Category Archives: Data Security

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.

apple-email

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

apple-email-link

 

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  If I had been in any doubt, the fact that it accepted my out-of-date password made it very clear that this was a scam.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.

apple-verify-1

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

apple-verify-2

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

apple-verify-3

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.

charlotte-seymour-2016

 

Written by Charlotte Seymour, 22nd December 2016

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

master-key

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!

charlotte-seymour-2016

Written by Charlotte Seymour, 30th November 2016

Data Compliant’s Weekly Round Up

cowboy-round-up-cropped

This week has been a bit hectic when it comes to data breaches and news. We started off with Snoopers’ Charter being passed, then we heard that Deliveroo had been hacked and many of its customers had been paying for someone else’s dinner after passwords were stolen from another business.

We heard of yet another colossal hack – mobile network Three had been infiltrated by 3 hackers dotted all over the country now putting two thirds of the 9,000,000 Three customers at risk. The hackers accessed the upgrade system using an employee log in and were able to intercept the new phones before they reached the customers that the hackers had upgraded. Could this be an insider threat? Although Three can confirm no financial data was appropriated the information that was obtainable were things like names, telephone numbers, addresses and date of birth all of which is classed as personal data in accordance with the Data Protection Act. It’s all very handy data for criminals to steal someone’s identity.

Police are investigating Broxtowe Borough Council after an email containing allegations about someone’s conduct was sent to all staff members (730 people in total) in which they were told about in September. The ICO have said they are not going to take any action.

Hatchimals
Hatchimals are the latest craze with the kids these days and I bet they’re on everyone’s Christmas wish list. For those who don’t know what Hatchimals are, they’re Furby-like toys inside an egg that the child has to nurture until it hatches. Once hatched the toy will learn how to speak from it’s owner – so I’m told by my overly eager nephew. However due to these toys being so popular, scammers are out in force and are taking to social media to encourage loving parents to hand over more than double what these toys are going for. Once the scammers have got the money, the parents are then blocked and never hear from them again. Sometimes over £100 worse off. These toys are out of stock in every retailer that sells children’s toys in the UK so if there is an ad online, on social media, or in an email saying they’re still available and better yet – they’re on sale, don’t be fooled, if it’s too good to be true, it usually is.

Black Friday and Cyber Monday
I would imagine due to it being Black Friday this Friday (25th November) and cyber Monday on the 28th fake adverts and phishing emails are going to be on the rise this week and most of next week too. Although it is sad to think that hackers take to this time of year to steal from loving friends and family to earn themselves a bit of extra money, it does unfortunately happen every year. Now some of these hacks are easy to spot, it just takes a bit of common sense, however they are also getting more and more sophisticated and harder to recognise.

Last year UK consumers spent £2 billion in 24 hours online and in stores on Black Friday and £3.3billion over the whole weekend. Predictions this year are even higher than the last. So if you’re anything like me and are planning to get home from work, make yourself a cup of tea, put your feet up and do your Black Friday shopping online, here are some hints and tips for you to stay safe this weekend.

  • Make sure the websites you are visiting have https: at the front of the URL. The s actually stands for secure! Who knew?
  • If you receive any emails from your bank, paypal or anything asking you to confirm your payment details with a link to click on to do so, hover your mouse over the link to see what the URL is, if it isn’t the company’s name .com/.co.uk etc it’s a scam.
  • Look at the email address you receive an email from, is that the company’s name?
  • Use strong passwords, and different passwords for each log in (this is how many people got stung with Deliveroo as they used the same password for their account with them and with other websites and apps).
  • Read the websites privacy policy before handing over all of your sensitive information. These are legally binding and have to inform you of what the company plans to do with your data.

I could go on and on but these main 5 steps should keep you fairly safe this weekend. Don’t be put off by the minority of people who do wish to scam you into handing over all of your money. There are some good people (and even better bargains) out there, so happy shopping!

charlotte-seymour-2016
Written by Charlotte Seymour – 25th November 2016.

Snoopers’ Charter – What do you think?

big brother.pngThe Investigatory Powers Bill, also known as the Snoopers’ Charter, was passed by the House of Lords last week. This means that service providers will now need to keep – for 12 months – records of every website you visit, (not the exact URL but the website itself), every phone call you make, how long each call lasts, including dates and times the calls were made. They will also track the apps you use on your phone or tablet.

The idea behind the Bill is to prevent terrorism and organised crime, which, it goes without saying, we all fully support.  What it will also obviously do is to place massive amounts of personal information into the hands of the government and other bodies for that 12-month period.  And there has been and will continue to be a huge debate over whether and to what extent this is a breach of our privacy.

