Scam of the day – March 16, 2015 – Hacking group threatens Kanye West

Anonymous is the name of an association of international hackers who have been characterized by some as cyberterrorists and by others as modern day Robin Hoods.  Since 2003 they have hacked into websites and social media accounts of their adversaries, a group that includes major corporations, such as PayPal and MasterCard and Sony; government agencies of the United States and other countries as well as ISIS and child pornography sites.

Now, through a recently released  video which you can view here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tibphZYyODo  they have targeted Kanye West as “a direct message to our brother, Mr. West to teach him a lesson on humility, and responsibility, over his out of control hypocritical and impulsive actions.”  They went on to cite numerous examples of West’s behavior including his recent actions at the Grammy awards when he stormed the stage once again to interrupt Beck’s acceptance speech as he had done at a previous Grammy awards where Taylor Swift received an award West deemed inappropriate.  The 7 minute Anonymous video ended with “Our tolerance with your arrogant and distasteful behavior to gain attention online has reached its end.”

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In many instances for all of us, our vulnerability to having our electronic lives hacked is beyond our control because so much information that can be used to gain access to our various online accounts as well as to make us victims of identity theft is available in data banks that are accessible either legally or illegally through hacking, however, we do not have to make it easy for hackers and identity thieves.  Using strong passwords, strong security questions, dual factor authentication when possible and limiting the places as much as possible that hold our personal information can help considerably in keeping us safe.  If the celebrities whose nude photographs had used dual factor authentication, their photos would have remained secure.  Also, it is important to keep all of your electronic devices up to date with the latest anti-malware and anti-virus software.

Scam of the day – September 15, 2014 – ISIS cyberthreat

Recently on the anniversary of the September 11th attacks on America, former Vice Chairman of the 9/11 Commission, Lee Hamilton commented that while the terrorist group ISIS represents a serious threat to the security of the United States, a greater threat may be posed by a cyber attack on the United States through hacking of our infrastructure including government agencies, banks, transportation systems and energy companies.  The unfortunate truth, however is that ISIS already is looking to expand its attacks against America to cyberspace.   ISIS is well funded and has already proven adept at using social media as a recruiting tool and posting professionally produced videos on YouTube.  British hacker Abu Hussain Al Britani, also known as Junaid Hussein is an ISIS member who is, according to intelligence sources, attempting to recruit hackers into ISIS  Al Britani was jailed in 2012 for hacking into the personal email account of former British Prime Minister, Tony Blair.

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The development of cyber-warfare capabilities by ISIS is not to be taken lightly and hopefully, the United States as well as Britain and other countries joining in the battle against ISIS are actively working as a part of their anti-ISIS strategy to degrade their cyber capabilities as well as their military capabilities.  Interestingly, there already are groups already taking cyber action against ISIS.  Among these groups are the international secret group of hackers known as Anonymous as well as the Syrian Electronic Army, a group which has, itself, hacked American institutions such as the New York Times.  However, the Syrian Electronic Army supports the regime of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, which is an enemy of ISIS and so for once, the United States and the Syrian Electronic Army have a common enemy.

Scam of the day – November 20, 2013 – Dangers posed by hacking of government websites

In November 2nd’s Scam of the day, I told you about the recent arrest of British citizen Lauri Love for hacking into the computers of a number of United Sates Government departments.  In a confidential memorandum, the FBI has recently warned other government agencies about actions of the informal hackers group known as “Anonymous “to also hack various agencies of the United States government. According to the memorandum which was leaked to Reuters, many federal agencies have already been hacked and information stolen from the U.S. Army, the Department of Energy, the Department of Health and Human Services and many more resulting in Anonymous stealing large amounts of personal information contained in the unencrypted computers of these various agencies.  Among the information stolen was personal information on 104,000 employees and contractors of the Department of Energy including bank account information on some of these people.  A common thread between Lauri Love’s hacking and the hacking done by Anonymous is the exploiting of security flaws in Adobe’s Cold Fusion software which is a popular website development software used by many companies and federal agencies.  I have been warning you that this was going to happen since we first became aware of the hacking of Adobe.

So what does it mean to you?

