Tag Archive for: Security

12 Days to a Safe Christmas: Day 12 – Holiday Security Tips All Wrapped up Together

Would you like to give the people you care about some peace on earth during this holiday season? Take a few minutes to pass on our 12 privacy tips that will help them protect their identities, social media, shopping and celebrating over the coming weeks. The more people that take the steps we’ve outlined in the 12 Days of Christmas, the safer we all become, collectively.

Have a wonderful holiday season, regardless of which tradition you celebrate. Now sing (and click) along with us one more time.  

On the 12th Day of Christmas, the experts gave to me: 

12 Happy Holidays,

11 Private Emails,

10 Trusted Charities

9 Protected Packages

8 Scam Detectors

7 Fraud Alerts

6 Safe Celebrations

Fiiiiiiiiiiive Facebook Fixes

4 Pay Solutions

3 Stymied Hackers

2 Shopping Tips

And the Keys to Protect My Privacy

 


About Cybersecurity Keynote Speaker John Sileo

John Sileo is the founder and CEO of The Sileo Group, a cybersecurity think tank, in Lakewood, Colorado, and an award-winning author, keynote speaker and expert on technology, cybersecurity, and tech/life balance. He energizes conferences, corporate trainings and main-stage events by making security fun and engaging. His clients include the Pentagon, Schwab, and organizations of all sizes. John got started in cybersecurity when he lost everything, including his $2 million business, to cybercrime. Since then, he has shared his experiences on 60 Minutes, Anderson Cooper, and even while cooking meatballs with Rachel Ray. Contact John directly to see how he can customize his presentations to your audience.

Biometrics are Like Passwords You Leave EVERYWHERE

Biometrics are like passwords, but worse.

Biometrics are like passwords that you leave everywhere (fingerprints, facial recognition, voice patterns), except that unlike passwords, you can’t change them when they’re lost or stolen. It’s easy to change your password, a bit harder to get a new retina. Like passwords, risk goes up as they are stored globally (in the cloud) versus locally (on a physical device).

In addition to the biometrics mentioned above that most of us have come to accept as commonplace, there are many other methods in use or under exploration:

  • hand geometry
  • vascular pattern recognition (analyzing vein patterns)
  • iris scans
  • DNA
  • signature geometry (not just the look of the signature, but the pen pressure, signature speed, etc.)
  • gait analysis
  • heartbeat signatures

At the 2014 Annual International Consumer Electronics Show, inventors displayed dozens of devices using biometrics, some of which will become just as commonplace as fingerprints in the near future, some of which will not catch on and be replaced by something even more amazing.  Some of the hot biometrics items this year:

  • Tablets that measure pupil ­dilation to determine whether you’re in the mood to watch a horror movie or a comedy.
  • Headbands, socks and bras that analyze brain waves, heart rates and sweat levels to help detect early signs of disease or gauge a wearer’s level of concentration.
  • Cars that recognize their owner’s voice to start engines and direct turns and stops, all hands-free.

(Do a search for “current biometric uses” if you want to be entertained for a while!)

Some less outlandish examples that are currently in place:

  • Barclays Bank in Britain utilizes a voice recognition system when customers call in.
  • Some A.T.M.s in Japan scan the vein pattern in a person’s palm before issuing money
  • World Disney World in Orlando, Fla., uses biometric identification technology to prevent ticket fraud or illegitimate resale as well as to avoid the time-consuming process of photo ID check.
  • Biometric passports contain a microchip with all the biometric information of holders as well as a digital photograph
  • Law enforcement agencies, from local police departments, to national agencies (e.g., the FBI) and international organizations (including Europol and Interpol) use biometrics for the identification of suspects. Evidence on crime scenes, such as fingerprints or closed-circuit camera footage, are compared against the organization’s database in search of a match.
  • Child care centers are increasingly requiring parents to use biometric identification when entering the facility to pick up their child.
  • And, of course, the most popular example has to be the use of fingerprint sensors on the iPhone to unlock the devices.  It will also increasingly be linked to mobile payment services.

So, the million-dollar question is: Are Biometrics a Better Way to Protect Your Personal Identification?

The answer is yes…and no.

  • Biometrics are hard to forge: it’s hard to put a false fingerprint on your finger, or make your iris look like someone else’s.

BUT…

some biometrics are easy to steal.  Biometrics are unique identifiers, but they are not secrets. You leave your fingerprints on everything you touch, and your iris patterns can be observed anywhere you look.  If a biometric identifier is stolen, it can be very difficult to restore.  It’s not as if someone can issue you a new thumbprint as easily as resetting a new password or replacing a passport. Remember, even the most complex biometric is still stored as ones and zeros in a database (and is therefore imminently hackable). 

