Tuesday, May 26, 2015

One-in-four Americans victimized by information security breaches

April 21, 2015

One-in-four Americans (25 percent) fell victim to information security breaches in the past year, according to a new survey from the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA), which polled 1,010 US adults. This represented more than double the number of people (11 percent) who reported being victimized in a similar survey taken just over a year ago.

No age group is safe from personal information security breaches--regardless of their online activity. The survey showed that 34 percent of adults aged 55-64 fell victim to information security breaches in the last year, compared to the 22 percent of millennials who are typically seen as being the most active age group in digital communications platforms among adults.

Cyber attacks not only put Americans' information at risk; these breaches can have an adverse effect on consumers' personal finances.

One-in-five Americans (20 percent) said identity theft has negatively affected their credit score. In addition, one-in-four Americans (26 percent) reported that their credit score prevented them from doing at least one thing in the past year, including obtaining a personal loan, a credit card, or a mortgage. Eight percent reported they were prevented from renting an apartment and five percent were unable to land a job because of their credit score. These numbers underscore the importance of the issue.

The survey also found that 86 percent of adults reported some concern in businesses' ability to safeguard customers' financial and other personal information, with a majority (51 percent) saying they are "extremely concerned" or "very concerned." The latter figure is up from 39 percent a year ago. Perhaps because digital communication and online payments are so ingrained in their daily life, fewer Millennials (42 percent) reported being extremely concerned or very concerned about businesses' abilities to protect their data, less than any other age group surveyed.

"Data breaches have the potential to seriously affect consumers' finances and wreck havoc on their credit scores. The good news is that we are seeing Americans taking steps to safeguard their information and reduce their susceptibility to these attacks," commented Ernie Almonte, chair of the AICPA's National CPA Financial Literacy Commission.

The survey found more than four-in-five (82 percent) Americans are shifting their purchasing behavior in the wake of increased cyber-attacks, a 13 percentage point increase (69 percent) from a year ago. Fifty-six percent said they are now using more cash and/or checks for purchases, and 40 percent have reduced their online presence--including turning off social media accounts or visiting fewer websites. In comparison, only 34 percent of Millennials have reduced their online presence in the wake of increase information security breaches, the least of any age group.

Protecting personal information has become a major concern. The AICPA's National CPA Financial Literacy Commission offers the following useful tips for keeping your financial information safe and protecting yourself against personal information security breaches.

  • Be proactive: Reach out to your bank and credit card companies and ask what safeguards they have available, including fraud alerts and purchase limits. Many companies have these features available, but you may have to opt in. 
  • Avoid shopping using a public Wi-Fi connection: It's generally a bad idea to transmit any personal data on a connection that isn't secure--including those in coffee shops and public places. An unsecured connection means hackers may be able to gain access to any personal information you share with the retailer and use it to make unauthorized purchases. 
  • Secure your credit cards: Make a list of all of your credit cards (including account numbers and emergency phone numbers of each issuer). Secure this information in a safe place. When you use your credit card in a restaurant or a store, don't let it leave your sight. 
  • Avoid clicking on unknown links in emails: Don't click on links in unsolicited emails or social media sites, even if they purport to be from trustworthy retailers, because they may take you to sites that are trying to collect information for identity theft. Instead, type the organization's website address in to your browser's address bar or find it through a search. 
  • Follow up quickly: If your financial information has been compromised in any way, ask each credit bureau to place a fraud alert on your credit report. If your wallet or personal identification is stolen, immediately notify the police, your credit card providers, your bank, and the three major credit reporting bureaus. 

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Friday, May 15, 2015

An iPad app glitch grounded several dozen American Airlines planes

April 29, 2015

American Airlines flights experienced significant delays this evening after pilots' iPads--which the airline uses to distribute flight plans and other information to the crew--abruptly crashed. "Several dozen" flights were affected by the outage, according to a spokesperson for the airline.

