The European Central Bank has announced that hackers had hacked into its computers and stole information about people who had registered for some bank events which included news conferences. Many of the people whose information was stolen were journalists who attended bank events including news conferences. The information stolen included names, email addresses and telephone numbers. Shortly after the information was stolen, the bank received an extortion email demanding money and threatening to release the information if the hackers were not paid. It is important to note that although the hacking was of the European Central Bank which has much confidential and sensitive information within its computers, the hacking was from a public website of the bank that is not connected to the bank’s computers and data banks of sensitive information. The hacking is, however, embarrassing for an institution that prides itself on its security.
This incident is another reminder that your personal information is only as safe as the places with the weakest security that hold your information. As much as you can, you should limit the information you provide companies and governmental agencies. It is also important to note that when apparently innocuous information such as this is compromised it makes those people affected more vulnerable to spear phishing which occurs when you receive a phony email that is directed to you personally and appears to come from a trusted source with which you have done business. It is for this reason that I advise people never to click on links in emails or download attachments from emails unless you are absolutely sure that they are legitimate. Too often the email that appears legitimate may actually be coming from an identity thief who has personal information about you and who may put malware into these links and attachments.