A few more tips to safeguard yourself, your identity and your loved ones.

Part 3 of 3.

Criminals are always looking for new ways to catch people unawares and take advantage of them. They will use any means necessary to commit whatever crime they have in mind and a lot of the technology we use everyday leaves everyone open for a possible attack. There are quite a lot of things you can do to protect yourself and your family from becoming victims.

Part 3: Medical records, credit reports, junk mail and documents.

Your medical records contain your entire family history as well as your personal contact information. It details your relationships (husband, wife, children, etc), your sexual behavior, any illnesses, diagnosis, treatments, prescriptions, you name it! Unfortunately even these records aren’t that difficult for a savvy criminal to obtain, especially since most medical providers now keep their patient records digitally. You can keep an eye on your records by visiting the Medical Information Bureau’s web site or calling them.

Always keep an eye on your credit reports. You are entitled to a free credit report once a year thanks to the Fair Credit Reporting Act. Never assume that your credit report is accurate, human beings enter the data into these reports and errors happen. Plus, if you know what is on your report you can identify possible identity theft or credit card fraud since information of that nature will be detailed in your report.

When you need to dispose of bills or bank statements – never simply throw them in the trash! Criminals frequently “dumpster dive” for these documents. Shred everything. Everything! Credit card statements, bills, old debit or credit cards, bank statements, old pay stubs, anything of that nature. Cross-cut shredders are very inexpensive and can save you a lot of hassle.

Do not fill in any personal information that you do not absolutely have to when filling out documents. If the fill-in box states that it is optional – keep it to yourself. If you must fill in something, keep it as brief as possible. For example, don’t fill in your full legal name – use your initials. A lot of junk mail comes from people filling in all of their personal data when they really did not have to.

Lastly, to keep telemarketers from calling you – simply include your name in the Do Not Call Registry (www.donotcall.gov).

Protecting yourself from victimization truly is in your hands. Making small changes in your life and keeping an eye on your assets, your information and your technology can keep you and your family from identity theft or other problems.

~ K. McMillan-Ralph, TeCHS

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A few more tips to safeguard yourself, your identity and your loved ones.

Part 2 of 3.

Criminals are always looking for new ways to catch people unawares and take advantage of them. They will use any means necessary to commit whatever crime they have in mind and a lot of the technology we use everyday leaves everyone open for a possible attack. There are quite a lot of things you can do to protect yourself and your family from becoming victims.

Part 2: Computers, spyware and deleting files.

Your personal computers contain a wealth of your most personal and valuable information as well as avenues for exploitation and theft by savvy criminals. The easiest way for a criminal to steal information off of your computer is to actually physically steal the computer. Laptops are prime targets for theft and you should never leave it unattended. Never leave them in your car, do not stow them in overhead bins while traveling and even when you are home, store them someplace that they are not readily seen by everyone in your home.

On top of that always secure your computers with good, strong, not-easily-guessed passwords. Do not use common words, do not use sequential numbers or letters and never use personal names or dates of important events. If you can remember them it is best to use alphanumeric passwords, passwords that contain a random set of numbers and letters – both uppercase and lowercase. If that isn’t do-able for you, use an odd sentence. Keep in mind that the longer your password is, the more characters it contains, the harder it will be to guess.

Other ways to safeguard your computer include making sure your firewall is always running, make sure that you have a good spyware program installed on your computers and that you run them at least once a week and never click on any links you do not recognize or are unsure about. Criminals are very good at embedding malicious software into seemingly innocuous programs that can wreak havoc on your computer and your personal life.

Truly deleting files is not as easy as it sounds. You may think that once you delete something from your computer that it is gone forever. A lot of times that is not the case. Unless you go through the trouble of wiping your hard drives or physically destroying them, it is possible to recover that “deleted” data. There are quite a few programs on the market that will “wipe” a hard drive truly clean… but be careful! USB thumb drives or flash data cannot ever be truly wiped clean.

Next week: Medical records, credit reports, junk mail and documents.

~TeCHS

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A few more tips to safeguard yourself, your identity and your loved ones.

Part 1 of 3.

Criminals are always looking for new ways to catch people unawares and take advantage of them. They will use any means necessary to commit whatever crime they have in mind and a lot of the technology we use everyday leaves everyone open for a possible attack. There are quite a lot of things you can do to protect yourself and your family from becoming victims.

Part 1: Landlines, cell phones and leaving on vacation.

Always keep private conversations private. In order to ensure that private conversations are not being spied on these types of conversations should really be done in person and in a private location. Using any sort of telephone (landline or cell) your conversation can be easily spied on. You can purchase cheap devices at places like Radioshack that will allow you tap into any landline telephone.