  • A biometric identifier creates an extra level of security above and beyond a password

BUT…

if they are used across many different systems (medical records, starting your car, getting into your child’s day care center), it actually decreases your level of security.

  • Biometrics are unique to you

BUT…

they are not fool-proof.  Imagine the frustration of being barred by a fingerprint mismatch from access to your smartphone or bank account.  Anil K. Jain, a professor and expert in biometrics at Michigan State University  says (emphasis mine), “Consumers shouldn’t expect that biometric technologies will work flawlessly… There could and will be situations where a person may be rejected or confused with someone else and there may be occasions when the device doesn’t recognize people and won’t let them in.”

The scariest part of the biometrics trend is how and where the data is stored.  If it is device specific (i.e. your fingerprint data is only on your iPhone), it’s not so bad.  But if the information is stored on a central server and unauthorized parties gain access to it, that’s where the risk increases.  A 2010 report from the National Research Council concluded that such systems are “inherently fallible” because they identify people within certain degrees of certainty and because biological markers are relatively easy to copy.

I also feel compelled to mention the inherently intrusive nature of biometrics.  While it’s true that using facial-recognition software can help law enforcement agencies spot and track dangerous criminals, we must remember that the same technology can just as easily be misused to target those who protest against the government or participate in controversial groups.  Facebook already uses facial recognition software to determine whether photos that users upload to the site contain the images of their friends.  Retailers could use such systems to snoop on their customers’ shopping behavior (much like they do when we shop online already) so that they could later target specific ads and offers to those customers.

How long before we have truly entered into Tom Cruises’s Minority Report world where we are recognized everywhere we go?   “Hello Mr. Yakamoto and welcome back to the GAP…”

John Sileo is an an award-winning author and keynote speaker on identity theft, internet privacy, fraud training & technology defense. 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.

I Left My Credit Card @ The Restaurant, Now What?! – Privacy Project Episode #8

So I’m out to dinner with a professional speaker whose name I’ll drop so that you’ll be impressed. Larry Winget. Larry is the Pitbull of Personal Development and he’ll probably kill me for not putting a trademark after that title, because he owns it. If you have somebody in your life (kid, employee, boss) that doesn’t take responsibility for the life they lead and the work they’re supposed to do, Larry’s your man. Google his name and find out, or go to LarryWinget.com.

But back to my story. I treated Larry to dinner in Phoenix because I owe him a thousand meals for the coaching he gives me and we’re leaving the table when his wife (who is much nicer than Larry) asks if I’ve taken my credit card out of the folder. Nope. God I hate when that happens! Small oversight for someone who lives and breathes security and privacy. I left my card in the folder, on the table and was fully prepared to leave the restaurant!

Anyway, this brings up a good point. Now matter how much you know, no matter how hard you work at protecting your identity,sometimes you will slip up and be your own worst enemy. There are just simply times when identity is out of our control. But you don’t have to stress about it. A quick response solves a lost credit card without much pain. Take a look at the video for steps on what to do if you lose or misplace your card.

SCAM ALERT: Target Texting Scam

SCAM ALERT! There is a Target texting scam going around. The text looks similar to the one in the picture to the left, and generally says you’ve won a $1,000 gift card if you simply click on the link and collect the money. When you click on the link, it takes you to a Target-looking site that a criminal has set up to collect your private information. The information is then used to steal your identity. In other cases, clicking on the link installs a small piece of malware that takes control of your phone and forwards your private information to the criminals.

Where do the criminals get my mobile phone number to text me in the first place?

  1. They purchase it off of black-market sites on the internet
  2. You give your mobile number away to enter contests, vote on reality shows, etc.
  3. You post it on your Facebook profile for everyone to see
  4. Data hijackers hack into databases containing millions of mobile numbers
  5. Most likely, the thieves simply use a computer to automatically generate a text to every potential mobile phone number possible (a computer can make about a million guesses a second).
What can I do to protect myself and my phone?
  • If you receive a text from any number you don’t know, don’t open it, forward it or respond to it
  • Instead, immediately delete the text (or email)
  • If you accidentally click on the link, never fill out a form giving more of your information
  • Place yourself on the national DO NOT CALL list.
  • Stop sharing your mobile phone number except in crucial situations and with trusted contacts
  • Remember when you text to vote or to receive more information, enter sweepstakes or take surveys via text, they are harvesting your phone number.
  • Resist the urge to post your mobile number on your Facebook wall or profile

John Sileo is an award-winning author and international speaker on the dark art of deception (identity theft, data privacy, social media manipulation) and its polar opposite, the powerful use of trust. He is CEO of The Sileo Group, which helps organizations protect their mission-critical privacy. His clients include the Department of Defense, Pfizer, the FDIC, and Homeland Security. Sample his Keynote Presentation  or watch him on Anderson Cooper, 60 Minutes or Fox Business.

