As a debt settlement company, we aren’t just in the financial services business, but we are in the people business as well. The impact of our services extends far beyond eliminating the number of digits on your credit card billing statement.
Since your financial wellbeing tends to spill over into about every other aspect of your life, it is our goal to ensure you are put on the right path to success with eliminating credit card debt, and then snowballing that triumph to other parts of your life.
Because of this philosophy, we have endeavored to cover an increasingly hot topic in the realm of online security and technological integration into our daily lives.
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EXPOSED: HACKING AND DATA BREACHES – THE BUSINESSES OF STEALING INFORMATION
While the increase of technology has proven to provide countless modern conveniences, it has also paved the way for a niche of cyber criminals who are intent on stealing your private information. Anything personal, including your social security number, medical information, drivers license, and banking numbers, is considered fair game by these “sleuth” hackers and data thieves
Part of being a citizen in the modern world includes a new definition of consumer data responsibility, as well as ethical policies for companies and corporations. By being vigilant about your online profile and passwords, you stand a much better chance of frustrating the hacker so you become a more difficult target.
BREACHES – BY THE NUMBERS
ID Theft Center categorizes an exposed record as a person’s name being coupled with a social security number (SSN), medical record, driver’s license, credit/debt/bank account info, or another similar piece of information. When encrypted data is comprised, it is not yet considered breached or exposed since the data is still protected.
In 2013, according to ID Theft Center, there were 619 breaches. This number, albeit useful at being able to compare year-over-year statistics, does not reveal the full picture about the number of records that reached exposure. Out of the 619 breaches came 57,868,922 records exposed. This in large part was due to the Target breach that took place during the holiday shopping season – the busiest shopping season of the year.
At nearly 60 million, this kind of staggering figure rings the alarm bell for anyone concerned with the privacy of their information, especially with a big retailer and corporation like Target. Target accounted for more than two thirds of the breached records, amassing 40 million accounts of stolen data. Customer names, credit or debit card numbers, expiration dates and CVV’s were among the information stolen by hackers.
Because of the breach, most banks issued new debit cards, put spending and withdraw limits on accounts, and have had to ramp up account monitoring big time to identify any suspicious activity. Since the breach, it has been revealed that another 70 million names and email addresses were comprised as well, although those are not considered breached records by IDTC.
As frightening as this may sound, large corporations and breaches are no strangers. In fact, Target doesn’t even account for the largest revealing of private information; there are some that trump that one with ease.
WHAT ARE THE LARGEST DATA BREACHES?
In November of 2013, not a month before Target, famous software design company Adobe revealed that hackers had published data for a staggering 150 million Adobe customers. Renowned security blog Naked Security also claimed that Adobe did not encrypt customers’ credit and debit card numbers.
Although slightly lower in number, Heartland Payment Systems was hacked in 2008, when cyber thieves stole the account information of 130 million people. Heartland processes payments for most of the major credit card vendors, so the effects are far-reaching. Heartland eventually paid more than $110 million to Visa, Mastercard, American Express and other card companies to settle breach-related claims.
MEDICAL AND BUSINESS BREACHES
In the 9 years since IDTC has been keeping track, 2013 falls in 3rd place with the most number of breaches, trailing behind 2010 with 662 breaches and 2008 with 656 breaches. However, upon further examination of the types of breaches each year has endured, there’s some definite shifting going on.
Breaches typically fall into 5 categories: Business, Educational, Government/Military, Health/Medical, and Financial/Credit.
Although Educational breaches start off on a high note, they decrease as the years go by. What’s notable is that Business breaches rise considerably to practically dominate the share of breaches after the year 2007. What’s more compelling is that Medical breaches have also shot up significantly over the past few years. It would appear as though Medical records have taken on a new fixation when it comes to the types of breaches that occur. Whatever the reason, these charts make it clear that Medical and Business breaches are taking larger slices of the pie now more than ever before. One can’t help but ask, “why”?
HOW THE HACKERS USE YOUR INFORMATION
Below is just one example of what could happen when a hacker steals credit or debt account information.
1. THE HIDDEN HACKER
Hackers will disguise their work through a series of complex IP addresses and networks that make it difficult to track where they are and what they’re doing.
2. STEAL THE INFO
Whether it’s card swiping (commonly known as “swiping”, which involves stealing info from a POS in the retail world), a key swipe software, or accessing a remote database, the info will then be removed for further use.
3. THE DARK NET & BROKERS
Card numbers are sold to back room “brokers”, fetching as high as $100 or more per card number. Many sites offer a guarantee on the quality of the number.
4. THE SHELL GAME
One lucrative method is where stolen cards are used to charge pre-paid cards. These cards are then used to purchase specific gift cards, such as Amazon.
5. SHIP AND RESHIP
Goods are shipped to an “agent” or intermediary who then reships the package so that it becomes that much harder to track.
6. PAY DAY
The carder may then sell the electronics through legitimate channels such as eBay, or to avoid risk can sell the goods through a “deep web” site. Many people are familiar with the “deep web” from the Silk Road, which was recently shut down by the FBI.
With the number of steps from start to finish, it’s obvious that the hacking community is pretty thorough when it comes to covering their tracks, at least in theory. A simple Google search of “the silk road hacker” will show several articles from last year when the acclaimed Silk Road mastermind was apprehended by US law enforcement in the North Eastern United States.
In spite of the large umbrella of law enforcement, including FBI, NSA, and Secret Service to name a few, 25% of all hacking cases are still initially spotted by you, the consumer.
However, often times, we are our own worst enemy when it comes to hackers being successful with stealing our information. From Social Networks to giving away information on a well-made lookalike website, it’s crucial to become an informed consumer and know where to safeguard yourself. Below are some tips to help you.
7 WAYS TO PREVENT HACKERS FROM STEALING YOUR INFORMATION
1. PASSWORD SECURITY
Experian revealed in a study that the average user has 26 passwords for online accounts protected by 5 different passwords. Make your passwords more complex and keep a database in a safe place. Failure to do so means your passwords become easier to crack.
2. SHARE LESS
With just about everyone attached to social media these days, it can be easy to over-share information. Bottom line – if you wouldn’t be comfortable telling a complete stranger, don’t share it on social media.
3. ELIMINATE MALWARE
Make sure you install anti-virus software on your computer that will keep out malware. This type of malicious software is often what cyber-thieves use to gain access to personal information on your PC or other commonly browsed device.
4. HTTPS – SECURE LOGIN
Never provide information without being logged into a secure website with an SSL and HTTPS in the URL bar.
5. DIFFERENT SECURITY QUESTIONS
Use different security questions for each application you use, as well as information that cannot easily be found on the internet.
6. RECOGNIZE PHISHING
Thieves are getting increasingly clever with ways to mimic popular eCommerce and banking sites so that you login and give your information away. Even the strongest password can’t stand up against this. If you get an email asking you to login to an account, think twice before doing it.
7. CHECK YOUR STATEMENTS OFTEN
By staying on top of your billing statements, you have a much better chance of being able to spot an inconsistency than if you look at it weekly or something even longer than that. Your chances increase of resolving the situation if you report the incident within two days of it taking place.
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In conclusion, we hope this information has been helpful to you and believe that by implementing the tips here, you will have actively taken measures to protect you and your family. Being a citizen of the digital age means being informed about best practices while using the internet, as well as in public. We wish you the best for you to have a safe financial future!
Sources: Please see infographic.