial-of-service attacks, or DDos.

In early September, test attacks began on small banks’ sites. Then JPMorgan, Citigroup and Bank of America were assaulted. Most recently , U.S. Bancorp and PNC Financial came under the digital hammer.

DDoS attacks have been around for a long time. Basically, a computer server is bombarded with requests in an attempt to make a site unavailable for intended users. The server becomes overloaded and cannot respond, or becomes paralyzingly slow. In the recent cases, online banking sites received so much traffic their websites went down. Down time, of course, means money lost. A sustained attack can cripple sites indefinitely.

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Payday loan scams, when thieves randomly call victims and talk them into paying for a loan they never took, have been going down for years. In one of the largest known cases, the Federal Trade Commission busted a group that made more than 2.7 million calls to 600,000 different phone numbers, collecting more than $5.2 million.

But oh, just wait, it gets worse. As , a website that sells personal information—Usearching.info—to anyone with a few dollars to spare, is likely populating data with information from payday loan sites. Much like their brick-and-mortar counterparts, online payday websites offer quick loans to desperate customers. Most are believed to be scams intent on ripping off the customers’ personal information.

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Disabled Vietnam War veteran William Combs first noticed a missing veteran’s disability benefits check. Then his tax return went missing, and most recently a Social Security disability payment disappeared.

Combs is where identity thieves reroute government benefits to their own bank and debit accounts.  With just a full name, address and bank information, thieves contact the Social Security Administration and change the payment information to their own address, bank or debit card.

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Younger generations tend to be more in-tune with technology, whether it’s waiting in long lines for the new iPhone, tweeting throughout their day, or downloading the newest app.  But, do youth tend to disregard practical safeguards to keep their information safe? This infographic explains some of their questionable behavior.

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If you’re someone who cares about your privacy, these are indeed strange times. When everything from your iPhone to your iPad (and every derivation in between) is secretly tracking your every move from behind its colorful screen, when advertisers gather enough information about you , it’s clear that we are living in a twilight zone. What we think we know about staying safe, and what we actually know, may be two entirely different things.

The recent kerfluffle over Apple device identification numbers is the perfect case in point. Last week the hacking group AntiSec announced that it had succeeded in stealing 12 million Apple device IDs from a laptop belonging to an FBI agent. To prove it, AntiSec released a million of the IDs (which they encrypted) on a publicly-available website. The group even taunting Christopher Stangl, the FBI agent alleged to be the victim of the hack, thanking him for the vast cache of data.

Then things got really weird.

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When you hear a number like “94 million” in the news, it’s usually because somebody won the lottery. This time around, no such luck. This 94 million is the number of Americans’ files in which personal information has been exposed, since 2009, to potential at government agencies. Go ahead, count the zeroes: 94,000,000. That’s like releasing the personal data of every man, woman and child in California, Texas, New York, and Ohio.

Believe it or not, this number — which was just revealed — is only the most conservative estimate. When you take into account the difference between reported data breaches, which is what this report measures, and actual incidents, you are talking about a much, much bigger number. As bad as the numbers are, it gets worse. Much worse. Indeed, the biggest threat doesn’t come from smart hackers — it comes from dumb politicians and bureaucrats.

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By Matt Cullina

With Canadian privacy breaches in the news and , businesses in Canada are recognizing that their data is increasingly at risk. As our lives move into the digital sphere, the security and privacy of sensitive personal information is increasingly vulnerable. For example, when an electronic health record is exposed, the privacy of a patient has been breached. In the event an individual’s social insurance number is compromised, his or her financial accounts and credit worthiness could be susceptible to fraud. These risks are still relatively new to many businesses in Canada, but they’re growing every day.

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Was it excessive exuberance? Was it judgmental deficiency? Was it the thrill of hearing a barn burner by the President of the World? Well, whatever it was, it was a dangerous mistake.

Last night at the Democratic National Convention, during a particularly rousing segment of President Clinton’s forceful and unabashed dissection of the Republican depiction of Obamacare as a destroyer of Medicare, an enthusiastic Democratic Delegate waved her Medicare card in front of a national news pool camera. The problem is that anyone sharing the moment either online or on television, or researching a replay of that moment, had or will have the opportunity take a long, slow look at a cornucopia of her personal identifying information and be in a position to use it for nefarious purposes.

At the very least, the video offers would-be thieves the opportunity to retrieve her name and her Medicare identification, which also happens to be her Social Security Number. While that may well be enough to begin the identity theft process, they need only go to a variety of other sources to acquire additional personal information to have a more complete picture of the victim.

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You gotta feel for these guys. NFL rookies like Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III have spent so much time moving around and traveling the past few years they probably haven’t had much time to spend the millions of dollars from their signing bonuses.

Once they settle down, though—you know, get into a steady, relaxing routine of being chased by giant defensive linemen and trying to live up to the pressure of being starting quarterbacks in football-hungry towns at age 22—they might want to take one of those Monday mornings and think about identity theft.

People who change addresses frequently, or whose work takes them on the road a lot, can be vulnerable to identity theft. They sometimes:

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By Henry Alpert

When my fiancée and I evacuated for Hurricane Katrina in 2005, like other New Orleans residents we thought we’d return home in a few days. We prepared for a short trip, but it wasn’t until two months later that we were able to return to our barely functioning city.

As New Orleans got back on its feet and everyone exchanged their Katrina stories, locals developed new game plans about what to do for future evacuations. Hurricane Isaac wasn’t as monstrous as Katrina, but my now-wife, who is seven months pregnant, and I thought it best to take our 3-year-old son and dog out of harm’s way. For the Isaac evacuation, I was better prepared and took steps to safeguard my family’s financial accounts and identities:

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