SIM Swap Attack – the New Hijack

SIM Swap Attack – the New Hijack

Imagine no texting, no service, and no data for a minute. Yikes! Halloween or not, the lack of being able to connect is a very scary thought and it can happen to any of us due to a tiny piece of plastic called a SIM card. There is a SIM (subscriber identity module) in every mobile device and it is what connects the user to a cellular network. Unfortunately, there is a wide-spread SIM swap hack that allows a thief to hijack your cell number.

 

Also known as a port out scam, simjacking, swim swapping, and SIM splitting … this latest scam can wreak havoc in all of your accounts associated with your mobile phone number. Everyone with a cell phone is at risk of this type of takeover. The PEW Research Center, a nonpartisan organization based in Washington D.C., reported this year that 96% of Americans have a cellular device and 92% of them go online daily. Considering that there are approximately 330 million Americans, that’s a pretty large target market from a hacking standpoint. No one is immune. A number of high profile attacks have occurred via Instagram and Twitter. The website wired.com reported that Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey’s own twitter account was hacked via this method this year.

 

What is a SIM Swap?

This type of scam is an account takeover fraud. It targets a weakness in two-factor authentication and two-step verification in which the second factor (step) is either a text message or a call placed to a mobile telephone. This is achieved by the fraudster impersonating the victim using personal details to appear authentic and claiming that they have lost their phone. The victim’s phone will then lose connection to the network and the fraudster will receive all the SMS and voice calls intended for the victim. This allows them to intercept any one-time passwords sent via text or telephone calls sent to the victim, and thus to circumvent any security features of accounts (such as bank accounts, social media accounts, etc.) that rely on text messages or telephone calls.

 

Damage from a SIM swap can have a snowball effect. Since the scammer would be armed with your login credentials, not only can they steal your money, take over your email and social media accounts, but they can lock you out of them all and open up a new cellular account in your name … or buy that new phone you’ve been eyeing for months but won’t have the joy of using yourself.

 

Is a SIM swap preventable?

No. It’s impossible to completely prevent someone from gaining access to your phone number through a SIM swap due to the fact that the scam requires no misstep on your part (such as clicking on a bogus link). All the scammer needs to do is convince your carrier that they are you and to transfer your phone number to their SIM. As described by Michael Grothaus with Fast Company, “There’s nothing inherently shady with doing a SIM card swap. If you lose your phone or your SIM card is damaged, for instance, you might go to a mobile carrier store or even call up customer service to have your number transferred to a new SIM.”

 

Even though you can’t prevent a swap from happening to you, there are ways to make it more difficult for a scammer. Grothaus suggests to use an authenticator app such as Authenticator by Google, Microsoft AuthenticatorLastPass Authenticator, and 1Password. A single authenticator app can handle all your authentication codes no matter how many different accounts you use.

 

Other courses of action you can do to help prevent a swap include:

– Limit the personal information you share online. Identity thieves will find information to answer the security questions you may have set up to verify your identity. For example, if one of your security questions is, “What is my high school mascot?” and you list your high school name on your Facebook account and that information is not on a private setting, it’s not difficult for a good sleuth to figure out your mascot’s name.

– Set up a PIN for your cellular account and do not share it with anyone.

– Do not reply to calls, emails and SMS messages that could be a phishing attempt to request your personal data. Make sure to read our blog “Accidentally Clicked on a Phishing Link – Now What” to get up-to-speed on phishing scams.

 

The Federal Trade Commission offers a few tips on what to do if you suspect that you’ve been swapped:

– First, contact your cellular service provider immediately to take control of your phone number. After you re-gain access to your phone number, change your account passwords.

– Check your banking, credit card and insurance statements for unauthorized charges or changes to your profile.

– Call your identity theft resolution provider. A Guard Well Member Services team professional is always on hand for you 24 hours a day, seven days a week and every day of the year … yes, even Halloween. There are enough tricks flying around. Here’s to receiving a treat this year!