This Bill will also allow the police and authorities to look at a specific location and see which websites are highly used in that area, and even who is visiting that area. Dozens of public organisations and departments, such as HMRC, the Food Standards Agency and Gambling Commission, will also be able to access this information without needing evidence for ‘reasonable doubt’ to do so.

What has not changed is that security services still have the ability to hack in to your communications, and eavesdrop into your calls, read your texts and emails, only as long as they have the required warrant to do so. So in theory your actual conversations are still safe unless there is a reason to believe you are involved in something you shouldn’t be.

All this is very well, but is the Bill self-defeating?  Doesn’t it just encourage the use of VPNs which will bounce your IP around the world so you can’t be traced?  If you were doing something you didn’t want officials to know about, isn’t that just what you’d do?

Food for thought here is that the UK will expect companies like Google, Facebook and Apple to unencrypt some of their software so that the UK can gain access to those records. These companies aren’t British companies. So can they refuse? The thing that worries me is that if they do refuse, would they be tempted to pull out of working with the UK completely?  In which case, what does the government want more – the business and jobs these companies provide or the data they hold?

Not only that, but we are now living in the age where Yahoo can lose half a billion accounts, a Three Mobile breach can put millions of customers at risk, and thousands of Tesco customers can have money simply removed from their bank accounts.  And the list goes on. Is not keeping all this data stored for 12 months just like a huge red target for hackers?  Even though this Bill is driven by national security, the risk is that it still leaves an ocean of information that can be dipped into, hacked and misused.

I feel caught between a rock and a hard place.  I have no issues with the government bodies looking through my history should they choose to, but is it right that they can? And then you have to wonder … has anything really changed that much?  Hmmm…

What do you think? None of this will go away. Our children will inherit this Bill and will grow up with all of its implications.

charlotte

 

Written by Charlotte Seymour – November 2016

Insider Threats – Charlotte’s View

Insider Threats – Charlotte’s View

Something that is being spoken about more and more (due to the unfortunate higher frequency) is insider threat. It’s in the news an awful lot more than it ever used to be.

Do you remember the auditor of Morrisons who released a spreadsheet detailing just shy of 100,000 members of staff’s (very) personal details? He did end up getting jailed for 8 years but I heard a saying recently, it’s not a digital footprint you leave it’s more of a digital tattoo. Even two years after the incident Morrisons is still suffering the effects.

Now obviously that was what you would call a malicious breach. It does unfortunately happen, but there are ways for you to protect your company against this. Firstly we here at Data Compliant believe that if you have detailed joiner processes in place (i.e. thorough screening and references and criminal checks where appropriate), ongoing appraisals with staff and good leaver processes you can minimise your risk.

Other ways of insider breaches occurring, and much more likely in my opinion, are negligence, carelessness and genuine accidents. Did you know that over 50% of data breaches are cause by staff error? This may be because staff do not follow company procedures correctly and open up pathways for hackers. Or it could be that your staff are tricked into handing over information that they shouldn’t.

Your staff could be your company’s weakest point in relation to protecting it’s personal and confidential data. But you can take simple steps to minimise this risk by training your staff in data protection.

Online training has some big advantages for businesses, it’s a quick, efficient and relatively inexpensive way of training large numbers of employees while “taking them out of the business” for the least possible time.

The risk of breaches isn’t just your business’ reputation, or even a hefty fine from the ICO but as mentioned before, also a criminal conviction. Now that is a lot to risk.

If you’re interested in online training have a look at this video.

 

charlotte

Written by Charlotte Seymour, November 2016

 

Yahoo – biggest data breach ever

people-padlockIt is widely known that hackers target all companies large or small. In social media and cloud storage terms, we’ve seen breaches from a range of businesses include MySpace, LinkedIn, to DropBox and many more.

And now, as almost everyone must be aware, Yahoo has announced it has suffered the largest cyber breach in history. 500 million accounts have been accessed, of which 8 million relate to UK data.  This is a particularly difficult issue for Yahoo, who, as announced in July, is close to finalising the £3.7bn deal to sell its core business to Verizon. The breach occurred two years ago, and there is significant speculation about why it has taken so long for the organisation to discover the breach (coincidentally also July 2016).

In July a hacker known as Peace was discovered selling the information of 200 million Yahoo accounts on the dark website Real Dark.  It wasn’t until then that Yahoo launched an investigation to see whether – and to what extent – they had been hacked.

