Veteran Data Exposed in Recent Breach

Veteran Data Exposed in Recent Breach

Last month the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Financial Services Center reported that the personal identifying information (PII) of more than 46,000 veterans had been stolen. Social security numbers may have been included in the hack. The VA Financial Services Center is in process of alerting impacted individuals via mail.

 

If you are a veteran (or next of kin of a deceased veteran), we suggest that you be on the lookout for any signs of fraud.

 

– Continue to watch your credit and individual account statements for activity that you have not initiated.

 

– Do not respond to any emails, phone calls or direct messages from anyone saying that they are from the VA Financial Services Center. The VA will contact anyone impacted via mail only.

 

Please reach out to us immediately if you have any questions or concerns about this alert. Be smart. Be vigilant. Be strong. As always, we are available for you and your family members 24/7/365 at 888.966.GUARD (4827) or memberservices@guardwellid.com.

 

Photo credit: Photo by Samuel Branch on Unsplash

Websites with Compromised Data on the Dark Web

Websites with Compromised Data on the Dark Web

Our security teams have recently discovered several large sets of compromised data on the Dark Web. The websites listed below have been affected. If you have visited these websites or have engaged in business activity with any of these companies, please call us at 888.966.GUARD (4827) to speak with a fraud resolution specialist. Likewise, if you have questions or concerns feel free to call anytime. We are available for you 24/7/365.

 

– apollo.io

– appen.com (formerly crowdflower.com)

– scentbird.com

– swvl.com

– promo.com (previously slide.ly)

– mathway.com

– truefire.com

– ggumim.co.kr

– dave.com

– chatbooks.com

– hurb.com

– liveauctioneers.com

– kreditplus.com

– execupharm.com

– dunzo.com

– verifications.io

– catho.com.br

– bhinneka.com

– wattpad.com

– gigasize.com

– netsential.com

 

 

The Quick Rise of Phishing Scams – Do Not Click!

The Quick Rise of Phishing Scams – Do Not Click!

Many of us have been experiencing much more free time on our hands, which is great if you enjoy the sport of fishing, have a pile of books to read or Netflix shows to catch up on. Unless you are on the front line, life, as we know it during this pandemic, has forced the majority of us to slow down.

 

Our ‘new normal’ environment is a breeding ground for scammers to take advantage of you and your identity. Last month we wrote several blogs that specifically discussed the various types of coronavirus scams we had been witnessing. Check out Coronavirus Scams Are on the Rise, And More Coronavirus Scams, and Working From Home Cybersecurity Tips if interested in a quick refresher course or two.

 

Over the last two weeks we have seen a 70% increase in email phishing scams during this pandemic, which has undoubtedly touched every facet of our lives. These phishing scams may come across as emails and/or posts promoting coronavirus awareness. These messages will often offer prevention tips on how to stay well, what the symptoms of the virus may include and what to do in case you or a family member feel ill. Some are even creating fake “cases” of COVID-19 in your neighborhood so you feel more inclined to help out. They also may be asking you to donate to victims, offering advice on unproven treatments, or contain malicious email attachments. Don’t fall for any of it … but, in case you do, we suggest that you read our blog from October 2019 Accidentally Clicked on a Phishing Link – Now What?.

 

Today our advice is very simple: If you are not 100% certain of the origin of the email and/or link that you are being asked to click on … DO NOT CLICK. If for some reason you accidentally do click, there are some imperative steps to take to alleviate harm to you and/or the network you may be connected with:

 

– Try not to panic. This happens to everyone. Antivirus and anti-malware will come into play and you will need to have a full system scan. But first …

 

– End the session immediately by turning off Wi-Fi, unplugging from an ethernet cable or completely shutting down all of your devices.

 

– Initiate a back up of your files. Since you won’t be connected to the internet at this point, you won’t be able to accomplish this to the cloud. Having an external drive, DVD or thumb drive are always nice to have on hand during times like these.

 

– Change your login/password to email account(s) and enable two-factor authentication if this hasn’t already occurred.

 

– If you are employed by a company or organization, reference your manual and let your network administrator know of the potential issue.

 

– After all is said and done, check your antivirus/anti-malware software and run a full scan.

 

Being informed of what steps you may need to take before a slip up happens can help ease the potential damage (and your stress level) if it does. Be smart. Be vigilant. Be strong. Please don’t hesitate to reach out if you need help. We are available 24/7/365 for you and your family members at 1.888.966.GUARD (4827) and memberservices@guardwellid.com.

