Monthly Archives: December 2016

Phishing ..Christmas..a time for taking?

phishing-alertThere I was, at my desk on Monday morning, preoccupied with getting everything done before the Christmas break, and doing about 3 things at once (or trying to).  An email hit my inbox with the subject “your account information has been changed”.  Because I regularly update all my passwords, I’m used to these kinds of emails arriving from different companies – sometimes to remind me that I’ve logged in on this or that device, or to tell me that my password has been changed, and to check that I the person who actually changed it.

As I hadn’t updated any passwords for a couple of days, I was rather intrigued to see who had sent the email, and I immediately  opened it.  It was from Apple to say I’d added an email as a rescue email to my Apple ID.

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Well that sounded wrong, so I clicked on the link to ‘Verify Now’ and was taken to a page that looked pretty legitimate.

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I thought I should see what was actually going on, so I logged in to my Apple ID using my previous password.  If I had been in any doubt, the fact that it accepted my out-of-date password made it very clear that this was a scam.

The site asked me to continue inputting my data.  At the top of the pages are my name and address details.  It’s also, for the first time, telling me that my account is suspended – always a hacker’s trick to get you worried and filling in information too quickly to think about what you’re actually doing.

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Then the site starts to request credit card details and bank details …

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And finally my date of birth so they can steal my identity, and a mobile number so that they can send me scam texts.

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I know seven other people who received exactly the same email. And it’s just too easy to fall for, so any number of people could be waking up tomorrow with their identity stolen, and bank account and credit cards stripped of all money or credit.

With that in mind, here are some things to look out for in phishy (see what I did there) emails:

  1. Check the email address the email came from! If it looks wrong – it probably is!
  2. Hover your mouse over the links in the email to see where they take you. If this email had really been Apple it would have gone to an https:\\ address, at apple.co.uk
  3. Check grammatical errors in the text of the letter

Now if you do fall for an email as well executed as this, and if I’m completely honest, I’m shocked at how close to a real Apple email and website they looked, make sure you notify your bank and credit card companies immediately.  Change all of your passwords as soon as possible because if you use the same log in combination for any other accounts those could be targeted next.

Christmas has always been a time for giving.  Now it’s become the prime time for taking.

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Written by Charlotte Seymour, 22nd December 2016

Data Compliant’s Weekly Round-Up

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It’s the weekend before Christmas. Have you done all your Christmas shopping? If you’re shopping online, this is the last weekend you can really do your online shopping and still get everything delivered on time. 

Now you may be bored of hearing it but please be careful, look after your passwords, change them regularly, don’t have devices store your information! Lets start the year without a stranger stealing money from your credit cards and bank accounts!

Yahoo…Again 

This week brings us the news that Yahoo had announced a hack from 2013 – a separate breach to the 500,000 hacked records announced in September. 

Yahoo was investigating the 2014 breach when it uncovered the earlier hack – this time discovering that a billions accounts had been compromised. 

The reputational damage to Yahoo is enormous – a clear pattern of poor security is emerging and if I had an account with Yahoo, I’d be considering changing my provider immediately.  Having said that, though,  how can we be certain that other companies haven’t had similar breaches and we just don’t know about them yet?

The ICO’s deputy commissioner, Simon Entwisle has released a statement saying that they are talking to Yahoo and will try to find out how many UK users have been affected by the latest hack. Their immediate advice is to recommend  strongly that customers change their passwords if they haven’t already.

TalkTalk
An update on the huge TalkTalk hack has been released. One of the hackers, a 17 year old, has admitted to 7 offences relating to the hack and has been given a 12-month rehabilitation order and an £85 fine. He was 
told his excellent computer skills need to be used for the good. 19-year old Daniel Kelley also pleaded guilty. He has been told that a jail sentence is inevitable, and has been released on bail prior to sentencing in March.

Uber
Uber has come under fire after an ex-worker claimed that staff could track fares of celebrities, politicians and even ex-partners. If that’s true, it’s lucky for me I’ve only ever used it in Australia where no exes live and unfortunately I’m not yet a celeb!

Uber released a statement to the Standard stating that the claims made by Mr Spangenberg are “absolutely not true … we have hundreds of security and privacy experts working round the clock  to protect our data … all potential violations are quickly and thoroughly investigated.” Uber also makes it clear that access to personal data is limited to approved workers who may only access the data they need in order to perform their job function. 

Lionhead Studio just as bad as ‘Trolls”?
It has been released this week at a BAFTA event that a teenager targeted Sam van Tilburgh and his team, back in 2003, when they were creating the game Fable. The teen released a screen shot of the hero stabbing a child in the head – something no one was expecting to see. 

