The Art Of Cyber Crime
This morning I received notice from the Equifax Breach Settlement Administrator informing me of the following:
“In September of 2017, Equifax announced it experienced a data breach, which impacted the personal information of approximately 147 million people. Equifax has reached a proposed settlement to resolve class action lawsuits brought by consumers alleging Equifax failed to adequately protect their personal information. Equifax denies any wrongdoing, and no judgment or finding of wrongdoing has been made.
If your personal information was impacted in the Equifax data breach, you may be eligible for benefits from the settlement after it becomes final. Under the proposed settlement, Equifax will: (1) pay $380.5 million into a fund to pay benefits to consumers, court-approved fees and costs of class counsel and service awards to the named class representatives, and other expenses; (2) implement and maintain certain data security enhancements; (3) if necessary, pay up to $125 million more to reimburse consumers for out-of-pocket losses resulting from the data breach; and (4) provide certain other relief.“
In other words, they are sending me notice to engage in the settlement by filing a claim and agreeing to their terms of settlement ahead of any legal entity making contact to my name on their list. They offered to either pay a set fee of $125. or many months worth of free credit score tracking. I made an application, but really expect nothing.The problem with this hack is that one more criminal entity now has access to my sensitive information which may (and probably does) include credit card and bank card numbers, social security number, address for verification purposes, and more.
A Case In Point
I did an online search for firms that advertised their credentials to help you with obtaining a government or privately funded grant. The spiel painted a flowery picture of how easy it was to obtain such a product and the necessity of using their services to facilitate the success of that endeavor.
I filled out an online application (without verifying validity of their business) and included my credit card number to purchase their plan on their website and got no feedback afterwards. I did not check to see if the sensitive info I provided was secure. And I almost paid a heavy price.
Not long after, my bank statement showed a purchase of over a thousand dollars at a mall in California (while I was living in Louisiana). I contacted my bank and was fortunately able to verify that the distant purchase was made by a live person at a facility that had no online shopping setup and could not have been me doing the transaction. Their credit fraud department refunded the money in short order. The absence of proof would have left me in the lurch.
A Facebook Fiasco
Another time, I was contacted by someone who had access to my phone number but not my email address. She had set up a Facebook-only account with no presence on the internet. She made an attractive offer to me about a service that she could offer, but only for a sizable fee.
Since the account was not set up to provide details and verification parameters, I could only move forward if I set up my own Facebook Account. Which I did. Further details did little to convince me her offer was valid, so I passed on it.
But now I had a Facebook Account which I do not use, propagated by ‘friend seekers’ that I do not wish to be friends with. That includes former associates and acquaintances that I do not want to provide any information to for any reason at all.
My laptop computer has been hacked and filled with crippling viruses several times. The resultant cause was my clicking on sites that gave minimal (or no) information in their meta description (the dialog attached to the link that gives a quick synopsis of what is provided by said link or website).The main reason I allowed myself to fall prey to hackers is:
- I did not check to see if the website was secure (https designation)
- I did not search for independent reviews of the site
- I did not have anti-virus software installed which constantly monitors for present and future malware
One Of My Ongoing Fears
Since I was educated to the fact that pirate hackers have the ability to use your computer and work inside the framework of your motherboard and software to achieve their malicious ends, I have assumed that is an ongoing possibility. Even with anti virus software, no system of protection is perfect. Otherwise, major entities like Equifax (and Target Store Accounts) would not get hacked.
They pay big bucks to keep that from happening, and yet it still does. My biggest fear as they could be inside my computer looking over my shoulder at any point in time without my having any knowledge of their presence. So I take extra precautions on how I expose critical data and make purchases. I won’t detail what I do here, but suffice it to say I have not had any breaches for several years now.
Suggestion For The Novice Computer User
With my brutal education so far, I can make the following recommendations:
- First check to see if the website link has a secure connection to the host provider (an https designation or ‘lock symbol’. My sight is now secure through my changeover to SiteGround who provided a free secure certificate as part of the deal.
- Install anti-virus soft ware that is verified as trustworthy. I use the free version of AVG which constantly monitors my computer for hackers and either eliminates them or places them into a neutralized condition where they can do no harm.
- Do reviews of the website by independent entities that do not have an affiliate link to the site being reviewed and offering to sell that product. (What good are they if they are in cahoots with the enemy)
- Backup you data at least once a month to have it available if you lose access to your computer permanently. I use a 128 gigabyte flash drive for that purpose and it has worked with no malfunctions for several years now.
- Have an expert computer technician on standby, just in case your computer crashes. He or she can probably extract the data from your hard drive if all else fails. My son runs his own business called Computer Mechanics out of Canton, New York. In exchange for my helping him start his business, in return I only asked that he maintains my (and my wife’s) computer(s) or solve virus software hacks when they rear their ugly heads.
- Have an iPad or similar Tablet-Style electronic device as a standby. I am writing this blog on mine as a draft because I can type fast on it. I then do my edits, add media, and publish on my laptop. I could do it all on the iPad, but I am not smart enough to finish the whole package without making mistakes.
- Don’t depend on any publicly available WiFi system to obtain or send sensitive data unless you are willing to take the risk. The temptation to ‘Buy On The Fly’ will be through an unsecured network, and those systems usually warn you in advance that they are not set up to handle security issues in your transmissions.
Your data belongs to you and if you don’t use procedures to protect it, it will fall into the hands of a criminal entity whose only purpose in life is to conspire against you. That is a fact that repeats itself every second, minute, and hour of the day.
My blog gets numerous comments from people all over the world and gets looked at by hackers from those countries as well. I have plugins that protect me, but I am not sure which ones do what. I get spam, but I deal with it myself. My current anti spam plugin was blocking everybody, so I was getting no comments at all for over a week. Thus, I deactivated it until it improves its capabilities.
If you decided to use free anti-virus software, like AVG, then be prepared to receive daily banner prompts to upgrade to paid or premium products offered. It’s an annoyance, but worth it to me to keep the infestations of criminal hackers out of my system. You can make your own choices. I just hope this blog will help you to make good ones.
Adiós por ahora!