It is troublesome, to say the least, that a company of Yahoo’s magnitude can be the victim of the largest cyber attack in the world … and simply not notice for two years. Under the upcoming EU General Data Protection Regulation, notification of such a brief to the Supervisory Authority is mandatory within 72 hours of discovery – which doesn’t really help when a company doesn’t discover the breach for such an extended period of time.

Generally speaking, it takes an average of between 98 and 191 days (over six months) to detect an intrusion, and it does beg the question … why?  Some sources report that there is simply too much data for the analysts to sift through to be able to immediately recognise the threat.  In addition, false alarms are common.

So to an extent it’s understandable that there would have been some delay in identifying the breach.  Almost all of us have had an occasion where the car alarm has gone off because of a gust of wind or a vast lorry getting too close. But you would expect that when someone steals your car’s wheels, its seats and the doors, you just might notice.

So what do we know about this breach?

500 million Yahoo users have had their names, email addresses, dates of birth, hashed passwords, telephone numbers and unencrypted security questions accessed. We also know that Verizon only found out two days before the knowledge of the breach was released to the public.

Now we’re all asking the question “Who’s behind it?” Yahoo believes it was a “state-sponsored actor”. So which state? The suspects so far are Russia (supposedly behind hackers Fancy Bears who hacked WADA and released Olympian’s medical records to show what banned drugs they were taking for medical reasons); North Korea (suspected of being behind the hack on Sony after the film ‘The Interview’ showed its leader in a poor light); China (who, despite denial, allegedly recently stole the finger prints of 4 million Americans from The Office of Personnel Management).  Alternatively, it could have been a lone wolf like the TalkTalk breach – TalkTalk too suspected a large corporation but instead it turned out to be a teenager in his bedroom trying to make a few extra quid.

What we need to understand is that, unless companies invest the appropriate time, resource and money to protect their own and their customers’ data, they will continue to be wide open to breach.  In the UK only 51% of large businesses have followed half or more of the government’s 10 steps to cyber security.

So … if only half of us are consciously going to take action to attempt to prevent these breaches, is it any wonder that the hackers have it so easy?

charlotte

Written by Charlotte Seymour, October 2016

EU – US Privacy Shield has been adopted

Privacy ShieldAt last agreement has been reached on the EU – US Privacy Shield agreement which now replaces the Safe Harbor agreement.  Safe Harbor was ruled invalid in 2015 by the EU Court of Justice, because they said there were not sufficient safeguards for personal data under the voluntary scheme.

The new agreement is intended to protect the privacy of EU citizens when their personal information is processed in the US.

Companies will be able to sign up to the EU – US Privacy Shield from August 1st once they have implemented any necessary changes to comply with the strict compliance obligations.

The EU – US Privacy Shield is based on a system of self-certification by which US organisations commit to a set of privacy principles entitled the EU – US  Privacy Shield Framework Principles.

The new framework was unveiled in February and has been under review since then.  Back in June the European Data Protection Supervisor, Giovanni Buttarelli advised that it ‘needed significant improvements’ because it was not ‘robust enough’ and that the Commission should negotiate improvements to the Privacy Shield in three main areas:

  • limiting exemptions to its provisions;
  • improving its redress and oversight mechanisms,
  • integrating all the main EU data protection principles.

For the Privacy Shield to be an effective improvement on Safe Harbour it must provide adequate protection against indiscriminate surveillance as well as obligations on transparency, and data protection rights for people in the EU.

In Brussels on July 12th Věra Jourová, Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality said: “The EU – US  Privacy Shield is a robust new system to protect the personal data of Europeans and ensure legal certainty for businesses. It brings stronger data protection standards that are better enforced, safeguards on government access, and easier redress for individuals in case of complaints”

In summary the EU-US Privacy Shield is based on the following principles:

  • Strong obligations on Companies handling data and robust enforcement
  • Clear safeguards and transparency obligations on US government access
  • Effective protection of individual rights
  • Annual joint review mechanism
  • Easier and cheaper redress possibilities in case of complaints —directly or with the help of the local Data Protection Authority

The Privacy Shield agreement applies to both data controllers and processors (agents), and specifies that processors must be contractually bound to act only on instructions from the EU controller and assist the latter in responding to individuals exercising their rights under the Principles.

Whilst the UK remains a member of the EU (which it will be for least the next 2 years) UK based companies that process data in the US will be able to use the Privacy Shield where appropriate.

Michelle Evans, Data Compliance Director

14th July 2016