An investigation by the airline traced the problem to an iPad app made by the Boeing subsidiary Jeppeson, which contains maps of various airport facilities. When a new version of a runway map for Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport was distributed, it conflicted with an older version of the map stored on some pilots' iPads, an airline spokesman told Recode.

No flights were canceled, and pilots have been notified how to fix the bug, by deleting the app and re-installing it. Apple said it had confirmed that the iPads' own hardware and operating system did not crash, and that the issue was with the Jeppesen app.

But when the glitch first surfaced, passengers expressed surprise and frustration at unexpected source of the delay.

"The pilot told us when they were getting ready to take off, the iPad screens went blank, both for the captain and copilot, so they didn't have the flight plan," Toni Jacaruso, a passenger on American flight #1654 from Dallas to Austin, told Quartz.

"The pilot came on and said that his first mate's iPad powered down unexpectedly, and his had too, and that the entire 737 fleet on American had experienced the same behavior," said passenger Philip McRell, who was also on flight #1654. "It seemed unprecedented and very unfamiliar to the pilots."

Other passengers in New York and Chicago also said they were being affected by the outage.

The airline issued this message on Twitter in response to a stranded passenger:

Americans switched its pilots to an iPad-based "electronic flight bag" made by Jeppesen in 2013, replacing the heavy paper-based reference materials that pilots carried previously. American said the change would reduce the frequent injuries incurred by pilots from carrying heavy flight bags, and would save time by making revisions electronically. 

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Thursday, April 2, 2015

Good Cyber Security Can't Be Bought at Wal-Mart

By Sue Poremba

Cyber security is a top concern in the IT industry today. In this series, we will look at various threats to cyber security--and what steps businesses can take to meet those threats head on in order to get good cyber security. 

If the solution to the problem of how to get good cyber security was packaged in a box and sold at Wal-Mart, IT professionals would have nothing to worry about. They could arrange fro employees to pick up their security package when activating their new smartphones.

Unfortunately, getting good cyber security isn't that simple. Good cyber security practices aren't purchased in a store: they have to be taught.

And the sad reality is, most employees aren't receiving a solid cyber security education. In fact, according to a survey commissioned by Sungard Availability Services, IT professionals believe that employee behavior is one of the biggest threats to company cyber security efforts. The biggest security-related concerns are employees who are careless with their mobile devices and employees who have poor password hygiene.

"The weakest link in security is between the keyboard and the seat," said Kevin Epstein, Vice President of Advanced Security and Governance with Proofpoint. "There are few security systems that can withstand the efforts of a user with a mouse who's determined to click. Many if not most of the major breaches in the last twelve months have been initiated by a user clicking a link in a phishing email. Education can reduce--though not eliminate--such behavior."

There are several reasons why it is important to educate employees on cyber security. The first is to protect organizational data (e.g. new and current designs) and information related to customers or suppliers, said Gary Griffith, Faculty Member with the School of Information Systems and Technology at Walden University. The second reason is to prevent downtime or loss of productivity due to attacks on the company's technical equipment. "Employees should understand or know about the harm these attacks can cause, including shutting down facilities for days while the IT staff tries to remove the malware and bring all the systems back online," Griffith explained.

Griffith likes to mix real-life examples along with the different types of cyber-attacks in his cyber security education strategy. This allows users to see what those attacks are doing to gather information and how they can affect a business. "I also like to include why it is important that employees understand the consequences of their actions," he added. "For example, if it was reported in the news that customer data had been stolen, what would happen to the company's ability to attract new customers or to keep current customers? What would happen to employees' jobs and careers if leadership had to pay fines for the loss of customer data? It is important to let employees know that what they do daily matters, because they are ultimately the ones that can prevent most cyber-attacks."

Teaching the basics about what a cyber security threat is and how it does damage shouldn't be done in a passive manner. Security education should be hands-on and targeted, Epstein said. "Too many organizations apply a blanket policy or standard training--which bores the sophisticated users and fails to assist the less-technical users. The best education often involves and IT organization understanding which users are most prone to clicking on what lures, then creating focused education around those areas--for example, 'phishing' their own organization."