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Once again, this illustrates that your personal information is only as safe as the place with the weakest security that holds your information.  It is important to limit the places that hold your personal information to as few places as actually need it.  Also, do not leave credit cards on file with online companies with which you shop for your convenience.  Your convenience can lead to your becoming a victim of identity theft if they are hacked.  You should make sure that you monitor your credit reports at least annually to be on the lookout for identity theft and you may wish to consider putting a credit freeze on your credit report to limit the damage if you do become a victim of a hacking.  For more information about credit freezes and getting free copies of your credit reports check out my book “50 Ways to Protect Your Identity in a Digital Age.”

Scam of the day – May 10, 2013 – Hackers attack on banks and credit unions fails – this time

The hacking group Anonymous had reportedly targeted 130 banks and credit unions for a disruptive Distributed Denial of Service  (DDoS) attack on Tuesday, May 7th, but the attack failed to substantially materialize.  In a DDoS attack, large numbers of computers, remotely controlled by hackers as a BotNet, flood the websites of particular businesses or governmental agencies and shut them down because the websites are unable to handle the huge number of hits on the website.  Tuesday’s attack pretty much failed to materialize.  Although approximately 600 sites were shut down, few of these were inside the United States and if such an attack was indeed made against American governmental agencies, banks and credit unions, the attack was successfully defended.  But this is not to say that business and government have found a way to stop hacking into their computers.  In fact, the attack may not have occurred at all.  It may have merely been a subterfuge to see what the response would be by governmental agencies and businesses.  Additionally, although DDoS attacks are a nuisance, they are rarely more than that, however, larger more insidious attacks may occur while efforts are being focused against repelling the DDoS attack.

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Large and small businesses are and will continue to be targets for hackers.  If you operate such a business you must take necessary security steps to protect your business from hackers.  As for we, the public, we should do what we can to protect ourselves.  Limit the information available about you at companies with which you do business so if they are hacked, you are not in danger of having your personal information used to make you a victim of identity theft.  Also make sure that you have backup records for all financial dealings and accounts that you have with companies with which you do business so that if an attack either accesses your account or deletes data, you have records that show what you have.  For more information about how to protect yourself, I urge you to consider purchasing my book “50 Ways to Protect Your Identity in a Digital Age” which you can get from Amazon at a reduced price merely by clicking on the link of the book on the right hand side of the front page of Scamicide.

Scam of the day – September 6, 2012 – The truth about the hacking of 12 million Apple device records

Earlier this week, AntiSec, a hacking group often associated with the larger, more familiar international hacking group Anonymous, posted on line a file that contained a million of what they said was twelve million U.D.I.D. numbers they said they had for various people’s Apple mobile devices such as iPads and iPhones.  They alleged they had obtained these by hacking into the laptop of FBI agent Christopher K. Stangl who is the supervisory agent of the F.B.I.’s Cyber Action Team.  As a part of his job, Agent Stangl has tried to recruit hackers to come and work with the F.B.I.  Apple’s U.D.I.D.s are forty character strings of letters and numbers that are uniquely assigned to each Apple mobile device.  AntiSec said that it was releasing this information to show the world that the F.B.I was using this information to track people.  Armed with a person’s U.D.I.D., someone could track the location of the device.  In the past app developers also used U.D.I.D.s to track customers as they went from one app to another.  However, Apple banned developers from doing this a year ago.  The truth is that the information being posted by AntiSec is accurate, however, Apple says that it did not provide this information to the F.B.I. and the F.B.I said that it had not collected the data.

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Although this was a very real breach of security, AntiSec could have gotten this information from any number of sources by hacking into Apple itself, video game makers who had the information,  app developers, AT &T or even a file from the F.B.I who may have obtained such information in a legitimate investigation into data breaches.  The truth also is that if your U.D.I.D. was compromised, you are at very little risk of harm.  In order to use this information to make you a victim of identity theft would take additional information such as your email address and your date of birth.  Perhaps the primary lesson for us all to take from this incident is to guard our personal information as much as possible.  For instance, don’t include your birth date on your Facebook page.  Keep your personal information that is public as limited as possible so that identity thieves don’t have an easy time assembling the seemingly innocuous information about you and using it to turn you into a victim of identity theft.