Same goes for your cell phone. When it is not in use you should keep in unplugged and powered off. Cell phones are even less secure than landlines are and with the right technology your cell phone signal can be intercepted from just about anywhere. When your cell phone is on it can be tracked and even remotely activated so that the person snooping can hear everything being said around the phone. Also, there is quite a lot of personal information stored on your cell phone – from your social security number, your full name, your address, and even bank accounts and credit cards.

When you leave your home for any length of time, say for a vacation, always have the post office hold your mail. On that same note, if you do not have a mailbox with a lock on it – get one! Your mail is a goldmine of information for criminals to use to steal your identity; bills, checks, credit card offers, bank statements, you name it. Some people even go as far as renting secure mailboxes inside of their local Post Office to make sure their mail (and in turn their identity) isn’t being stolen.

Pay close attention to what is happening in your neighborhood and around your home; installing simple things like flood lights and security gates can deter a possible break-in. If you feel that you live in a less-than-safe neighborhood, consider purchasing firearms, pepper spray or stun guns to keep around your home in case of a break-in.

Always keep valuables hidden in your home; don’t leave things like jewelry boxes sitting on top of dressers in plain sight. Small portable fire safes are great for keeping your valuables safe from fire… but if a criminal finds one in your home, you saved them the trouble of having to collect your valuables in one place. They will simply pick up the tiny safe and take it home to break into later. If you need a fire-proof safe install one that is large enough to not be lifted easily by one person and make sure it is bolted secure into concrete.

Next week: Computers, spyware and deleting files.

~TeCHS

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Heat Hacking

 
Another thing to watch out for at your local ATM: The heat from your fingertips is actually leaving behind traces of heat that can be seen with a simple digital infrared camera. The camera can pick up which keys were pressed with about 80% accuracy even a full minute after you have left the ATM behind.

A criminal can definitely determine which keys you pressed but thankfully it is rather difficult to figure out in what order the keys were pressed. This sort of key identification only works well on plastic keypads as well since metal retains too much heat noise to allow the camera to accurately pick up which keys were recently pressed.


At the moment this sort of crime is in its infancy and there isn’t a large chance that you will be caught unawares but as technology gets better and better this sort of theft will become easier and more wide-spread. The ATM is not the only place technology of this nature could be used to infiltrate – keypad safes, security doors, keypad activated garage doors and car doors, and basically anything that uses plastic keypads is potentially vulnerable.

Right now, to prevent any possibility of reading which keys you have recently pressed, simply place your hand over the entire keypad for a few seconds once you are finished – then every key will be just as warm as the one next to it.

~TeCHS

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Social Media and Biometrics Make Undercover Work Impossible

Social media has been on the rise for years and is now a staple of most people’s daily internet usage. Since pretty much everyone now-a-days uses social media for connecting with people and sharing photos – odds are good that there are multiple photos floating around of almost everyone on the internet whether that person uploaded them there or someone else did.

Now, social media coupled with biometrics could spell trouble for undercover police activities. For people whose livelihood truly depends on their anonymity social media and biometrics are making undercover operations no longer an option.


There are plenty of apps on the market that use biometrics to easily identify people based on their internet photos. Anyone can easily and cheaply pick up rudimentary biometric software for their computers and particularly for their smartphones. Police use these apps regularly to ID people on the street and mine social media for clues and help find suspects. The social media sites themselves use these apps to help you “tag” people in photos you upload. So if law enforcement is using these apps, doesn’t it make sense that criminals are too?

~TeCHS

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Cellebrite, the Smartphone Data Grabber

A new device on the market has been causing quite a bit of commotion. It’s called Cellebrite Cell Phone Extraction Device (UFED) and it is a rugged hand-held device that is used to grab information from cell phones and GPS devices. The manufacturer’s web site touts the Cellebrite as a solution for cell phone repair centers to be able to transfer a customer’s cellular data from their broken phone to a new phone.

You would be surprised at how much data a smartphone really stores and exactly what can be accessed with a device like Cellebrite. The news has been talking quite a bit about this device since it recently surfaced that Michigan State Police have been using the tool to access cell phones during traffic stops. Hopefully devices like this will stay in the hands of trustworthy people and only be used with the consent of the phone owner.

~TeCHS

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Cool New Tech : The M-DISC

CDs and DVDs are vulnerable to damage from environmental exposure and from normal use. Their lifespan is actually only about 10 years, even though most people tend to believe that they will last forever. A new type of disc has recently been released that can be read on with a standard DVD player but will store the data contained on the disc for about 1,000 years!

