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Equifax Data Breach Protection Tips

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How to Protect Yourself from the Equifax Data Breach

Equifax, one of the three major consumer credit reporting agencies disclosed that hackers compromised Social Security and driver’s license numbers as well as names, birthdates, addresses and some credit cards on more than 143 million Americans. If you have a credit profile, you were probably affected.

Credit reporting companies collect and sell vast troves of consumer data from your buying habits to your credit worthiness, making this quite possibly the most destructive data security breach in history. By hacking Equifax, the criminals were able to get all of your personally identifying information in a one-stop shop. This is the third major cybersecurity breach at Equifax since 2015, demonstrating that they continue to place profits over consumer protection. Ultimately, their negligence will erode their margins, their credibility and their position as one of the big three.

But that isn’t your concern – your concern is protecting yourself and your family from the abuse of that stolen information that will happen over the next 3 years.

Minimize Your Risk from the Equifax Data Breach

  1. Assume that your identity has been compromised. Don’t take a chance that you are one of the very few adult American’s that aren’t affected. It’s not time to panic, it’s time to act.
  2. If you want to see the spin that Equifax is putting on the story, visit their website. Here’s how the story usually develops: 1. They announce the breach and say that fraud hasn’t been detected 2. A few days later when you aren’t paying attention, they retract that statement because fraud is happening, 3. Sometime after that they admit that more people, more identity and more fraud took place than originally thought. They encourage you to sign up for their free monitoring (which you should do), but it does nothing to actually prevent identity theft, it just might help you catch it when it happens.
  3. I recommend placing a verbal password on all of your bank accounts and credit cards so that criminals can’t use the information they have from the breach to socially engineer their way into your accounts. Call your banks and credit card companies and request a “call-in” password be placed on your account.
  4. Begin monitoring your bank, credit card and credit accounts on a regular basis. Consider watching this video and then setting up account alerts to make this process easier.
  5. Visit AnnualCreditReport.com to get your credit report from the three credit reporting bureaus to see if there are any newly established, fraudulent accounts set up. DON’T JUST CHECK EQUIFAX, AS THE CRIMINALS HAVE ENOUGH OF YOUR DATA TO ABUSE YOUR CREDIT THROUGH ALL THREE BUREAUS.
  6. MOST IMPORTANTLY, FREEZE YOUR CREDIT. The video above walks you through why this is such an important step. Some websites and cybersecurity experts will tell you to simply place a fraud alert on your three credit profiles. I am telling you that this isn’t strong enough to protect your credit. Freezing your credit puts a password on your credit profile, so that criminals can’t apply for credit in your name (unless they steal your password too). Here are the credit freeze websites and phone numbers for each bureau. Equifax is being overwhelmed by requests, so be patient and keep trying. Even if it doesn’t happen today, you need to Freeze Your Credit!

Equifax Credit Freeze
P.O. Box 105788 Atlanta, Georgia 30348
Toll-Free: 1.800.685.1111

TransUnion Credit Freeze
Fraud Victim Assistance Department P.O. Box 6790 Fullerton, CA 92834
Toll-Free: 1.888.909.8872

Experian Credit Freeze
P.O. Box 9554 Allen, TX 75013
Toll-Free: 1.888.397.3742

John Sileo is an an award-winning author and keynote speaker on cybersecurity. John specializes in making security entertaining, so that it works. John is CEO of The Sileo Group, whose clients include the Pentagon, Visa, Homeland Security & Pfizer. John’s body of work includes appearances on 60 Minutes, Rachael Ray, Anderson Cooper & Fox Business. Contact him directly on 800.258.8076.

Baby Cam Hacked: What You Can Do To Protect Yourself and Your Children

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The story about the Texas parents who were terrified when their child’s video baby monitor was hacked struck me at first as a minor incident when viewed in the whole scheme of the world of hackers.  After all, it is a rare event, no one was hurt, no threats were overtly made, and the child herself even slept through the event.  But when I read more about it, I became increasingly bothered by the fact that I was not initially bothered by it!  I mean, is that the creepiest of all feelings, to know that a stranger is watching your kids?

Here’s the summary for those who missed the story.  Marc and Lauren Gilbert were in another room when they heard strange sounds coming from their daughter’s monitor.  When they went into her room to investigate, they realized it was a strange man’s voice coming through the monitor and saying disturbing things, even using the child’s name, which could be seen above her bed.  The child, who was born deaf and had her cochlear implants turned off, slept through the entire incident.  Gilbert immediately disconnected the device, which was hooked up to the home’s wireless Internet system.

It is believed the webcam system, Foscam wireless camera, was compromised.  In April, a study was released revealing potential vulnerabilities; in it the researchers said the camera would be susceptible to “remote Internet monitoring from anywhere in the world” and that thousands of Foscam cameras in the U.S. were vulnerable.  A glaring flaw (which has since been “fixed” by a firmware update in June) is that users were not encouraged to have strong passwords and were not prompted to change from the default admin password.  Gilbert said he did take basic security precautions, including passwords for his router and the IP cam, as well as having a firewall enabled.baby cam

For an interview with Fox and Friends, they asked me to consider the following questions.  I’d like to share my answers with you in case you missed it.

How easy is it to hack a baby monitor?

