It seems like every week we hear about another major data breach in the news. Over and over we hear of a hacker that has broken into a company’s network and grabbed a database of our personal information. Then they sell the information on the black market, which then creates a high risk of fraud and identity theft for you and I.
Money Magazine/CNN reported in November 2014 that almost half of Americans were hacked in 2013.The information stolen is enough for someone to open a bank account or credit card accounts in your name and ruin your credit.
In late 2014, the restaurant chain P.F. Chang’s had a batch of customer debit and credit card data taken. Hackers used malware to infect their payment terminals the same way as they did at Target, Michael Stores and Neiman Marcus.It has never been so easy to steal so much sensitive, useful information. Unfortunately, there is not a whole lot you and I can do about it. There are some basic reasons these giant hacks will keep happening.
We all enjoy and use the Internet and we have moved our lives online. Almost everything we do relies on being hooked up to the Internet. When we interact with companies, government services,etc. the person on the other line is logging our details into their computer servers. Retail stores use Internet-connected networks to process transactions and fulfill orders and check on customer service concerns, pay for gas or parking as a few examples.
Recently a Cyper-Security report by HP noted how we’re now more exposed than ever to breaches because we are tethered to our mobile phones and tablets and we use weak web software, including Flash and Java. We use more tools everyday to get online and in turn create more entrance areas for the bad guys to plant seeds to get breached.
The amount of possibilities to be attacked is expanding.Retailers, hospitals, and restaurants – everyone is utilizing our personal information and storing it many times without our knowledge. Target and Home Depot stores their users email addresses, etc. because that information has value. There is an ever-growing market for our personal details. Advertisers want to target commercials specifically to users likes and interests. Banks want to avoid bad lending. Data brokers and analytics firms supply them with data based on the information we supply or that have been collected from our histories and data inputs. We are giving our information intentionally but we are unaware how it is being used or sold. This same information is also aprize for hackers to go after and utilize the way they want. Therefore hacking into a company’s database is a gold mine.
Hackers are getting more tactical in their hacking. These bad guys are not people who live in their parent’s basement sitting in a dark room in front of a computer. Today, hacking operations are carried out by tech professionals gone rogue, oftentimes working in teams for criminal organizations.
Hackers are doing their homework and have become patient. They sneak into networks and place a very quiet malware and software into a network and then wait and watch sometimes over a year. Using time to collect intelligence, hackers create tailor-made malware specifically to attack a company’s computer the learning the network, the way files are named and how a company protects their network. The sophistication of the hackers doing the damage have become better and better every year. Many of these hackers create and sell very powerful Trojan software on the black market, inexpensively, for individuals to purchase and use to breach so they can obtain private information from those they attack. So now even the less experienced hacker can use the best tools available to do damage.
Even if lesser knowledgeable hackers are not skilled to get social security numbers or credit card accounts, they are still dangerous. Data we think that is useless like your name, birthday or email address are very useful as the same black market that is selling our stolen credit card numbers are also selling your name and birthday. Armed with just a name and birthday, criminals can more easily open accounts in your name.
Overall the hackers are not slowing down and neither are breaches to the products and services we use, regardless if we are online or physically walk into a brick and mortar store. The best way to protect yourself is to look at your bank and credit card accounts regularly and review for mistakes and charges or withdrawals you do not recognize and contact the bank directly.