Hackers bank heavily on tricking people into doing things that they shouldn’t: social engineering. A favorite social engineering ploy is the phishing e-mail.
How a hacker circumvents two-factor authentication:
- First collects enough information on the victim to pull off the scam, such as obtaining information from their LinkedIn profile.
- Or sends a preliminary phishing e-mail tricking the recipient into revealing login credentials for an account, such as a bank account.
- The next phase is to send out a text message appearing to be from the recipient’s bank (or PayPal, Facebook, etc.).
- This message tells the recipient that their account is about to be locked due to “suspicious” activity detected with it.
- The hacker requests the victim to send the company (which is really the hacker) the unique 2FA code that gets texted to the accountholder upon a login attempt. The victim is to wait for this code to be sent.
- Remember, the hacker already has collected enough information (password, username) to make a login attempt. Entering this data then triggers a send of the 2FA code to the victim’s phone.
- The victim then texts back the code—right into the hacker’s hands. The hacker then uses it to get into the account.
- The victim made the cardinal mistake of sending back a 2FA code via text, when the only place the victim is supposed to enter this code is the login field of their account when wanting to access it!
So in short, the crook somehow gets your password (easy with brute force software if you have a weak password) and username or retrieved in a data dump of some hacked site. They spoof their text message to you to make it look like it came from the company of your account.
Red flags/scams/behaviors/requests to look out for:
- You are asked via phone/email/IM etc to send someone the 2FA code that is sent to your mobile (prompted by their login attempt).
- If you receive the 2FA code, this means someone is trying to gain access to your account. If it’s not you, then who is it?
- Never send any 2FA code out via text, e-mail or phone voice. Never. Consider any such request to be a scam.
Robert Siciliano CEO of IDTheftSecurity.com, personal security and identity theft expert and speaker is the author of 99 Things You Wish You Knew Before Your Identity Was Stolen. See him knock’em dead in this identity theft prevention video.Filed Under: Phishing
Looks like there’s some worms in Apple.
Not too long ago, dozens and dozens of iPhones were stolen from two Apple stores. How could this happen, what with Apple’s security? Simple: The thieves wore clothes similar to Apple store employees and obviously knew the innards of the stores.
They sauntered over to the drawers that held the new phones, acting nonchalant to avoid attracting attention. In fact, a new face in Apple attire at one of the stung locations wouldn’t raise eyebrows since new employees are trained there.
What mistake did Apple make to allow these robberies? The introduction of new uniforms, perhaps? They came up with the idea of “back to blue, but all new” attire. But really, that shouldn’t be so easy.
This meant no one and only uniform, but rather, a variety of options that fit within a color and style concept. This makes it easy for someone off the street to visually blend in with store employees. There are six styles of just the top alone. You can pick up a strikingly similar top, including color, at Walmart. And unlike previous attire, which changed seasonally, this new line is meant to be permanent.
Have you yourself ever been mistaken for an employee at Walmart or Target (blue shirt, red shirt), or asked someone for assistance who replied, “I don’t work here”? See how easy it is to blend in—without even trying?
The theft at the two Apple stores are believed to be related, but the thieves are not known. It’s also not known if the thief or thieves were wearing an actual Apple top or just a look-a-like.
This ruse can easily be pulled off by anyone appearing to be in their early to mid-20s, clean-cut, wearing glasses (to look geeky), and with calm, cool and collected mannerisms—and of course, a royal blue shirt.
The solution would be for Apple to require a line of tops with a very distinct color pattern, and only two choices (short and long sleeved).
The lesson here: Not everything or everyone appears to be what they actually are. Social engineering is a confidence crime. As long as the thief has your confidence either in person, over the phone or via email, you are likely to get scammed.
Always be suspect. Always challenge what’s in front of you. Never go along to get along. And put systems, checks and balances in place to prevent being scammed. In this situation, proper, secure identification and authentication with proper checks would have prevented this.
Robert Siciliano CEO of IDTheftSecurity.com, personal security and identity theft expert and speaker is the author of 99 Things You Wish You Knew Before Your Identity Was Stolen. See him knock’em dead in this identity theft prevention video.Filed Under: social engineering
A ransomware attack is when your computer gets locked down or your files become inaccessible, and you are informed that in order to regain use of your computer or to receive a cyber key to unlock your files, you must pay a ransom. Typically, cybercriminals request you pay them in bitcoins.
The attack begins when you’re lured, by a cybercriminal, into clicking a malicious link that downloads malware, such as CDT-Locker. Hackers are skilled at getting potential victims to click on these links, such as a phony e-mail, apparently from a company you do business with, luring you into clicking on a link or opening its attachment.
And if you find your computer is being held hostage:
- Report it to law enforcement, although it’s unlikely they can provide help. It’s just good to have it recorded.