Zoombombing … the New Social Distancing Phenomenon

Zoombombing … the New Social Distancing Phenomenon

Video calls have gone from a novelty to a necessity practically overnight. The term ‘social distancing’ and the app, Zoom, have both become household names as millions of people are being forced to stay home to help stop the spread of COVID-19. The desire to stay connected with our loved ones and friends during this difficult time has sparked creative ways to virtually stay social through video birthday parties, happy hours, trivia nights, yoga sessions, and even weddings. CNBC reported this week that “the [Zoom] app has been the top free app for iPhones in the United States since March 18 … daily users spiked to 200 million in March, up from 10 million in December.”

 

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Zoom, a privately-held company headquartered in San Jose, CA, was used mostly for web conferencing webinars. Now it is being used by 90,000 schools across 20 countries. But, there are online security issues with the app and school districts have started to ban Zoom because of them. Why? Because of ‘Zoombombing,’ a phenomenon where uninvited guests (pranksters) join Zoom calls and broadcast porn or shock videos. How? Due to Zoom’s default settings, which don’t require a password to set a meeting and allow any participant to share their screen. Most Zoom meetings have a public link that, if clicked, allow anyone to join.

 

The Verge just reported that “Zoom adjusted their default settings for education accounts last week in an effort to increase security and privacy for meetings.” They also noted, “For everyone else, you’ll need to tweak your Zoom settings to ensure this never happens.” The process isn’t very simple…

 

If you schedule a meeting from the web interface, you won’t see the option to disable screen sharing. Instead:

 – Click on “Settings” in the left-hand menu

– Scroll down to “Screen Sharing” and under “Who Can Share?” click “Host Only”

– Click on “Save”

 

If you forget to change the setting before you start your meeting, there’s a way to modify your settings after it starts:

 – Once your Zoom meeting is running, click the caret to the right of the green “Share Screen” button in the center of the bottom row of icons

– Click “Advanced Sharing Options”

– A dialog box will pop up allowing you to switch screen sharing availability from all participants to the “Only Host”


Yes, these are very confusing times. Stay strong and please don’t hesitate to reach out if you need help. We are available 24/7/365 for you and your family members at 888.966.GUARD (4827) and memberservices@guardwellid.com.

 

 

 

Working from Home Cybersecurity Tips

Working from Home Cybersecurity Tips

Coronavirus has forced millions of Americans to work remotely from their homes. Although working from home helps with social (physical) distancing by preventing the spread of COVID-19, there are many new challenges that have come with teleworking. For example, many states have closed schools for weeks, and for some, the entire rest of the school year. Parents may be juggling work while their children are learning remotely. You may find yourself becoming an expert with practicing mindfulness along with new software and conferencing programs, such as Zoom and GoToMeetings (or if you aren’t, your children blessedly are).

 

As we are being forced to slow down the pace of everyday life, we recognize that a lot of good can come out of this time. But, on the other side of the coin, there is the growing opportunity for cybercriminals to trick us into forking over passwords during this learning transitional period. Reuters reported last week that “some researchers have found hackers masquerading as the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in a bid to break into emails or swindle users out of bitcoin, while others have spotted hackers using a malicious virus-themed app to hijack Android phones.” Our blogs last week provided some details on these new scams.

 

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has some tips to help protect your devices and personal information while working from home:

Start with cybersecurity basics. Keep your security software up-to-date. Use passwords on all your devices and apps. Make sure the passwords are long, strong and unique. The FTC suggests using at least 12 characters that are a mix of numbers, symbols and capital and lowercase letters.

Secure your home network by starting with your router. Turn on encryption (WPA2 or WPA3), which scrambles information sent over your network so outsiders can’t read it. If no WPA2 or WPA3 options are available with your current router, considering replacing your router altogether.

Keep an eye on your laptop and make sure it is password-protected, locked when you aren’t using it and secure. We suggest that it is never unattended, such as out in plain sight in a vehicle. Even if your doors are locked, windows can easily be broken.

Securely store your physical files. Strong physical security is an important part of cybersecurity. If you don’t have a file cabinet at home that is lockable, consider using a locked room. Read this blog by the FTC to learn more tips about physical security.

Dispose of sensitive data securely. Invest in a shredder if you don’t already have one. Throwing paperwork you no longer need in the garbage or recycling bin can be a treasure for a pirate especially if it includes personal information about customers, vendors or employees.

Follow your employer’s security practices. Since your home is now an extension of your office, make sure that you understand the protocols that your employer has implemented.

 

Be smart. Be vigilant. Be strong. Please don’t hesitate to reach out if you need help. We are available 24/7/365 for you and your family members at 888,966.GUARD (4827) and memberservices@guardwellid.com.