7 Security Secrets of Social Networking

On the surface, social networking is like a worldwide cocktail party—full of new friends, fascinating places and tasty apps. Resisting the urge to drink from the endless fountain of information is nearly impossible because everyone else is doing it—connecting is often advantageous for professional reasons, it’s trendy and, unchecked, it can be dangerous.

Beneath the surface of the social networking cocktail party lives a painful data-exposure hangover for the average business. Sites like Facebook and Twitter are now the preferred tool for malware delivery, phishing, and “friends-in-distress” scams while more business oriented sites, like LinkedIn, allow for easy corporate espionage and the manipulation of your employees.

To avoid the cocktail party altogether is both impractical and naïve—the benefits of social networking outweigh the dangers—but applying discretion and wisdom to your social strategy makes for smart business. Follow these 7 Security Secrets of Social Networking to begin locking down your sensitive data.

  1. On social networks, possession is ten-tenths of the law.When you put your business’s information on a social network, you have forfeited your exclusive right to that information. Unlike a physical asset, information can be simultaneously recreated, stored and accessed by unlimited users at any one time, allowing it to flow like water through your fingers. Additionally, there are very few laws governing the ownership of information once it leaves your office (e.g., goes into the cloud), leaving you no legal precedence for winning back your privacy. On a personal level, for example, when you populate your Facebook profile with a birthdate, it is sold to advertisers along with your demographics, “Likes” and a map of your friend network. Similarly, in the business world, the minute you establish a Facebook page and begin to attract “fans” or a Twitter page for followers, you’ve just centralized and publicized your customer list for competitors. Solution: Create a strategic plan before you expose your intellectual property. Prior to going live with a corporate social networking profile or sharing your next post, think through how much sensitive information you are sharing, and with whom. Unlike a traditional website, social networks connect human beings, some of whom want to map your organizational structure, track your marketing initiatives, hire your star employees, breach your systems, poach your fan list or steal sensitive intellectual capital. It is imperative that you: 1. Create a strategic social networking plan that 2. Defines what information can and should be shared by executives and employees on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. 3. Consider using social media to attract new prospects rather than creating a following of existing (and poachable) clients. 4. Populate your profile with only publicly available, marketing-based data. 5. Keep personal comments for personal pages, as they have no place at work. 6. Don’t rely on a policy to communicate your intentions and requirements surrounding social media. The most successful companies build a culture of privacy through an interactive process that allows the entire team to co-create a solution.
  2. Lack of education, not technology, is the greatest source of risk. It’s easy to blame our data privacy woes on technology. At the heart of every security failure (technological or otherwise), is a poor human decision, generally due to a lack of awareness. For instance, an employee, not a machine, decides to spend their lunch break using their work computer to post on personal social networking sites. In many cases, they do so because the business has not established guidelines for these scenarios, nor have they educated them on the risks. For example, most employees don’t understand that more than 30% of all malware is delivered to corporate computers via social spam through personalsocial networking use conducted on work computers. Solution: Educate your team as individuals first, employees second. The most effective way to change a human being is to appeal to them emotionally, not intellectually. Most of us are more emotionally connected to our personal lives than to our jobs. Consequently, by motivating your employees to protect their own social networking profiles first (and their kids’), you are not only lowering the malware and fraud that they introduce into your computers through lunchtime surfing, you are also giving them the framework and language to protect the company’s social networking efforts. Be sure to: 1. Break the training down into bite-sized, single topic morsels that won’t overwhelm or discourage employees. 2. Allow employees to spend a few moments applying the fixes you’ve just given them. 3. Once they’ve made the changes personally, reconvene and discuss what it all has to do with your organization’s social networking strategy. They will return to the learning table with emotional buy-in and awareness. Strategies Three and Five (below) are examples of this bite-sized, personal to professional adaptation process.
  3. Most social networking risks are old scams with new twists.During a lunch break at work, you receive a Facebook post that seems like it’s from a friend. It’s impossible not to click, enticing you with captions like, “check out what our old high school friend does for a living now!” Seemingly harmless, you click on a video, a coupon, or a link to win a FREE iPad and presto, you’ve just infected your computer with malware that allows cyber thieves full access into your company network. You’ve been tricked by a repackaged version of the virus-delivering-spam-emails of five years ago. Spam has officially moved into the world of social media (thus, social spam), and is now responsible for 30% of all viruses, spyware and botnets that infect our computers. Solution: Discuss social spam self defense at your next team meeting. It’s amazing how quickly people detect social spam once they’ve been warned! After all, they’ve seen it all before disguised in other forms. In addition to giving employees visual examples of social spam, click-jacking and like-jacking, make sure that they are equipped with the following knowledge: 1. If an offer in a social networking post is too enticing, too good to be true, too bad to be real or just doesn’t feel right, don’t click! 2. If you do click and aren’t taken directly to the site you expected, make sure you never click a second time, as this gives cyber thieves the ability to download malware onto your system. 3. Deny social media account takeover by using strong alphanumeric passwords that are different for every site and that you change frequently. 4. Account takeover is easy for criminals, which means that not all “friends” are who they say they are. If you suspect foul play, call your contact and verify their post. 5. Make sure that you protect your business with the latest cyber security and anti-theft prevention tools available. I will discuss these in the next strategy.