It’s probably an apt cliché to say it’s as easy as taking candy from a baby. Just like with any device, an iPhone, laptop, home Wi-Fi, it’s only as secure as you make it. If you’ve taken no steps, it’s relatively easy to hack. You don’t make the problem go away by ignoring it.

Why would someone do this?

Some do it for the challenge, some for the thrill of controlling other people’s lives, and unfortunately, others do it because they are sick individuals that want to watch what you do in the privacy of your home.

Is this one of the more scary cases of hacking a household device you’ve seen?

This one hits close to home because it takes advantage of our kids, but I’ve seen pacemakers turned off, blood pumps shut down, brakes applied in cars, and all of it done remotely by outsiders who are never even seen. If the device is connected to a network, I guarantee you it can be hacked, and in most cases, you never know the bad guys are in control.

How can we avoid this type of hacking of our personal devices, whether it’s a video baby monitor, an iPhone or a pacemaker?  

The good news is that’s it’s the same steps you probably already take on your other devices, like laptops, smartphones and iPads:

  1. Buy Digital. Only buy a digital monitor that is password protected, not an analog version that operates on an open radio frequency.
  2. Change Default Passwords. During setup, change the factory defaults on the monitor so that the password is long, strong and device specific. This case we are talking about probably had a default password in place, making it easy to hack.
  3. Firewall Your Privacy. Install a firewall between your Internet connection and ALL devices to keep the peeping Toms out. Hire a professional to set it up properly.
  4. Lock Down Wi-Fi. Make sure your Wi-Fi network is locked down properly with WPA2+ encryption and SSID masking so it can’t be hacked.
  5. Turn Devices Off. If you are not using the device, turn it off, as hackers can more easily crack devices that are up 24/7.

John Sileo is a keynote speaker and CEO of The Sileo Group, a privacy think tank that trains organizations to harness the power of their digital footprint. Sileo’s clients include the Pentagon, Visa, Homeland Security and businesses looking to protect the information that makes them profitable.

WWBD? (What Would Bond Do?) Five Steps to Secure Your Business Data

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I finally got around to watching the latest 007 installment, Skyfall, and it appears even James Bond has entered into the world of Cyber Crime as he tries to protect a computer drive with a list of British agents from falling into the wrong hands.  And like the proverbial victims in a James Bond flick, you and your business data are under assault, even though it may not always be as obvious as getting thrown off a train.  Why?  Because your business data is profitable to would-be thieves. And for many of those thieves, that data is easy to get and the theft can be next to impossible to trace.

Sony PlayStation Network, Citigroup, Lockheed and several others have seen more than 100 million customer records breached, costing billions in recovery costs and reputation damage.  If it can happen to the big boys, it can happen to you.  If you don’t have Bond on your side fighting off the villains, take these steps to take to secure your business data:

Involve your employees. No one in your organization will care about data security until they understand what it has to do with them. So train them to be skeptical. When they’re asked for information, teach them to automatically assume the requestor is a spy. If they didn’t initiate the transfer of information (e.g., someone official approaches them for login credentials), have them stop and think before they share. Empower them to ask aggressive questions. Once employees understand data security from a personal standpoint, it’s a short leap to apply that to your customer databases, physical documents and intellectual property. Start with the personal and expand into the professional. It’s like allowing people to put on their own oxygen masks before taking responsibility for those next to them.

Stop broadcasting your digital data. Wireless data leaks two ways: the weakly encrypted wireless router in your office and the unprotected wireless connection you use to access the Internet in an airport, hotel or café. Have a security pro configure the wireless router in your office for WPA-2 encryption or better and perform a thorough security audit of your network. To protect your data on the road, set up wireless tethering with your mobile phone provider and stop using other people’s hot spots.

Eliminate the inside spy. Perform serious background checks before hiring new employees. The number one predictor of future theft by an employee is past theft. Follow up on the prospect’s references and ask for some that aren’t on the application. Letting prospective hires know in advance that you will be performing a comprehensive background check will discourage them from malfeasance.

Don’t let your mobile data walk away. Up to 50 percent of all major data breach originates with the loss of a laptop, tablet or mobile phone. Either carry these on your person (making sure not to set them down in airports, cafes, conferences, etc.), store them in the hotel room safe, or lock them in an office or private room when not using them. Physical security is the most overlooked, most effective form of protection. Also, have the security pro mentioned earlier implement strong passwords, whole disk encryption and remote data-wiping capabilities. Set your screen saver to engage after five minutes of inactivity and check the box that requires you to enter your password upon re-entry.

Spend a day in your dumpster. You may have a shredder, but the problem is no one uses it consistently. Pretend you are your fiercest competitor and sort through outgoing trash for old invoices, credit card receipts, bank statements, customer lists and trade secrets. If employees know you conduct occasional dumpster audits, they’ll think twice about failing to shred the next document.

Take these steps and you begin the process of starving data thieves of the information they literally take to the bank.  It will be a lot easier to sit back and relax- maybe even have a shaken martini- when you know your business is secure.

James Bond martini

John Sileo is an anti-fraud training expert and in-demand speaker on digital reputation, identity theft and online privacy. His clients include the Department of Defense, Pfizer, Visa, and Homeland Security. See his recent media appearances on 60 Minutes, Anderson Cooper and Fox Business.