.

And More Coronavirus Scams …

And More Coronavirus Scams …

We are monitoring updates surrounding the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic around the clock. This environment is a breeding ground for scams to take advantage of you and your identity. Rest assured that we are here to help and will communicate with you every step of the way.

 

The following is the latest information that we know of regarding coronavirus scams:

 

– The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) sent warning letters to seven sellers of scam coronavirus treatments. The FTC reported that “So far all of the companies have made big changes to their advertising to remove unsupported claims.” That is good news. But, scammers never take a break.

 

– Anyone can set up an e-commerce site and claim they have in-demand products. Be on the lookout for online ads that tout cleaning, household and health/medical supplies. Just because they have a website and you pay money doesn’t mean that you will receive any goods in return. The FTC suggests that you check out any seller by searching online for the person or company name, phone number and email address along with keywords such as “review,” “complaint” or “scam.”

 

– Anyone can also set up a fake charity to take advantage of a major health crisis. These scammers take advantage of your generosity and have names that are extremely close to the names of real charities. The FTC remarked that “Money lost to bogus charities means less donations to help those in need.” We suggest that you visit http://www.ftc.gov/charity to help you research charities. Also, if/when you do give, pay safely by credit card and never by gift card or wire transfer.

 

– As well, anyone can pretend to be someone you know. “Scammers use fake emails or texts to get you to share valuable personal information – like account numbers, Social Security numbers, or your login IDs and passwords.” If you accidentally click on a link, they can get access to your computer, network and/or install ransomware and other programs on your equipment that can lock you out. Please protect your smart phone and computer by keeping your software up to date and using multi-factor authentication. Backing up your data on a regular basis is also recommended.

 

– Surprisingly robocalls “pitching everything from scam coronavirus treatments to work-at-home schemes” are still in full force. Do not answer unless the call shows up as a contact in your phone. Let voicemail filter your messages. For more information on robocalls, visit https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0259-robocalls.

 

We understand that all of this is indeed nerve-wracking. One of the great things about our business is that we are always working in the moment … situations such as the coronavirus do not rattle our operations and team members. Not only do we have a team at a centralized location, but we have also always worked remotely. We will continue to be available for you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. We hope that this gives you some peace of mind knowing that we are on top of this crisis and will continue to communicate any dangerous scams related to the outbreak as soon as possible.

 

As always, please contact us immediately if you have any concerns at 888.966.GUARD (4827) or memberservices@guardwellid.com.

 

 

Coronavirus Scams are on the Rise

Coronavirus Scams are on the Rise

COVID-19 is a breeding ground for scams. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has alerted consumers that scammers are taking advantage of the panic and fear surrounding the global pandemic. “They’re setting up websites to sell bogus products, and using fake emails, texts, and social media posts as a ruse to take your money and get your personal information,” remarked Colleen Tressler, Consumer Education Specialist, FTC. There are also malicious apps being developed, one of which is an Android tracker app that supposedly allows users to keep an eye on the spread of the virus, but locks victims’ phone and demands money to unlock it.

 

Phishing scams may come across as emails and/or posts promoting coronavirus awareness. These messages will often offer prevention tips on how to stay well, what the symptoms of the virus may include and what to do in case you or a family member feel ill. Some are creating fake “cases” of COVID-19 in your neighborhood so you feel more inclined to help out. “They also may be asking you to donate to victims, offering advice on unproven treatments, or contain malicious email attachments.” Don’t fall for it.

 

Here are some tips to help you keep the scammers at bay:

– Do not click on any links from sources you do not know. Doing so could download a virus on your equipment.

– Be on the lookout for phishing emails that appear to be from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The CDC will not email you. The World Health Organization (WHO) will not email you either.

– Ignore offers for vaccinations. Many ads exist touting prevention, treatment, and cure claims. They are not legitimate.

– Do not donate cash, purchase gift cards, or wire money without investigating the request in full. See the FTC’s article “How to Donate Wisely and Avoid Charity Scams” for more information.

– The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is warning about false “investment opportunities.” Be aware of online promotions, including on social media, claiming that the products or services of publicly-traded companies can prevent, detect, or cure coronavirus and that the stock of these companies will dramatically increase in value as a result.

 

Be smart. Be vigilant. Be strong. Please don’t hesitate to reach out if you need help. We are available 24/7/365 for you and your family members at 1.888.966.GUARD (4827) and memberservices@guardwellid.com.