The new disc is being called the M-DISC and is created out of thin layers of a rock-like material composed of inorganic and organic metal and stone compounds. The M-DISC has been thoroughly tested in a number of extreme environments and still performed like it was brand new; even after being dipped in liquid nitrogen and then transferred to a container of boiling water.

These cool new discs are on sale now. Check them out!

~TeCHS

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High-Tech Fraud : Phishing

The systems that give everyone access to a wealth of easily accessible information and commerce also gives tech-savvy criminals an almost endless supply of people to victimize. Police department just cannot keep up with the amount of cyber crime and identity theft going on in the world today. Cybercrime has become an even more profitable industry than drug trafficking and it is incredibly difficult to nail down and prosecute the perpetrators.

It is a constant challenge to law enforcement to keep their tools and technology up to date to try to catch these criminals or attempt to stay ahead of them. If they can catch the people committing the crimes, it is often way too expensive to prosecute them. Say the thief stole $1,000 using a stolen credit card number; it will cost taxpayers around $15,000 to properly investigate and prosecute the criminal. In most of these cases the victim is reimbursed by the issuing bank and the case is basically closed.
One of the most common forms of high-tech fraud today is known as “phishing,” where a criminal sends a fraudulent email which coerces the victim into giving up their personal or financial information over bogus web sites that mimic popular bank or online commerce sites. Some of today’s phishing schemes are so convincing that they can even fool the people who are the most vigilant. Tricking someone into logging into what they believe is their eBay account or PayPal or their bank – saying their account is suspended or something of that nature.

Most of these criminals and this type of victimization can be totally avoided if people would just be a bit more diligent. Take a look at your credit score every so often, shred all sensitive documents that you no longer need, secure your home mailbox with a lock and key, don’t click on links in questionable emails, and other easy steps of this nature. These days it can really pay for people to be just a bit more paranoid.

~TeCHS

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More On Cybercrime Techniques

Common Cybercrime Techniques

1.) Phishing e-mails mimicking online businesses or banks in an attempt to fool people into freely giving out confidential personal and financial information. URL Obfuscation is the part of the phishing scam that really plays on human error and our brain’s ability to “fill in the gaps” automatically by sending a victim to a fraudulent web site address that looks almost exactly like a real address (i.e. www.pay-pal.com versus www.paypal.com).

2.) Pharming is another form of phishing that “poisons” a person’s computer’s DNS cache and redirects visitors from a real web site to a bogus mirror site. Every web site has its own internet address and the Domain Name System (DNS) translates the IP address into the host name. A DNS cache poisoning changes the entries in the computer so when the legitimate site is typed in, the victim is sent to a fraudulent web page instead.

3.) Trojan Horses are malicious software files that infiltrate your PC by hiding in seemingly innocuous files. Some Trojans, called “keystroke loggers,” record every one of a person’s keystrokes and send that information back to the attacker.

4.) Zombie Computers and Man-In-The-Middle Attacks are part Trojan and the malicious software that is installed on the victim’s computer allows that person’s PC to be controlled remotely by their attacker without their knowledge. The Man-In-The-Middle attack is frequently partnered with an “Evil Twin” which is a fake wireless internet hot spot connection that looks almost like a legitimate service. When the victim attempts to connect, the criminal launches a transaction to get the victim’s credit card information in the form of a standard pay-for-access deal to use the wireless internet.

~ TeCHS

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Safeguarding Yourself From Cybercrime Don’t become a victim!

What You Can Do To Safeguard Your Information:

1.) Keep your computer’s spyware and antivirus software up to date and scan your computer regularly.

2.) Make sure you have firewalls up and running at all times. Whether it’s the built-in Windows firewall, your router’s firewall or a 3rd party firewall software; or all of them in combination if you really want to make sure they are working.

3.) Always be wary of emails asking for your personal or financial information. Don’t click on links or open emails that seem suspicious to you at all. Even one simple click can open your computer up to a criminal – installing malicious software and stealing your information.

4.) Keep an eye on your assets and your credit and check on everything on a regular basis. Make sure to report any odd or suspicious activity immediately.

5.) Always shred documents you do not need, don’t just throw them in the trash. Criminals do sift through your trash looking for pertinent documents.

If Your ID Is Stolen:

Immediately file a fraud alert on your credit report by calling Equifax (888-766-0008), TransUnion (800-680-7289) or Experian (888-397-3742). After you have filed your report, call the issuers of any credit cards that may have been affected.

~TeCHS

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