  4. Cyber thieves follow the path of least resistance by looking for open doors. Data thieves aren’t interested in delivering malware to just anybusiness (using social networking as their primary delivery device); they specifically target organizations that have done the least to protect their computers, networks, mobile devices, Wi-Fi and Internet connection. Why burgle a house with deadbolts and an alarm when you can attack the home down the street that left the front door wide open? In business, the “open door” usually comes in the form of poor computer security. Solution: Create a Path of Strategically Elevated Resistance. Thieves get discouraged (and move on to other victims) when you put roadblocks in their way. Keeping your network security up-to-date is the smartest way to quickly and effectively elevate your defenses against cybercrime. Follow these simple steps: 1. Hire a professional to conduct a security assessment on your network; the investment will pay for itself hundreds of times over. During the assessment and follow-up process, make sure that the IT professional: 2. Installs a security suite like McAfee on every computer, including mobile devices that travel, 3. Sets up your operating system and critical software for automatic security updates, 4. Enables and configures a firewall to block incoming cyber criminals, and 5. Configures your Wi-Fi network with WPA2+ encryption. To cover all of your bases, make sure that 6. You are prepared for a breach if it does happen. Deluxe, in partnership with EZShield, provides state-of-the-art identity protection and recovery services for businesses. It’s like health insurance for your information assets.
  5. Data criminals systematically exploit our defaults. Another way to create a path of strategically elevated resistance is to take away the “broadcast” nature of social networking exploited by thieves and competitors. Instead of inviting everyone to your cocktail party, only allow people you know and trust. When users set up a new social networking profile, the tendency is to accept the “default” account settings. For example, when you establish a Facebook account, by default, your name, birthdate, photo, hometown, friend list and every post you makeare available to more than one billion people. Solution: Change your defaults! It only takes minutes to modify every Privacy and Security setting offered by a social network. On a personal level, 1. Consider limiting who can view your hometown, friend list, family, religious affiliation and interests to Friends Only or even Only Me and 2. Disallow Google to index and share your profile on its search engine. Businesses will want to 3. Leave the indexing feature On to maximize search engine traffic. 4. Post updates to categories of friends (friend groups), not to the entire world. This isn’t only safer personally, it also makes for more targeted and appreciated customer service. 5. Make sure to update your defaults regularly, as social networking sites tend to make frequent changes. Many businesses with Facebook Fan Pages, for example, have not updated their profile in accordance with Timeline, meaning that their page is outdated and unprofessional.
  6. Social engineers mine social networks to build trust and exert influence. The greatest social networking threat inside of your organization isn’t malware or information scraping. Your greatest risk comes from a data spy’s ability to get to know youand your co-workers through your online footprint. Social engineering is the art of manipulating data out of you using emotional triggers such as similarity, likeability, fear of offending, authority, etc. A social engineer’s greatest tool of deception is to gain your trust, which is easy once they know your likes, friends and updates that you publish daily. After a month or so of cultivating what appears to be a legitimate relationship, social engineers begin to manipulate you for information. Solution: Verify, then trust. In the information economy, where data is quite literally currency, you must verify someone’s intentions and credibility before you begin to trust them. Here’s how: 1. Don’t befriend strangers; your ego wins, but you lose. 2. Before you accept a second-hand friend, verify that your existing network actually knows and trusts that person. Too many users accept friends indiscriminately, so you need to investigate their credibility before you hit the Accept button. 3. Don’t believe everything you read on social networking sites. In fact, don’t believe anything of substance until you verify it with reputable, primary sources like a national newspaper, ethical blogger or noted expert. 4. Never send money to a friend in need, download an entertaining app or give away sensitive information via social networking unless you know beyond a shadow of a doubt that the request is legitimate and that your communication is private and secure.
  7. In social networking, there are no secrets. The title of this paper was intentional – people want exclusive access to knowledge that others don’t have. We all want to know the secret, and I used that human desire in a gentle form of social engineering to get you to read the article. But in social networking, there are no secrets. The instant you hit the post button, your information becomes public, permanent and exploitable. It’s public because you have little control over how it is forwarded, accessed by others or subpoenaed by law enforcement. In the blink of an eye, your information is backed up, re-tweeted and shared with strangers. Digital DNA has no half-life; it never disappears. And as you’ve seen above, it can be used against you. Solution: Don’t just read, act! Reading is not enough; you must act on what you have read: 1. Revisit the information you over-share on your social networking profiles and remove it. 2. Modify your account privacy and security defaults so that you share only with the people you trust. 3. Educate your team from a personal perspective first and then apply it to your organization’s needs. 4. Strategically elevate your defenses by securing your computer network with software like McAfee, and recovery services like EZShield. 5. Research advanced fraud and social engineering tactics to protect yourself and your company.