Overall, the best security practices come down to common sense, not sophisticated technology, according to Ashley Schwartau, Creative Director with The Security Awareness Company. Schwartau uses the following best practices in her security education:

1. Incident response: knowing how and whom to report potential security incidents to.
2. Passwords: knowing how to make strong ones, and change them regularly.
3. Malware: understanding the main types of threats and how they can be avoided.
4. Safe surfing: remembering that you are what stands between the outside world and the inside of the company, and that you represent your organization when online.
5. Phishing and Social Engineering: recognizing phishing attempts and social engineering attacks.
6. Mobile and the Cloud: treating mobile devices as you would any computer and understanding that just because files are stored in the cloud doesn't make them immune to security threats.
7. Preventative Care: backing up regularly, installing anti-virus software, and patching software and operating systems as soon as prompted.
8. Non-Technical and Physical Security: shredding sensitive documents when no longer needed, requiring identification badges for employees and guests, and keeping track of all devices.
9. Privacy:  understanding how identity theft happens and how you can protect against it.
10. Policy: knowing and understanding security policy as well as the consequences of not following policy, and how to quickly find policy when in doubt.

In the end, the best security education is something that employees will regularly practice. The more simple and straightforward it is, the more likely they'll remember to be safer on their computers.

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Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Why some emails are so easy for scammers to fake

By Gary Stoller
Published March 16, 2015

Emails purportedly sent by health insurance companies and large banks are more likely to be fraudulent than those claiming to be from social media companies, a new research study reveals.

An email that appears to come from a health insurance company is four times more likely to be fraudulent--or two times more likely from a large US bank--than an email ostensibly from a social media company like Facebook, according to Agari's 2015 study.

Agari, which provides solutions to detect and prevent cyberattacks, analyzed 6.5 billion emails daily last year in nine industries for the study.

The study should make consumers and organizations more aware of the security of their email and data and "how they can protect themselves from fraud," says Patrick Peterson, Agari's CEO.

The health care industry, which has been hit with massive cybersecurity attacks, has the worst average TrustScore of all industries surveyed, the study says. A TrustScore, based on a zero to 100 scale, indicates how well organizations protect their consumers from email cyberthreats.

The poor TrustScores of health care companies are in line with an FBI warning last year. According to Reuters, the agency warned health care providers that their cybersecurity systems are lax compared to to other sectors, making them vulnerable to hackers targeting American citizens' medical records and health insurance data.

In February, Anthem, the nation's No. 2 health insurance carrier, was struck by a cyberattack that exposesed the sensitive data of up to 80 million customers in all 50 states.

Last July, Community Health Systems, the nation's second-largest-for-profit health system, confirmed that information about 4.5 million patients was stolen in a cyberattack believed to have originated in China.

Agari's study reports that six of 14 major health insurance companies surveyed had a TrustScore of zero. Aetna, though, is an exception. It had a 100 TrustScore in last year's third and fourth quarters--"remarkable for a company in any sector," the study says.

Banks Ranked Low

Email attackers targeted banks and other financial institutions more than any other types of company in 2014, but every category of bank surveyed had a low average TrustScore, the study says. The study looked at large and mega banks in the USA and mega banks in Europe.

"European megabanks, whose customers are some of malicious emailers' most common targets, fared especially poorly," the study says. They had a TrustScore of 33, the second-lowest of nine industries surveyed.

Large American banks had the third-lowest TrustScore, 36, and American megabanks scored 46. Two US banks--Chase and Capital One--had perfect 100 scores.

Most companies haven't implemented technology to prevent "cyber criminals from sending messages that appear to come from their domains--a failure that leaves customers vulnerable to phishing attacks," the study concludes.