Cybersecurity Trends in Store for 2020

Cybersecurity Trends in Store for 2020

Did you know that the first documented ransomware attack was more than 30 years ago in 1989? That was around the time when a mobile phone was called a bag phone because it sat in a big black bag in your passenger seat … and that curly cord was wound so tight it hardly let it extend to your ear. If you were lucky, you could store about 30 numbers in it. But back then, that was pretty amazing storage. Then flip phones started to make our lives easier in later years. It was pretty simple but the fact that it could actually fit in your pocket made it truly mobile. There was rarely a thought that anyone was listening in on your conversations or tracking your locations (which they probably were but the average person didn’t think doing so was devious). Boy, have times changed.

 

Attacks involving ransomware, which were originally designed to target individuals, are occurring every 14 seconds now. Shocking isn’t it. After you read this sentence, focus on how long it takes you to breathe … inhale and exhale. Your full circle breathing process is likely anywhere from six to eight seconds, which is how long hackers are trying to increase the speed of ransomware attacks by this time next year.

 

Dave Wallen discussed some of the expected 2020 cybersecurity trends in a blog last week for Security Boulevard so we all can be “better prepared against the ever-evolving nature of cyber threats.” He wrote, “With today’s pervasive use of the internet, a modern surge in cyberattacks and the benefit of hindsight, it’s easy to see how ignoring security decades ago was a massive flaw.” It’s not just the speed of the attacks that is alarming, it is the variety of them that are going to keep things interesting for 2020.

 

So what are some of the trends we will be seeing in 2020?

 

Fear will drive spending. Gartner forecasts that worldwide spending on cybersecurity is going to reach $133.7 billion in 2022. The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) have pushed businesses and government agencies to a more sophisticated cybersecurity infrastructure than ever. Wallen noted that 76% of organizations plan to increase their cybersecurity budgets this year.

 

The cybersecurity labor market will continue to experience labor shortages. There are many reasons for this skills gap. Not only are there more cybercriminals, but there are also more places for scammers to hide with our ever-expanding reliance on technology. Also, there still needs to be a balance of expanding skills in a very specific area with teaching broad skills that can be useful across many sectors. Think of those with titles such as chief information officer (CIO) and chief information security officer (CISO) – they are currently undervalued.

 

Cloud security will require a more pragmatic approach. The assumption that our data is secure on ‘the cloud’ in applications such as Microsoft and Google will be a thing of the past. In 2019, we saw massive attacks against Office 365 and G Suite that can bypass two-factor authentification making shared accounts exceptionally vulnerable.

 

Mobile devices will become even a greater target. As the number of mobile users increases, so will the amount of business data stored in them. Wallen wrote, “It’s a compelling reason why mobiles are seen as the primary cyberattack vector in 2020.”

 

Election security will be off the charts. With over 70 elections globally planned in 2020, there will be an intense focus on the spreading of disinformation.

 

5G, the fifth-generation wireless technology, will cause an increase in loT-based (Internet of Things) attacks. There will need to be a higher level of security which many current vendors are not able to provide yet. Hackers will take advantage of this gap to “sneak in malware and steal large volumes of your SaaS data at breakneck speed.”

 

AI (Artificial Intelligence) will become even more two-faced. While the benefits of AI are countless and help to protect our security, defakes (fake videos) that can spread misinformation will become more prominent and new types of cyberattacks will result because of them.

 

Organizations will continue to see their biggest asset, their employees, become their biggest threat. As reported in Governing.com, “The problem is that now our most important information, whether it’s sales prospects or customer lists or source code … is spread across the organization and is highly portable on a thumb drive or e-mail … information is less ‘siloed.'” Their study shows that “63 percent of people admit that they took data from their last job and brought it to their current job.”

 

We will also continue to see more fake apps and shopping cart viruses, new account fraud, apps that share our data along with phishing scams (and whaling scams if you’re a high-ranking executive or banker). Identity theft will also be rampant through social media. Lastly, child identity theft will continue to rise. It is suggested that every child have a credit freeze on their file. If you would like more information about how to do so, please reach out to our Member Services team at memberservices@guardwellid.com or call 1.888.966.4827. We are here to help 24/7/365.

Founder and CEO on iHeartRadio 700WLW Podcast

Founder and CEO on iHeartRadio 700WLW Podcast

On December 5, 2019, Guard Well Identity Theft Solutions Founder and CEO, E. Allan Hilsinger, was interviewed by Rocky and Rachel on Cincinnati’s News Radio 700WLW. Topics discussed during the ten-minute segment (51:50 to 60:52) include the risk of living in a technologically advanced society, what a digital footprint is and how to reduce the risk of your data being collected and sold online.