Every company I’ve consulted to that has experienced a data breach wishes that they could “go back in time”. Why? Because recovery is often 10-100 times more expensive than prevention, and because data breach causes customer flight, bad press and depreciated value. Companies that prepare for the coming onslaught of social networking fraud will escape relatively unaffected. Businesses that are unprepared will suffer extensively. According to the Ponemon Institute, the average cost to a business of any size that experiences a data breach is $7.2 million, which explains why so many small businesses go bankrupt after a data loss event, as they are unable to pay the recovery costs. That gives you 7.2 million reasons pay attention.

John Sileo is an award-winning author and international speaker on the dark art of deception (identity theft, data privacy, social media manipulation) and its polar opposite, the powerful use of trust, to achieve success. He is CEO of The Sileo Group, which advises teams on how to multiply performance by building a culture of deep trust. His clients include the Department of Defense, Pfizer, the FDIC, and Homeland Security. Sample his Keynote Presentation or watch him on Anderson Cooper, 60 Minutes or Fox Business. 1.800.258.8076.

Top Tips to Stop Travel Identity Theft – Sileo on Fox Business

Identity theft increases a great deal when you are on the road. Start protecting yourself with these Top 5 Identity Theft Tips while traveling:
  1. Travel Data Light. If you don’t have to take it with you, increase your safety and leave it at home. This includes checkbooks, debit cards, excess credit cards, Social Security cards and any excess digital gadgets. Simplicity is Security!
  2. Guard Your Devices. Smartphones and tablets are as powerful as laptops. Turn on the auto-lock passcode to keep others out of your information.
  3. Surf Protected. Stop using the free WiFi hotspots in cafes, airports and hotels, as they are constantly sniffed by cyber criminals. Instead, setup tethering between your mobile phone and tablet or laptop so that you are surfing safely.
  4. Privacy Please! Instead of leaving loads of data unprotected in your hotel room (a major source of theft), hang your privacy sign on the door and let house cleaning know that you do not want to be disturbed. Lowering traffic lowers risk.
  5. Mind the Lions at the Watering Hole. Take a minute to watch the video to the left to understand how increasing your awareness in airports, hotels, conferences and restaurants can save you tons of time and money.
Remember, protecting identity on the road isn’t just about you, it’s also about the data you handle in your business every day. It’s one thing to put your own identity at risk, it’s an entirely different affair to jeopardize the security of customer data, employee records or intellectual capital owned by the organization that pays you.
John Sileo is an author and recognized keynote speaker on how identity theft prevention bolsters your bottom line. Learn more about how he can inspire your organization to care about data security, social media privacy, identity management and trust leadership. Contact him directly on 800.258.8076. 

iPad Vampires: 7 Simple Security Settings to Stop Data Suckers

Information is the currency and lifeblood of the modern economy and, unlike the industrial revolution, data doesn’t shut down at dinnertime. As a result, the trend is towards hyper-mobile computing – smartphones and tablets – that connect us to the Internet and a limitless transfusion of information 24-7. It is an addiction that employers encourage because it inevitably means that we are working after hours (scanning emails in bed rather than catching up with our spouse).

In the work we do to change the culture of privacy inside of organizations, we have discovered a dilemma: iPads are not as secure as other forms of computing and are leaking significant amounts of organizational data to corporate spies, data thieves and even competing economies (China, for example, which would dearly love to pirate the recipe for your secret sauce). Do corporations, then, sacrifice security for the sake of efficiency, privacy for the powerful touch screens that offer a jugular of sensitive information?

Of course not! That’d be like driving a race car minus seat belts and air bags.

iPads provide a competitive advantage, and like generations of tools before it (the cotton gin, the PC), individuals and organizations alike will be forced to learn how to operate this equipment safely or risk the bite of intellectual property vampires. Here are 7 Simple Security Settings to help you lock down your iPad much like you would your laptop.