The emails from cyber criminals trick people into sharing sensitive information, "leading to identity theft and other crimes," the study says. "Because victims of phishing attacks often blame the companies they thought sent the forged emails, the attacks also erode the trust companies spend years building with customers."

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Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Why health hacks are worse than credit card hacks

By Erin Griffith
February 5, 2015

Companies in the health care industry have richer data and fewer defenses than those in other industries, making them especially susceptible to attacks.

In the largest-ever security breach of a health insurance company, Anthem revealed on Thursday that the personal data of 80 million customers may have been exposed to hackers.

It's likely that hackers will continue to target health care companies. For one thing, health data is a richer source of personal information than credit card data. Among the bounty; social security numbers, email addresses, birthdays, street addresses, policy numbers, diagnosis codes, billing information, and the names of family members--the sort of information used in security questions for online accounts.

Malicious hackers can use that information for what's sometimes called a "soft hack," or unauthorized entry without the use of sophisticated software. Identity thieves can gain access to a person's account by guessing the right answers to security questions and resetting a password. With the right combination of family and personal information, a thief can also use fake identities to score drugs from pharmacies. This is the major reason why stolen health credentials are worth 10 times more than credit cards on the black market, according to Reuters.

Secondly, health care companies haven't focused on security as much as other industries have, and have been known to rely on outdated software. "Healthcare organizations have invested less in IT, including security technologies and services than other industries," says Lynne Dunbrack, a vice president at market research firm IDC.

That's true for insurers in part because they aren't incentivized to make security a priority. Their end customers often have little choice as to which provider they use, since that choice is typically made my employers. Insurers are not likely to lose as much business over a data breach as, say, a retailer. For example, it is much easier for a shopper to choose Walmart over Target after the latter suffered a massive security breach last year.

In general, companies that administer their data in servers located on-premise are often less secure than companies that rely on major cloud computing vendors, according to Kevin Spain, a general partner at Emergence Capital. "The most vulnerable systems tend not to be cloud-based because security is what they do," he says. A hack like this may not ruin a health insurance company like Anthem, but it could destroy a cloud software company like Salesforce, Spain says: "That's why there is a different level of priority."

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Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Sometimes hackers just want to embarrass you

February 2, 2015 7:00pm

Cyber attacks can have detrimental impacts on customer relations, revenue, intellectual property and the overall health and welfare of an organization. But one significant impact, which can cost a company considerable time and money to repair, is the area of public relations. 

This was the case recently when Amy Pascal, Sony's co-chairman and chief of its film division, came under intense criticism for her remarks about President Barack Obama and less than flattering statements about high-profile actors, including Angelina Jolie, Kevin Hart and Adam Sandler. 

The comments were leaked by hackers who infiltrated the company's emails and then leaked her exchange with movie producer Scott Rudin. Despite her quick apology, some in the industry initially speculated whether Pascal would be forced to resign. 

Other damages certainly occurred from the attack. The group claiming to have carried out the cybertheft also took terabytes of Sony's financial information, budgets, payroll data, internal emails and films. Yet the longest lasting impact of the incident may very well be the buzz now permeating through social media and other gossip media pages about the salacious views expressed by the company's top brass.

And that will be the aspect that the public will remember first for some time to come. Although there are many victims of cyber attacks, Sony's name may become synonymous with corporate losses and embarrassment from careless emails and protection of data as was the case for Target. 

The reality is that these embarrassing moments can have as big of an impact on an organization's bottom line as the attacks aimed at uncovering trade secrets or bank accounts. The time and money spent to respond to awkward statements could be extremely costly and the upheaval that can result from shifts in a management team can slow down or even derail mission-critical initiatives. 

Any good incident response policy should include a public-relations plan that specifically addresses the potential fallout from stolen emails, letters or other information that could have a negative result if publicly released. Corporate managers need to have an understanding and anticipation of the information in their computing networks that could result in a public-relations debacle. 