 

Hilsinger remarked, “We all have a social security number. We are all at risk. If you haven’t already been victimized by identity theft or identity fraud, it’s going to happen. It’s a sad reality…” He stated that there are 3.5 million Google searches every minute and 4.3 billion Facebook posts every day “…all of that information is being collected and sold.”

 

What can be done to help reduce this risk? Hilsinger suggested the following in the podcast:

– Be careful about what information you put on social media. For example, remove your birthdate from your Facebook account.

– When you search online, do it privately. Don’t allow cookies if possible when looking at websites.

– Try not to share your location with Google Maps.

– Inactivate and delete any old email accounts.

– Search for your own name on Google and see what pops up. If your name is listed on People Search or People Finder, you can submit a request for them to pull your information down.

 

Hilsinger also discussed a service site called DeleteMe.Com that will facilitate users in deleting their presence on other sites and will provide information on privacy laws in multiple countries to better educate the users on their rights in relation to data privacy.

 

To listen to the full podcast, visit https://www.iheart.com/podcast/eddie-rocky-20799661/episode/rocky-and-rachel-12519-53509284/?fbclid=IwAR2zfrqzsSc8c08pB3-YOiBR6WH3k3jszEVWPJytlzSlnyvJ3qVihPD7j6c

Founder and CEO Featured as Identity Theft Expert on WLWT5

Founder and CEO Featured as Identity Theft Expert on WLWT5

On November 15, 2019, Cincinnati’s WLWT5 Investigates featured our Founder and CEO, E. Allan Hilsinger. Dan Griffin, Investigative Reporter, reached out to Hilsinger to be the identity theft industry expert in his segment “How Do You Control Your Digital Footprint.”

 

Transcript:

In today’s world, our personal information is easier than ever for anyone to access. Where you live, where you work, your phone number, and even information about your relatives is available for free.

 

So how do you control your digital footprint? WLWT talked with an identity theft expert to figure out ways to lessen your exposure. One of the most surprising things we learned is that you don’t need to use the internet for your data to live online. Just like footprints in the snow, your digital footprint can lead anyone right to your front door. With a simple click, a crook could cause devastating damage.

 

“There are 3.5 million searches on Google every minute. There are 4.3 billion posts on Facebook every day. All of that information is being stored and sold,” Allan Hilsinger said. Hilsinger is the founder and CEO of Cincinnati-based Guardwell Identity Theft Solutions. He said that that is one way your data can be exposed. Hilsinger also said massive data breaches put your information in a digital wild west.

 

“The 80-year-old lady that never gets online, that shreds all of her documents, that has never given her Social Security number to anybody, she doesn’t have a social media account,” he said. “She doesn’t post pictures. She’s virtually as unavailable online as anybody, anywhere. She still may have shopped at Target. She still could have a credit file with Equifax. She still could have gone to Home Depot during their breach.”

 

Your digital footprint lives online and it builds a picture of who you are, with your name, addresses, phone numbers, email addresses, social media presence and more.

 

Websites we found like FamilyTreeNow.com and TruePeopleSearch.com reveal that kind of information to anyone free of charge. Hilsinger said that makes it easy for someone to steal your identity.

 

“They might buy a house. They might get a job. They might buy a cellphone. They might have a medical procedure,” he said.

 

Hilsinger said that while you likely can never scrub your data from the digital world, you can remove it from some websites by looking for the “Frequently Asked Questions” or “Help” sections.

 

“And we get toward the bottom and we’re going to stop here. ‘How do I remove myself from this site?’ In the paragraph, there is a ‘click here’ button. Once I click on here, I am navigated to a page that gives me the exact instructions on how to remove my information from this website. So I don’t have to worry about this website being an issue for me any further,” he said.

 

He also said people should use their web browsers in private mode, should stop sharing their location on their devices and should disable cookies.

 

If you do think your identity may have been compromised, experts like Hilsinger and his employees can help you navigate what could be damaging situations.

 

“We all, every one of us, have a digital footprint. We have to have an understanding that the more digital that we want to be and we become, the more risk of exposure and identity fraud and identity theft that we have,” he said.

 

Hilsinger’s company provides protection for families, including children, which is why he said getting protection before problems happen is important. He said that children are just as vulnerable to their data being exposed, and even identity theft, because they also have digital lives.

 

Watch the complete segment at https://www.wlwt.com/article/wlwt-investigates-how-do-you-control-your-digital-footprint/29802124?fbclid=IwAR3r3d_nBjCTNQPlF-uuHLHZVDLsu21ryTPfPLYTuPH2nuDQHLEKxzmCSz8#