 

 

Accidentally Clicked on a Phishing Link – Now What

Accidentally Clicked on a Phishing Link – Now What

You know that searing flush-faced feeling when you pretty much know you made a mistake with a slip of the finger? Sometimes it’s sending a text too soon or responding to an email without editing your response. Other times it’s when you click on something you likely shouldn’t have … and then the “uh oh” escapes … and then the big sigh.

 

When we multitask, whether it is at work or at home, we do tend to slip up at times and open something that we shouldn’t. Then enters adware, malware, ransonmare, spyware, and whatever-else-is-next-ware into our lives.

 

Oops! Now what?

 

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. As always, if you need help or have any concerns, we are available 24/7/365 for you.

Do You Know What Alexa, Google and Siri Are Up To?

Do You Know What Alexa, Google and Siri Are Up To?

Not everyone has a smart speaker in their home or office, but most of us do have a smart phone. When setting up your device, you were likely asked whether or not you wanted to activate your assistant. Doing so doesn’t take very long … you say a few phrases when prompted so it can get to know your voice and that’s pretty much it … you officially have a virtual assistant. Have you ever wondered how your assistant actually works?

 

Virtual assistants, such as Amazon’s Alexa, Apple’s Siri and Google’s Assistant, use artificial intelligence (AI) to parse what is said or typed and then provide useful information back. Want to know something quickly without lifting a finger? Simply say a wakeword phrase such as, “Hey Siri,” or whatever your smart application is called, and ask away. You could say, “Who wrote Gone with the Wind?” or “What is 23.5 times 6?” or “Play I Can’t Get No Satisfaction.” When you talk to a smart phone or speaker, you know that your voice is being recorded and that there will be a result – sometimes it’s an answer, other times the correct action is taken or occasionally there may be an inquiry back to clarify the request. But, just as false starts happen in races, false positive recordings can be triggered by something as simple as someone zipping up their jeans because it sounds to Siri like the person’s muffled voice. If you have ever experienced Siri being accidentally activated during a time when not requested, you know that it can be a bit embarrassing … and a little unnerving.

 

If privacy is a big concern of yours, you might want to throw your smart speaker or device out the window. These instruments are indeed paying attention to us, but does this mean that they can listen and record all of the time? Amazon hopes so. A newly revealed patent application filed by the company is raising privacy concerns over an envisaged upgrade to the company’s smart speaker systems. This change would mean that, by default, the devices end up listening to and recording everything you say in their presence. The idea is similar to Apple’s live photos, where video is recorded before and after a user takes a picture. Since the application is being asked to do something for us, then we are basically acknowledging that our privacy isn’t desired at that point in time.

 

Amazon.com, Inc. employs thousands globally to help improve the Alexa digital assistant through its line of Echo speakers. Rene Ritchie explained in his latest blog (July 28, 2019) titled Why People Are Freaking Out Over Siri Privacy Right Now, that “the team listens to voice recordings captured in homes and offices. The recordings are transcribed, annotated and then fed back into the software as part of an effort to eliminate gaps in Alexa’s understanding of human speech and help it better respond to commands.” Ritchie remarked, “If Amazon does decide to use the tech in its products, it’s unclear whether customers would be able to opt out of the ‘always on’ recording.”

 

Ritchie continued on with detail about Amazon’s patent application. “While the patent application explains devices would record audio in 10 to 30 second increments and automatically delete unneeded clips, privacy experts say it is cause for concern because it demonstrates tech companies’ growing ability to surveil customers at all times and potentially misuse collected information.”

 

Let’s take a glance at another tech giant, Apple, who recently told The Guardian: “A small portion of Siri requests are analyzed to improve Siri and dictation. User requests are not associated with the user’s Apple ID. Siri responses are analyzed in secure facilities and all reviewers are under the obligation to adhere to Apple’s strict confidentiality requirements.” The company added that a very small random subset, less than 1% of daily Siri activations, are used for grading, like whether the request was intentional or a false positive that accidentally triggered Siri, or if the response was helpful. They added that those snippets used for grading are typically only a few seconds long.  But, what if those few seconds just happen to be you discussing a very private medical issue with your doctor or a very sensitive issue with a family member? How can you prevent being part of a company’s grading process? Currently, the only way to have peace of mind that a random stranger won’t listen in on your Apple device is to stop using Siri entirely.