7 Simple Security Settings for Your iPad

  1. Turn On Passcode Lock. Your iPad is just as powerful as your laptop or desktop, so stop treating it like a glorified book. Your iPad is only encrypted when you enable the passcode feature. (Settings/General)
  2. Turn Simple Passcode to Off. Why use only an easy to crack 4-digit passcode when you can implement a full-fledged alphanumeric password? If you can tap out short emails, why not spend 5 seconds on a proper password.
  3. Require Passcode Immediately. It is slightly inconvenient and considerably more secure to have your iPad automatically lock up into passcode mode anytime you leave it alone for a few minutes.
  4. Set Auto Lock to 2 Minutes. Why give the table thief at your favorite café more time to modify your settings to his advantage (to keep it from locking) as he walks out the door with your bank logins, emails and kid pictures.
  5. Turn Erase Data after 10 Tries to On. Even the most sophisticated passcode-cracking software can’t get it done in 10 tries or less. This setting wipes out your data after too many failed attempts. Just make sure your kids don’t accidentally wipe out your iPad (forcing you to restore from your latest iTunes backup).
  6. Use a Password Manager. Your passwords are only as affective as your ability to use them wisely (they need to be long and different for every site). Keeping your passwords in an unencrypted keychain or document is a recipe for complete financial disaster. Download a reputable password-protection app like 1Password to manage and protect any sensitive passwords, credit card numbers, software licenses, etc. Not only is it safe, it’s incredibly convenient and efficient.
  7. Avoid Untrustworthy Apps. Not all applications are friendly. Despite Apple’s well-designed vetting process, there are still malicious apps that slip through the cracks to siphon data out of your device. If the app hasn’t been around for a while and if you haven’t read about it in a reputable journal (Macworld, Wall Street Journal, New York Times, etc.), don’t load it onto your system. Don’t jail-break your iPad to download apps outside of iTunes. Short-term gain equals long-term risk.

Believe it or not, these simple steps begin to give you a level of security that will discourage casual data vampires. After implementing the Simple 7, move on to 5 Sophisticated Security Settings for iPads for even more robust data defense.

John Sileo lost almost a half-million dollars, his business and his reputation to identity theft. Since then, he’s become America’s leading keynote speaker on identity theft, social media exposure and weapons of manipulation. He helps organizations build successful cultures of privacy. His clients include the Department of Defense, Pfizer and Homeland Security. To learn more, visit ThinkLikeASpy.com or contact him directly on 1.800.258.8076.

How Secure is Your Gmail, Hotmail, YahooMail?

I just finished an interview with Esquire magazine about the security of webmail applications like Gmail, Windows Live Hotmail and YahooMail. Rebecca Joy, who interviewed me on behalf of Esquire, wanted to know in the wake of the Rupert Murdoch phone-hacking scandal, how secure our photos and messages are when we choose to use free webmail programs.

The simple answer? Not very secure. Just ask Vanessa Hudgens (nude photos), Sarah Palin (complete takeover of her email account) and the scores of celebrities and power figures who have been victimized by email hacking.

Think of using webmail (or any web-based software, including Facebook, Twitter, Google Docs, etc.) as checking into a hotel room. Unlike a house, where you have tighter control over your possessions, the same is not true of a hotel. While you definitely own the items you bring into a hotel room (laptop, smartphone, wallet, passport, client files), you don’t have nearly as much control as to how they are accessed (maids, managers, social engineers who know how to gain access to your room). In short, by using webmail to communicate, you are exchanging convenience for control.

Here are the five most common ways you lose control:

  1. The password on your email account is easy to guess (less than 13 characters, fail to use alpha-numeric-symbol-upper-lower-case, don’t change it often) and someone easily hacks into your webmail account, giving them access to your mail, photos, contacts, etc.
  2. Someone inside of the webmail company is given a huge incentive to leak your private information (tabloids that want access to a celebrity’s photos and are willing to pay hundreds of thousands for it).
  3. You populate your password reminder questions (What high school did you go to?) with the correct answers instead of using an answer that is not easily found on your Facebook, LinkedIn or Classmates.com profile.
  4. You fail to log out of your webmail while on a public computer (hotel business center, school, library, acquaintances house), allowing them to log back in to your email account using the autosaved username and password (which by default tends to stay on a system for up to two weeks).
  5. You continue to deny the fact that when you store your information in places that you don’t own, you have very little actual control.

If you are sending sensitive information of any sort (text, photos, identity, videos or otherwise), don’t use webmail or social networking to send it. Use a mail program that resides on your own computer and encrypt the sensitive contents using a program like PGP. That gives you a much stronger form of protection than ignorantly exposing your information for all to see.

John Sileo is the award winning author of Privacy Means Profit and a professional speaker on data security, privacy, identity theft and social networking exposure.

 

7 Steps to Secure Profitable Business Data (Part II)

In the first part of this article series, we discussed why it is so important to protect your business data, including the first two steps in the protection process. Once you have resolved the underlying human issues behind data theft, the remaining five steps will help you begin protecting the technological weaknesses common to many businesses.