Rather than go through official routes, Tilburgh and team decided adopt an unconventional aporiach. They were able to track the boy’s IP address and let care the teenager. They then ‘acquired’ some of his school work from and published a part of it, with a demand that he stop or they would publish more and tell be his family what he was up to. He did indeed stop.

Tilburgh said Lionhead’s legal team knew nothing of the retaliating hack, and it has taken 13 years for the story to surface! I wonder if there’ll be repercussions.

The National Lottery hit with fine
So it wasn’t so long ago we heard that hackers had attacked The National Lottery (TNL). Today we hear TNL’s operator Camelot has been issued with a fine of £3m because of a fraudulent payout back in 2009. How this happened has not yet been announced but  it sounds as if a ‘deliberately damaged ticket’ was to blame. The prize fund payout is suspected to be around £2.5m but the actual figure has not yet been officially released.

I, for one will continue to buy my lottery tickets. Although The National Lottery has come under fire recently, it has fuelled a whopping £36 billion into good causes such as sports, community and heritage projects. Also imagine if you won.. (legitimately)

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Written by Charlotte Seymour, 17th December 2016

RSPCA and British Heart Foundation Fined

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So it’s getting closer and closer to Christmas – a time for giving, with more and more charity adverts on the TV, on the radio, on social media – in fact  pretty much everywhere you look. Although Christmas can be a bit tight on the purse strings thousands of people still give to their favourite charities. 

Whether you’re helping children, refugees, animals or cancer or medical research, these organisations all promote that the money goes to a good cause. Unless this ‘good cause’ is to pay an ICO fine…?

Two of the major charities we all know and love are the RSPCA and the British Heart Foundation. And both have been under investigation for secretly screening its donors aiming to target those with more money. This process is known as “wealth-screening”. 

The two organisations hired wealth management companies who pieced together information on its donors from publicly available sources to build data on their income, property value and even friendship circles. This allowed for a massive pool of donor data to be created and sold.

The RSPCA and BHF were part of a scheme called Reciprocate where they could share and swap data with other charities to find prospective donors. Donors to both charities were given an opt-out option. 

Information included in the scheme was people’s names, addresses, date of birth and the value and date of their last donation. The ICO ruled that the charities didn’t provide a clear enough explanation to allow consumers to make an educated decision what it was they were signing up for, and therefore ruled that they had therefore not given their consent.

The RSPCA has admitted that it was not aware of the actual charities with whom they were sharing their data.  It also became clear that the charity shared data of those donors who had opted out. 

The BHF insists it had all the correct permissions. However the ICO disagrees on the basis that the charities with whom they were sharing the data were not for similar causes.

The ICO has fined the RSPCA £25,000 and the British Heart Foundation £18,000. Ironically the BJF was praised on its data handling by the ICO in June this year, and it is likely to appeal the fine. 

In my opinion I feel the whole thing is a mess. I like to give to charity when I can, which if I’m honest, isn’t as frequent as I’d like. 

However when you hear of debacles like this, it really does put you off. I want my money to go to a good cause. I don’t want my data being shared without my knowledge so that other charities can investigate how much I earn, whether I own my property and what social circles I move in, and then decide whether I’m worth targeting. Surely these charities should be thankful for every single donation. The widow’s mite springs to mind. 

I feel for the poor animals and souls that rely on these charities, who are I’m sure going to take a hit from these fines. It’s not their fault, yet no doubt it’s them that’s going to pay the price.

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Written by Charlotte Seymour, 8th December 2016.

Data Compliant’s Weekly Round Up

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What a week!  We’ve had another hack using log in credentials stolen from another provider (see my Camelot breach blog), hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of fines issued by the ICO for millions of unsolicited calls and text, an ‘accidental’ Brexit strategy leak and people being exploited by cyber blackmail (now called Sextortion).

ICO fines and GSMA
This week Oracle Insurance was reported by consumers to the Global System Mobile Association’s (GSMA) SPAM reporting service, which the ICO accesses. After investigation the ICO found that Oracle had sent 136,369 marketing texts where sufficient consent hadn’t been given.  The ICO levied a fine of £30,000.

Similar to this Silver City Tech have been fined an explosive £100,000! The Dorset-based company denies sending any unsolicited texts, let alone 1,132,149 of them. A third party company sent the texts on behalf of Silver City Tech. However the ICO sees the third party as a postman just delivering the message – it’s the company behind the message (ie the data controller) that is held responsible. Again the company couldn’t provide any evidence of consent. After being approached by the ICO in Dec 2015 a further 1,942,182 texts were sent, resulting in Silvery City Tech being being fined £100,000.  There’s a clear message here -if the ICO investigates and advises you not to do something …. it’s as well to stop!