- Disconnect your computer from its network to prevent the infection from spreading to other shared networks.
- You need to remove the ransomware from your computer. Remember, removal of the ransomware won’t restore access to your files; they will still be encrypted. To remove ransomware from your computer, follow the steps provided here.
- If you already had your data backed up offline, there’s no need to even consider paying the ransom. Still, you will want to remove the ransomware and make sure your backup solution was working.
- But what if very important files were not backed up? Prepare to pay in bitcoins. The first step is to find out what the experts say about making payments in bitcoin.
- The crook will be essentially impossible to trace. You’ll be required to make the payment over the Tor network (anonymous browsing).
- Finally, don’t be shocked if the crook actually provides you the decryption key—essentially a password; ransomware thieves often follow through to maintain being taken seriously. Otherwise, nobody would ever pay them. But it would not be unprecedented to not receive the key. It’s a gamble.
- The best course of action is to prevent a ransomware attack, and that means looking for all the clues to malware and phishing scams. Don’t let threatening e-mails, saying you owe back taxes or bank fees, jolt you into hastily clicking a suspicious link or attachment. If you regularly back up your data online and to an external drive, then you’ll never feel you must pay the ransom.
Robert is a security analyst, author and media personality who specializes in personal security and identity theft and appears regularly on Good Morning America, ABC News and The TODAY Show.Filed Under: Ransomware
The Dark Web, according to LeakedSource, got ahold of 33 million Twitter account details and put them up for sale. Twitter thus locked the accounts for millions of users.
Twitter, however, doesn’t believe its servers were directly attacked. So what happened? The bad guys may have created a composite of data from other breached sources. Or, they could have used malware to steal passwords off of devices.
Nevertheless, the end result meant that for many Twitter accounts, there was password exposure—leading to the lockdown of these accounts. The owners of these accounts had to reset their password after being notified of this by e-mail.
Some users who did not receive this e-mail notification will find that their accounts are locked.
An Ounce of Prevention
- Go through the passwords of all of your vital accounts, and see which ones are unique, long and strong. You’ll likely need to change many passwords, as most people use simple to remember passwords that often contain keyboard sequences and/or words/names that can be found in a dictionary, such as 890Paul. These are easily cracked with a hacker’s software.
- Who’d ever think that Facebook’s chief executive Mark Zuckerberg’s Twitter account could be hacked? It was, indeed, and it’s believed this was possible due to him reusing the username of his LinkedIn account several years ago.
- So it’s not just passwords that are the problem; it’s usernames. Not only should these be unique, but every single account should have a different username and password. However if a username is an email address, you can’t do much here.
- Passwords and usernames should be at least eight characters long.
- Use more than just letters and numbers-use characters if accepted (e.g., #, $, &).
- So Paul’s new and better password might be: Luap1988($#.
- Sign up with the account’s two-factor authentication. Not all accounts have this, but Twitter sure does. It makes it impossible for a crook to sign into your account unless he has your cell phone to receive the unique verification code that’s triggered with every login attempt.
Robert Siciliano CEO of IDTheftSecurity.com, personal security and identity theft expert and speaker is the author of 99 Things You Wish You Knew Before Your Identity Was Stolen. See him knock’em dead in this identity theft prevention video.Filed Under: social media privacy
If you’ve heard this once, you need to hear it again—and again: Never use the same password and username for more than one account!
If this got Mark Zuckerberg’s (Facebook’s chief executive). Twitter account hacked, it can get just about anybody hacked.
A report at nytimes.com says that the OurMine hacking group takes credit for busting into Zuckerberg’s accounts including LinkedIn and Pinterest. It’s possible that this breach was cultivated by a repeated password of Zuckerberg’s.
According to OurMine, Zuckerberg had been using the same password for several accounts. Not only is that asking for trouble, but the password itself is highly crackable: dadada. Don’t laugh. A hacker’s software will find this in minutes.
How to Protect Your Accounts
- Change any passwords that are used more than once.
- Change any passwords that contain keyboard sequences, repetitions of letters or numbers (252525 is akin to dadada), or actual words or proper nouns.
- If the idea of overhauling your passwords is overwhelming, use a password manager (e.g., RoboForm). A password manager will create long, unique passwords that are different for every account, and you won’t have to remember them because the manager will issue you a master password.
- See which accounts offer two-factor authentication, then sign up. This is a tremendous step towards preventing being hacked. So if an unauthorized person attempts to log into your Twitter or LinkedIn account, this will send a code to your cell phone that needs to be entered before the account is accessible. Unless the hacker has your cell phone, he won’t be getting into your account.
- Some say every 90 days, or at least twice a year, change all of your passwords. I think that’s a bit much. Different and strong is what matters most.