  1. Start with the humans.
  2. Immunize against social engineering.
  3. Stop broadcasting your digital data. There are two main sources of wireless data leakage: 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. Both connections are constantly sniffed for unencrypted data being sent from your computer to the web.Strategy: Have a security professional configure the wireless router in your office to utilize WPA-2 encryption or better. If possible, implement MAC-specific addressing and mask your SSID. Don’t try to do this yourself. Instead, invest your money in proportion to the value of the asset you are protecting and hire a professional. While the technician is there, have him do a thorough security audit of your network. You will never be sorry for investing the additional money in cyber security.To protect your data while surfing on the road, set up wireless tethering with your mobile phone provider (Verizon, Sprint, AT&T, T-Mobile) and stop using other people’s free or fee hot spots. Using a simple program called Firesheep, data criminals can “sniff” the data you send across these free connections. Unlike most hot-spot transmissions, your mobile phone communications are encrypted and will give you Internet access from anywhere you can make a call.
  4. Eliminate the inside spy. Most businesses don’t perform a serious background check before hiring a new employee. That is short sighted, as much of the worst data theft ends up being an “inside job” where a dishonest employee siphons information out the back door when no one is looking. In the consulting work we have done with breached companies, we have discovered the number one predictor of future theft by an employee – past theft. Most employees who are dishonest now were also dishonest in the past, which is why they no longer work for their former employer.Strategy: Invest in a comprehensive background check before you hire rather than wasting multiples cleaning up after a thief steals valuable data assets. Follow up on the prospect’s references and ask for some that aren’t on the application. Investigating someone’s background will give you the knowledge necessary to let your gut-level instinct go to work. More importantly, letting your prospective hire know in advance that you will be performing a comprehensive background check will discourage dishonest applicants from going further in the process (watch the video for further details). I personally recommend CSIdentity’s SAFE product, which is a technologically superior service to other background screen services.
  5. Don’t let your mobile data walk away. In the most trusted research studies, 36-50% of all major data breach originates with the loss of a laptop or mobile computing device (smart phone, etc.). Mobility, consequently, is a double-edged sword (convenience and confidentiality); but it’s a sword that we’re probably not going to give up easily.Strategy: Utilize the security professional mentioned above to implement strong passwords, whole disk encryption and remote data-wiping capabilities. Set your screen saver to engage after 5 minutes of inactivity and check the box that requires you to enter your password upon re-entry. This will help keep unwanted users out of your system. Finally, lock this goldmine of data down when you aren’t using it. Either carry the computer on your person (making sure not to set it down in airports, cafes, conferences, etc.), store it in the hotel room safe, or lock it in an office or private room when not using it. Physical security is the most overlooked, most effective form of protection.
  6. Spend a day in your dumpster. You have probably already purchased at least one shredder to destroy sensitive documents before they are thrown out. The problem tends to be that no one in the business uses it consistently.Strategy: Take a day to pretend that you are your fiercest competitor and sort through all of the trash going out your door for sensitive documents. Do you find old invoices, credit card receipts, bank statements, customer lists, trade secrets, employee records or otherwise compromising information? It’s not uncommon to find these sources of data theft, and parading them before your staff is a great way to drive the importance of privacy home. If your employees know that you conduct occasional “dumpster audits” to see what company intelligence they are unsafely throwing away, they will think twice about failing to shred the next document. In addition to properly disposing of new documents, make sure that you hire a reputable on-site shredding company to dispose of the banker’s boxes full of document archives you house in a back room somewhere within your offices.
  7. Anticipate the clouds. Cloud computing (when you store your data on other people’s servers), is quickly becoming a major threat to the security of organizational data. Whether an employee is posting sensitive corporate info on their Facebook page (which Facebook has the right to distribute as they see fit) or you are storing customer data in a poorly protected, noncompliant server farm, you will ultimately be held responsible when that data is breached.Strategy: Spend a few minutes evaluating your business’s use of cloud computing by asking these questions: Do you understand the cloud service provider’s privacy policy (e.g. that the government reserves the right to subpoena your Gmails for use in a court of law)? Do you agree to transfer ownership or control of rights in any way when you accept the provider’s terms of service (which you do every time you log into the service)? What happens if the cloud provider (Salesforce.com, Google Apps) goes out of business or is bought out? Is your data stored locally, or in another country that would be interested in stealing your secrets (China, Iran, Russia)? Are you violating any compliance laws by hosting customer data on servers that you don’t own, and ultimately, don’t control? If you are bound by HIPAA, SOX, GLB, Red Flags or other forms of legislation, you might be pushing the edges of compliance.

By taking these simple steps, you will begin starving data thieves of the information they literally take to the bank. This is a cost-effective, incremental process of making your business a less attractive target. But it doesn’t start working until you do.