 

Heidi Messer for The New York Times wrote that “consumers should not be so paranoid about privacy. “The right to absolute privacy no longer exists and excessive regulation of tech companies will only stifle innovation and prevent job creation.” Privacy in the digital age may not be completely deceased but it is hanging on by its fingernails. Just remember, when you agree to use these products, you’re often giving up much more than you think.

 

 

 

 

Flying This Summer? How to Prevent Juice Jacking

Flying This Summer? How to Prevent Juice Jacking

Vacations are indeed wonderful. Traveling to a new destination or to a familiar favorite locale is a treasured experience with memories that can last a lifetime. On the other hand, traveling on business might not be as fun, but it is a must for many. Going from point A to point B can be stressful at times. Weather, flight delays, overbooked flights, long layovers or not having enough time between flights causing you to miss your next connection … you name it, it can happen. Next thing you know, your device battery is getting low. So, what do you do? Is it safe to recharge at a public charging station? Not always.

 

Juice jacking is a type of cyber attack and typically involves public USBs. Public charging stations, such as those found in airports, train stations, hotel lobbies, and even your rental car, can make your personal data very vulnerable and open your device up to malware.

 

As reported in Forbes, a growing number of nation-state hackers have been training their sights on travelers. New research from IBM, in the 2019 IBM X-Force Threat Intelligence Index, reveals that the transportation industry has become a priority target for cybercriminals as the second-most attacked industry — up from tenth in 2017. Since January 2018, 566 million records from the travel and transportation industry have been leaked or compromised in publicly reported breaches.”

 

What steps can you take to prevent juice jacking from happening to you?

– Don’t leave home without a fully charged battery.

– Carry a charging cord with you so you can use a wall socket instead of a public USB.

– Purchase an external battery pack.

– Turn off your phone to save your battery when feasible.

– Learn how to optimize your device’s battery settings.

 

 

 

Sextortion: How to Protect Our Youth

Sextortion: How to Protect Our Youth

Unfortunately, our children are at risk from online predators in many different ways. Sextortion is a criminal act and horrible nightmare to victims and their families.  Learning what sextortion is and understanding how it could happen are the first steps in prevention.

 

What is sextortion? The Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) explains that sextortion occurs when an adult, through threat or manipulation, coerces a minor into producing a sexually explicit image and send it over the Internet.

 

How would this happen? The perpetrators utilize social media, games, chat and dating apps to capture their victims. The criminals will tell children that they will make them famous or pay them an exorbitant amount of game credits, crypto-currency, cash, or gift cards if they will participate.

 

Why would my child engage in this act? Sextortion is happening when minors feel most comfortable … when they are on their device, using an app, or playing an online game that is part of their daily routine. The adults that do this crime know that your children might not yet be mature enough to consider the consequences of an action and make decisions like an adult would. Any child with Internet access is at risk. The FBI has interviewed victims as young as 8 and reports that the crime affects all children regardless of gender, ethnicity, and socioeconomic groups. The victims have been honor-roll students, children of teachers, and student athletes. The only common trait is that they are all online.

 

Why don’t victims ask for help? Once the criminal has your child’s single photo or video, they will threaten them with exposure; essentially, coercing your son or daughter to provide them with additional photos or videos and in even more compromising, explicit situations. The criminal knows that fear drives action. … fear of being in trouble by their guardians, of having their device taken away, of being persecuted for pornography, and of feeling massive embarrassment and shame.

 

What can we do to prevent sextortion? Discuss this topic openly with your children. Let them know that they can tell you anything and you are always there to help them. Communicate that you do not want them to chat with anyone they don’t already know online. Educate them that any photo or video they may take is already public information and not just on their device. Limit their device use. Make sure their social media accounts are kept private. Make them aware that some profiles are not real and that there are adults purposely pretending to be someone else to get them to chat and hurt them. Most importantly, trust your instincts. If something feels not quite right, it probably isn’t.

 

For more information, visit https://fbi.gov.