Let this serve as a visible warning to corporate managers: You may certainly have regrettable slips of the tongue or articulated comments out of frustration--ones that, at your core, you abhor and wish you could take back. And when written in text, the fallout can become magnified when shared in a public forum--the digital realm. 

Every email, text, social media post or communique leaves a trail that can be accessed and exploited by someone with the right training and sophistication. Treat correspondence through such venues as ultimately open to anyone. 

So be mindful of what you share on digital platforms. Count to 10, take a deep breath and ask yourself if you want what you have typed, texted or posted to appear in a broad forum. If the answer is no, then don't share it electronically. 

I recommend that if you need a place to vent the stresses of the day, work out regularly. Trust me: the time will be spent far more beneficially.

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Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Obama proposal: Hacked companies have 30 days to fess up

By Jose Pagliery 
January 12 2015

In a State of the Union preview, President Obama on Monday demanded quicker confessions from companies that lose your data as well as better privacy for students.

One proposed law would give a company 30 days to let you know if your personal information--such as your address or Social Security number--has been exposed by hackers or careless employees.

The Personal Data Notification & Protection Act is an attempt at a nationwide, uniform rule. Right now, there are 47 different state laws that govern data breaches. Depending on the situation, people in some states get notified, while others are left in the dark. It's a mess.

Data breaches are increasingly common. Last year, hackers broke in to Home Depot, Albertson's and so many others that CNN developed it's own tool: What hackers know about you

The president's other proposed law, the Student Digital Privacy Act, is meant to stop the sale of sensitive student data for non-education purposes. Now that students routinely use laptops, tablets, and computer programs at school, lots of that data is being collected--and sometimes sold to advertisers and financial companies.

The fear? That information might be used by money lenders to prey on students--or by colleges or future employers to judge students unfairly. 

"Parents have a legitimate concern about these kinds of practices," Obama said at a midday speech Monday before the Federal Trade Commission. "Our children are growing up in cyberspace."

The president also endorsed the "student privacy pledge", already signed by 75 firms including Apple and Microsoft. It's a promise by companies to only use student data collected at school for education purposes, not observe behavior to target advertisements and not keep data for long. 

Obama said any companies that provide school services and don't sign the pledge will be singled out and censured. 

The president also called for a "consumer privacy bill of rights" that gives consumers the ability to decide what personal data is collected and how it's used. He tried this in 2012, but the idea failed to take off. 

"This should not be a partisan issue. It's one of those new challenges our modern society and crosses our old divides," he said. "We pioneered the Internet, but we also pioneered the Bill of Rights and the sense that each of us as individuals have a sphere of privacy around us that should not be breached."
The administration cited a recent poll that showed 91% of Americans feel they've lost control of their personal information. Last year was so riddled with cyber break-ins that, early on, half of American adults had their personal information exposed.
"The more we protect consumer data, the harder it is for hackers to damage our businesses and hurt our economy," Obama said.
Other privacy and security bills
The national consciousness for cybersecurity peaked with the Sony hack over the holidays.
As a result, expect to hear a lot more about privacy and cybersecurity from politicians in 2015. Some in Congress are trying to revive a controversial cybersecurity bill that increases information sharing between companies and government to stop hackers.
The nameless bill, H.R. 234, was introduced to the House of Representatives on Friday by C. A. Dutch Ruppersberger, a Democrat from Maryland.
It's essentially another go at the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA), which passed the House in 2012, but got knocked down in the Senate.
The idea is to provide basic rules to develop closer bonds between law enforcement and all types of companies: banks, energy providers, retailers, etc.
When hackers attack an industry, companies already share some information. But they often hold back data, afraid to give competitors an edge or admit they were hacked. Also, the tips they get from the FBI and Department of Homeland Security are late and vague, because few companies have permission to know "classified" government secrets.
This proposed law would protect firms from lawsuits related to this kind of data sharing and make them government insiders. But these ideas scare privacy advocates, because they could be used as a blanket excuse for snooping on your personal life. That's why President Obama threatened to veto it the first time around.
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