Visit Have I Been Pwned to see if your e-mail account has been hacked. I did. 6 of my accounts showed up as being part of data dumps of sites that were hacked. Then I checked all 6 accounts, all had different passwords, but I still changed them. One was gmail, but with two factor verification/authentication, I’ve had no issue. Simply type your e-mail address into the field and click “Pwned?” If the result shows bad news, then you must immediately change your password to one that you’ve never had before—and at least eight characters and unique.
An impostor posed as Lorrie Cranor at a mobile phone store (in Ohio, nowhere near Cranor’s home) and obtained her number. She is the Federal Trade Commission’s chief technologist. Her impostor’s con netted two new iPhones (the priciest models—and the charges went to Cranor) with her number.
In a blog post, Cranor writes: “My phones immediately stopped receiving calls.” She was stiffed with “a large bill and the anxiety and fear of financial injury.”
Cranor was a victim of identity theft. She contacted her mobile carrier after her phone ceased working during use. The company rep said her account had been updated to include the new devices, and that her Android’s SIM cards had been disabled. The company replaced the SIM cards and restored use of her phones.
The company’s fraud department removed the charges but blamed the theft on Cranor.
So how does an impostor pull off this stunt so easily? Stores owned by the mobile carrier are required to ask for a photo ID and last four digits of the customer’s SSN. However, at a third party retailer, this requirement may not be in place. In the Cranor case, the crook used a photo ID of herself but with Cranor’s name—and was not required to reveal the victim’s SSN last four digits.
- Changed password of online account
- Added extra security PIN
- Reported the theft to identitytheft.gov
- Placed a fraud alert and got a free credit report
- Filed a police report
Hijacking a smartphone is becoming more common, with the FTC having received over 2,600 reports just for January this year.
You may not think that this type of fraud ranks as high as other types of fraud, but it all depends on the thief and his—or her—intentions. Though the thief may only want to sell the phones for a little profit, a different kind of crook may want to hijack a phone to commit stalking or espionage. Or the thief can gain access to the victim’s text messages. If the phone is used for two factor authentication, then a thief would have access to your One Time Passwords (OTP) upon logging into a critical website. There’s all sorts of possibilities. The most important tip: add an extra security PIN to your account. This way, whether over the phone, web or in person, this “second factor” of authentication will make it harder for a thief to become you.
It’s all about code—the building blocks of the Internet. Software code is full of unintentional defects. Governments are paying heavy prices to skilled hackers who can unearth these vulnerabilities, says an article at nytimes.com.
In fact, the FBI director, James B. Comey, recommended that the FBI pay hackers a whopping $1.3 million to figure out how to circumvent Apple’s iPhone security.
So driven is this “bug-and-exploit trade market,” that a bug-and-exploit hacking company, Hacking Team, ended up being hacked last summer.
The software companies that create code don’t get to learn what the vulnerabilities are that the richly paid hackers discover. This has been going on for two decades-plus.
Here are some sizzling facts from nytimes.com:
- Over a hundred governments have reported they have an offensive cyberwar program.
- Iran boasts being in the No. 3 spot in the world for digital army size (trailing the U.S. and China), though this can’t be confirmed.
- However, Iranian hackers have demonstrated their skill more than once, and it’s not pretty. For instance, they were responsible for the rash of U.S. bank hacking incidents in 2013.
- Though Iran’s cyber power lags behind that of the U.S.’s, they’re steadily closing the big gap.
- Most nations keep details of their cyberwar programs classified.
It has been surmised by many a security expert that WWIII will be largely digital. Imagine how crippling it would be if a nation’s grid was dismantled—affecting major networks across that country—such as healthcare, shipping and banking and other critical infrastructures such as food and water supply.
There’s not a whole ton you can do about this battle. However, you should, at a minimum, prepare your physical life for any digital disasters. Prepare the same way you would if you knew there was a severe storm coming. Store dry foods, water, extra climate appropriate clothing, and cash, preferably lots of small bills. This is just a short list. Seek out numerous resources on ready.gov to learn more.
Get an account with TeamViewer, and you will have a software package that enables remote control, online meetings, desktop sharing and other functions between computers.
But recently, customers of TeamViewer have reported remote takedowns of their computers that resulted in different forms of monetary theft, such as bank accounts being cleaned out.
The cyber thieves controlled the victims’ computers via their TeamViewer accounts. Customers would witness their mouse arrow suddenly moving beyond their control.
The infiltration, though, did not occur on TeamViewer’s end, insists the company. Instead, the software company called users “careless” because they reused their TeamViewer passwords on other sites like LinkedIn, reports an article at theregister.co.uk. The company has since apologized. Frankly, I agree with TeamViewer. Careless password reuse is one of the main reasons why so much fraud is occurring.
The stream of support tickets from customers prompted TeamViewer to implement two new security checks which will warn customers via e-mail of suspicious login attempts to their TeamViewer account and ask their permission to allow this or not.