Reporting Spam
It’s worth knowing that if you want to report SPAM, just forward the text message to 7726 (spelling out SPAM).  Then you don’t need to text STOP back to the marketing company – which is always a risk as doing so validates your telephone number, and unscrupulous organisations may well then sell your number to another marketing company.

Brexit Strategy Leak
According to Sky News, the latest victim caught carrying an unguarded document in Downing Street is thought to be Julia Dockerill who works for Conservative Party vice-chairman (international) Mark Field.lady has been papped on her way to a cabinet meeting carrying a note pad detailing notes on the Brexit strategy. Now, personally I’m conflicted on this story. With all of the papping, data breaches, hacks and data-in-transit news stories that we all hear about on a daily basis, surely the victim must know that she needs to be safer than this?  Who doesn’t close their notepad after using it – especially outside Number 10? (Or is that me being fussy?)  There are arguments saying that this was planned and wasn’t an accident at all. What do you think?

Sextortion
If you’d asked me what sextortion was on Monday I would have looked at you blankly and thought you were speaking a different language. However on Wednesday the term was everywhere – on the radio, all over the BBC website and all over social media. If you haven’t heard about it, it’s organised criminal gangs enticing individuals (mainly young men) to perform sexual acts on a webcam.  The criminals then threaten to release the footage to their friends and family unless they pay them. Police say that the number of cases that the victims have been brave enough to report has over doubled from last year.. There are victims as young as 15 although statistics show that the majority of victims fall into the 18-21 age bracket, and there have been 4 suicides this year. Police are advising not to pay anything to blackmailers and contact the police immediately. The force has arrested 40 men responsible in the Philippines.

TalkTalk and Post Office Hack
Reports are coming in that TalkTalk and Post Office customer’s internet access has been cut after a number of routers were targeted. The Post Office have said that it has affected 100,000 of it’s customers and the problem started on Sunday. (A lot happened on Sunday, first the National Lottery, now the Post Office – is no one safe on a Sunday!?) Although it has affected a lot of people, we should thank our lucky stars we’re not in Germany where a similar hack affected an unlucky 900,000 customers.

I think we’ll all be thankful when this week ends. It just seems to be getting worse. However on a positive note it’s December now! Only 22 days until Christmas!!! (Not that I’m counting).

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Written by Charlotte Seymour, 2nd December 2016

National Lottery customers hacked. But who handed over the key?

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Another day … another hack. Such events are inescapably becoming almost daily news. The endless catalogue of everyday cyber crime, ranging from hacking, ransom attacks, bullying, breaches, theft and fraud, simply underlines that any crime that can be committed in our physical world can – and is – equally being perpetrated in cyber space.

Given that such attacks and breaches are making the headlines almost daily, it baffles me that companies and customers (that’s us by the way) don’t make a greater effort to protect themselves.

Camelot, The National Lottery’s operator, discovered this latest breach on Sunday and went public on Wednesday morning. Camelot says that only 26,500 of the 9.5 million registered user accounts were compromised, and that there has only been activity on just under 50 of the infiltrated accounts. They have confirmed that no money has been removed or added to any of these accounts and that the National Lottery does not hold full debit card or bank account details. The Information Commissioner’s Office says it has launched an investigation.

Camelot insists that the reason for the compromised accounts is because users have been operating the same password for multiple websites. (Sound familiar? Last week’s Deliveroo breach comes to mind).

Quite properly when we hear of a data breach we turn the spotlight onto the companies that we deal with, who are in charge of protecting our information. But it would be no bad thing for us to point the spotlight at ourselves as the other half of the equation. As consumers, we have to take responsibility too.

We have all repeatedly been advised – and frankly, must surely know by now –  it is vital that a different password is used for every website. For as long as we fail to take this basic precaution, these breaches will be possible.  It would seem that we’re no or slow learners.

I don’t know about you, but I have more accounts than I care to think about. A password including capital letters, symbols and numbers is difficult enough to remember for just one account. However with hacks happening more and more frequently it’s made me pull up my socks and change all of my passwords.

I choose not to have my phone or computer store my passwords, because if either device is stolen (or lost) someone will have all my information in the palm of their hand.

It’s time we all realised how vitally important it is to have safe and secure and different passwords for every account we have, especially when cyber criminals are getting wiser and more sophisticated by the minute. A password is a key. So using just one password to access all your websites means that you are effectively handing criminals the master key to all your online activity.

Hint – A password with 12 characters including a few bits and pieces can take over 2 centuries to crack … that’s the one for me!

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Written by Charlotte Seymour, 30th November 2016