Why All the Confusion With the Equifax Data Breach? 9 Steps You Need to Know to Protect Yourself

 

It has happened again. This time 143 million people have been impacted by this cyber breach. Why is this breach more confusing than the other data breaches and what does that mean for you?  With the Home Depot breach, the information compromised was our credit card information allowing for fraud. With Yahoo, the information compromised were your email, passwords, and contents in your email allowing for scams, fraud and phishing.

With the Equifax breach, large amounts of PII (personally identifiable information) including date of birth, social security number, home address, and phone number have been exposed. It’s possible cyber thieves can open lines of credit, bank accounts, get a driver’s license and new credit cards in your name. Identity theft can come in multiple forms from thieves being able to cash your personal checks or pick up medical prescriptions. Recovering from identity theft can take months or even years.

Equifax also has not been very forth coming regarding the details of the breach and has folded under public pressure over the weekend, and Monday to do more for consumers, leading to misinformation and increasing confusion for consumers.

Here are the facts on how to protect yourself with the Equifax breach:

  1. Sign up for 1-year free credit monitoring and identity theft insurance with Equifax. Equifax is offering their own service for free. That may not inspire trust, so you may want to pay for additional credit monitoring after the free year expires or use an alternative source altogether (Experian, TransUnion). If you do sign up for this, you are most likely waiving your right to sue Equifax. 
  2. Check to see if you have been impacted at equifaxsecurity2017.com. Though it may not be reassuring to do this considering Equifax has not proven its ability to protect your information. Other experts state that possibly inputting your information into the website could expose you to greater risks, but it is the way to confirm if you have been compromised. Though it is not the best and it caused some confusion Friday morning because the sites security ID was not being recognized by Google Chrome, it’s the only way to know if your information has been impacted.
  3. Watch your finances for unauthorized charges. Watch credit cards, bank statements, medical bills, insurance bills and new credit card applications. If you get a notice from the IRS stating you owe taxes, contact them immediately to confirm it or report it as fraud.
  4. Take this identity theft protection quiz with Legal Shred. It’s a quick and easy way to educate yourself on how to prevent identity theft.
  5. Re-evaluate your passwords. When you change your password try to have at least 12- 18 characters including capital letters, lower case letters, numbers and symbols. Think of a passphrase to use versus a password. Never share passphrases with anyone. It’s also best to use a password manager like Last Pass that can create passwords for you.
  6. Check the other two main credit monitoring companies: Experian (1-888-347-3742) and TransUnion (1-888-909-8872). Confirm there were no unauthorized charges in the past. You can also call Equifax (1-800-349-9960).
  7. Review the resources at the Identity Theft Resource Center. There are numerous resources on this site. This can also be a great way to encourage teens think about how to protect their information and reduce the opportunity of identity theft.
  8. You can authorize a credit freeze. This means placing restrictions on who can view your credit report (lenders, potential employers). Equifax is offering this free for 30 days. Whether it’s done through them or another provider, it is a good thing to do.
  9. Check your annual credit report. Go to annualcreditreport.com. Equifax, Experian and TransUnion are also required to give you one free credit report a year. Take advantage and check your credit report once a quarter using each of these resources.

Lastly, breathe. This is the new normal. Remember, security is everyone’s responsibility. Control what you can control with good personal security hygiene habits.

Jessica Robinson, is a writer and Founder & CEO of PurePoint International. As a cyber security & risk management expert she advises and consults with small and medium sized businesses on cyber prevention and response. Learn more at www.the-purepoint.com.

 

Your Email Was Hacked, Now What? 9 Prevention Tips You Can Implement Today

 

In the last few weeks several people mentioned they were hacked: both personal and work email. I wanted to share few tips that could not only prevent this from occurring, but help you respond to it.  We frequently hear about how to prevent breaches of large companies, however its just as important that we limit exposure of our personal accounts. Many times, it’s through our personal email or social media accounts that we compromise our business accounts leading to breaches.