John Sileo, the award-winning author of Privacy Means Profit, delivers keynote speeches on identity theft, data security, social media exposure and weapons of influence. His clients include the Department of Defense, Pfizer, Homeland Security, Blue Cross, the FDIC and hundreds of corporations, organizations and associations of all sizes. Learn more at www.ThinkLikeASpy.com.

 

7 Steps to Secure Profitable Business Data (Part I)

Everybody wants your data. Why? Because it’s profitable, it’s relatively easy to access and the resulting crime is almost impossible to trace. Take, for example, Sony PlayStation Network, Citigroup, Epsilon, RSA, Lockheed and several other businesses that have watched helplessly in the past months as more than 100 million customer records have been breached, ringing up billions in recovery costs and reputation damage. You have so much to lose.

To scammers, your employees’ Facebook profiles are like a user’s manual about how to manipulate their trust and steal your intellectual property. To competitors, your business is one poorly secured smartphone from handing over the recipe to your secret sauce. And to the data spies sitting near you at Starbucks, you are one unencrypted wireless connection away from wishing you had taken the steps in this two-part article.

Every business is under assault by forces that want access to customer databases, employee records, intellectual property, and ultimately, your bottom line. Research is screaming at us—more than 80% of businesses surveyed have already experienced at least one breach and have no idea of how to stop a repeat performance. Combine this with the average cost to repair data loss, a stunning $7.2 million per incident (both statistics according to the Ponemon Institute), and you have a profit-driven mandate to change the way you protect information inside of your organization. “But the risk inside of my business,” you say, “would be no where near that costly.” Let’s do the math.

A Quick and Dirty Way to Calculate Your Business’s Data Risk

Here is a quick ROI formula for your risk: Add up the total number of customer, employee and vendor database records you collect that contain any of the following pieces of information – name, address, email, credit card number, SSN, Tax ID Number, phone number, address, PIN – and multiply that number by $250 (a conservative average of the per record cost of lost data). So, if you have identifying information on 10,000 individuals, your out-of-pocket expenses (breach recovery, notification, lawsuits, etc.) are estimated at $2.5 million even if you don’t lose a SSN or TIN. And that cost doesn’t necessarily factor in the public relations and stock value damage done when you make headlines in the papers.

In an economy where you already stretch every resource to the limit, you need to do more with less. Certain solutions have a higher return on investment. Start with these 7 Steps to Secure Profitable Business Data.

  1. Start with the humans. One of the costliest data security mistakes I see companies make is to only approach data privacy from the perspective of the company. But this ignores a crucial reality: All privacy is personal. In other words, no one in your organization will care about data security, privacy policies, intellectual property protection or data breach until they understand what it has to do with them.Strategy: Give your people the tools to protect themselves personally from identity theft. In addition to showing them that you care (a good employee retention strategy), you are developing a privacy language and framework that can be easily adapted to business. Once your people understand opting out, encryption and identity monitoring 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. For an example of how the Department of Homeland Security applied this strategy, take a look at the short video.
  2. Immunize against social engineering. The root cause of most data loss is not technology; it’s a human being who makes a costly miscalculation out of fear, obligation, confusion, bribery or sense of urgency. Social engineering is the craft of manipulating information out of humans by pushing buttons that elicit automatic responses. Data thieves push these buttons for highly profitable ends, including spear-phishing, social networking fraud, unauthorized building access, and computer hacking.Strategy: Immunize your workforce against social engineering. First, when asked for information, they should immediately apply a healthy dose of professional skepticism. Train them to automatically assume that the requestor is a spy of some sort. Second, teach them to take control of the situation. 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. Finally, during this moment of hesitation, empower them to ask a series of aggressive questions aimed at exposing fraud. When we do this type of training, whether it is for the Department of Defense, a Fortune 50 or a small business, the techniques are the same. You have to make a game out of it, make it interesting, interactive and fun. That’s how people learn. For an example of fraud training in action, visit www.Sileo.com/fun-fraud.

You will notice that the first 2 Steps have nothing to do with technology or what you might traditionally associate with data security. They have everything to do with human behavior. Failing to begin with human factor, with core motivations and risky habits, will almost certainly guarantee that your privacy initiatives will fail. You can’t simply force a regime of privacy on your company. You need to build a coalition; you need to instill a culture of privacy, one security brick at a time.

Once you have acknowledged the supreme importance of obtaining buy-in from your employees and training them as people first, data handlers second, then you can move on to the next 5 Steps to Secure Profitable Business Data.

John Sileo, the award-winning author of Privacy Means Profit, delivers keynote speeches on identity theft, data security, social media exposure and weapons of influence. His clients include the Department of Defense, Pfizer, Homeland Security, Blue Cross, the FDIC and hundreds of corporations, organizations and associations of all sizes. Learn more at www.ThinkLikeASpy.com.