Another safeguard newly in place will be that of the company checking the GPS of login attempts, plus requiring a password reset when anybody tries to log in from a new location.
Some customers have been critical that the release of these new security features took too long, since the reports of the hacking began a few weeks prior to the finalization of these new features.
As mentioned, the origin of these hacks is apparently the reuse of TeamViewer passwords on other sites that were then hacked. TeamViewer managed to get ahold of the leaked passwords, and also leaked e-mail addresses, that were all the cyber crooks needed to remotely hijack the computers.
However, some victims reported that they never reused their password and even had two-factor authentication. Further, some victims are placing blame on the company for the breaches.
The company is taking the breach seriously and wants its affected customers to upload their log files. TeamViewer especially wants to hear from customers with two-factor authentication who were compromised.
You’ve probably read many times that two-factor authentication is a superb extra layer of protection against a thief hacking into your accounts, because gaining access requires entering a One Time Passcode (OTP)—sent via text or voice—into a login field. In other words, no phone, no access.
But CAN a hacker get the phone? Ask Deray McKesson, an activist with Black Lives Matter. Hackers got his phone.
Now, this doesn’t mean they busted into his home while he was napping and took his phone. Rather, the thief took control of his mobile account.
The thief rerouted McKesson’s text messages – to a different SIM card that the mobile carrier, Verizon, had issued to the thief. This is how the criminal got the two-factor code. Next thing, the imposter was in McKesson’s Twitter and e-mail accounts.
So though two-factor is a pretty well-padded extra layer of protection, it can be circumvented.
“Someone called Verizon impersonating me,” tweeted McKesson on June 10. The crook got a different SIM this way. The flaw isn’t the two-factor system. In this case it was Verizon, allowing this to happen just too easily.
“Today I learned that it is rather easy for someone to call the provider & change your SIM,” says a subsequent tweet. Though Verizon does require the last four digits of the user’s SSN to get a new SIM card, this isn’t enough to filter out imposters, as we see here. McKesson further tweeted he was “not sure” how the imposter knew those last four digits, but that “they knew it.”
Verizon has since implemented additional safeguards.
So what really happened? How did someone get McKesson’s SSN? Did he reveal it somewhere where he didn’t have to? And then the wrong person saw it? Was he tricked into revealing it through a phishing e-mail?
Nevertheless, here’s what to do:
- Set up a secondary code on your phone’s account.
- This is a personal identification number that an imposter would have to reveal before any changes were made to the account—even if he gave out your entire SSN to the mobile company rep.
Tags: identity fraud, identity protection, Identity Theft, prevent identity theft
In 2015, depending on the kind and type of identity theft we are talking about, identity thieves impacted 1.5 million people or more, says the Javelin Strategy & Research report. That’s more than double than for 2014.
The move from stripe cards to chip cards has motivated crooks to fasten their seatbelts and really take off with an accelerated mode of operation. For them, your Social Security Number is the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Thieves will use it to set up new accounts in the victims’ names, then go on spending sprees. This kind of identity theft is called new-account fraud.
- This can go on for months or years before the victim realizes it.
- Sometimes the victim never finds out.
- These cases can also slip by the victim’s bank.
A favorite scam is for the thief to create a fake (partially stolen, partially faked) identity morphed from multiple pieces of real—and stolen—data. So we have not only a stolen identity but a fictitious identity—which could be created using your Social Security number and someone else’s home address and name. This is called synthetic ID, and banks see right past it.
Synthetic ID Crimes
- ID manipulation: The criminal uses a stolen core identity but integrates false pieces of data to avert detection.
- Quick synthetics: Data pieces from multiple, real victims are compiled into a single identity.
What can banks do?
- Analyze cellphone account data to see if there’s a predictable pattern of billing details, since many thieves may use a prepaid, discardable VoIP phone.
- E-mail history is also important to look at; a new e-mail for an old account should be suspicious for fraud.
- Another red flag is if the e-mail address doesn’t correlate to the mobile device.
What can be done by credit card issuers?
- Checking a person’s identity needs to be more thorough.
- For instance, a red flag would be spotting the same address for several different names.
- Repeat scoring of the applicant’s risk score, one to three days later, to see if there’s a change. A change is a red flag.
What can you do?
No identity theft is OK. But if synthetic identity theft happens you to, meaning some sleaze uses your SSN, but not your name, you may never know about it. And that means it may not actually affect you. But:
- Check your credit reports at least annually
- Consider investing in identity theft protection. Identity theft protection monitors your SSN for activity on the dark web and on most new lines of credit.
- Get a credit freeze. A credit freeze locks down your credit and prevents new account fraud.
The bottom line is that banks and credit card issuers need to employ a multi-layer approach to screening and approving applicants. The more layers, the harder it will be for a fraudster to penetrate. Four layers are significantly better than two layers.