When this happens, the first question I usually get is: how did this happen? The truth is it can happen in multiple ways: a compromised website link, another affected email account within your network at work, public WiFi network, or your phone was compromised. It can be hard to pin down exactly how it occurred; the goal is to prevent it in the first place. Here are 9 tips to keep in mind and incorporate into your daily habits. Whether you are on vacation or working from a coffee shop, if you follow these tips, you will limit you risk tremendously.

Here are 9 top prevention tips to keep you from being hacked:

  1. Passphrases: When you change your password (try to have at least 18 or more characters). Think of a passphrase to use versus a password. Never share passphrases with anyone, including co-workers.
  2. Updates: Complete the latest security updates on your computer (and phone) when prompted.
  3. Try to not use public WiFi networks: If you do, use a VPN (virtual private network). Try Express VPN or IPVanish VPN. When working remotely or on a personal device, use VPN software to access corporate email. Avoid accessing company email from public WiFi connections.
  4. Attachments: Never open attachments or click on links in email messages from unknown senders.
  5. Password Managers: Change passwords often. I recommend every 60-90 days. Utilize tools such as 1 Password and LastPass to either help you remember passwords or to create passwords for you.
  6. Confidential information: Try to send as little sensitive information as possible via email, and send sensitive information only to recipients who require it. Limit who you cc and bcc on these emails.
  7. Anti-virus: Use spam filters and anti-virus software. There are various apps you can download for your phone including Norton and Mobile Security and Anti-Theft Protection among many others.
  8. Large attachments: Don’t attach large files to an e-mail; anything over one or two megabytes shouldn’t be sent via e-mail. Limit the number of files you attach to a message to five or fewer. Save attachments to your hard drive and then delete the e-mail message containing the attachment. Don’t open unexpected attachments or those sent by unknown parties. Scan files with an antivirus program before opening an attachment.
  9. Hacked: If you are hacked or your password is compromised, check any related accounts (for example, if you have a PayPal account connected to your compromised email account, or the company bank account linked to that email account). Continue to be weary of links on emails, even if it comes from trusted source.

 

Jessica Robinson, is a writer and Founder & CEO of PurePoint International. As a cyber security & risk management expert she advises and consults with small and medium sized businesses on cyber prevention and response. Learn more at www.the-purepoint.com

7 Steps to Defend Against the Ransomware WannaCry’s Potential Phase Two Attack

7 Steps to Defend Against the Ransomware WannaCry’s Potential Phase Two Attack


As of last Friday, Kaspersky recorded 45,000 detections of the variant malware in 74 countries. There were 1600 infections in the US, 11,200 in Russia and 6,500 in China. Victims were asked to pay $300 (and rises to $600 before destroying files) to remove the infection from PCs. Windows based systems are affected as a result of preexisting vulnerabilities. “WannaCry is coming through spam, in which fake invoices, job offers and other lures are being sent out to random email addresses. Within the emails is a .zip file, and once clicked, that initiates a WannaCry infection.”

It was expected this attack would worsen over the weekend, but Friday afternoon, in England, a 22 year old cyber researcher was able to accidentally locate the kill switch by registering the web domain name of the Ransomware.

It has been revealed that there are more variants of the replicating worm that do not include a kill switch and more malware infections are expected this week.

To prepare for the week:

  1. Malware Prevention – Make sure your anti-virus and anti-malware are updated.
  2. Redundancy – Ensure your data is backed up consistently throughout the day. The more often your data is backed up to a separate server or cloud source the less vulnerable you will be to ransomware (paying the amount asked for).
  3. Security Configuration – Microsoft has fixed the vulnerabilities. Install security patches for MS Windows.
  4. Network Security – Install updates and reboot for MS Windows. Monitor all system networks, test security controls and limit user privileges.
  5. Training and Education – Remind teams to be very careful about what emails they open and what links they click on.
  6. Mobile and Home Security – Install updates on your personal computer and mobile devices. Keep business email communication and data on company devices and personal devices separate.
  7. Incident Management – Establish a disaster recovery plan to respond to incidents and report criminal incidents to law enforcement.

Jessica Robinson is CEO of PurePoint International which focuses in bridging the gap between physical and cyber security.