Accepting Identity Theft

I can recall a time when I wasn’t concerned about data theft. Eventually, buzz words such as “breach” and “identity theft” became a regular part of my vocabulary.  I began to wonder if I would ever be affected by a data breach. In 2003, I received a letter in the mail informing me that my personal data had been stolen. I remember asking myself, “when will this happen next?” In 2004, I once again became a victim of a data breach. Despite my young age at the time, I had already started to think of identity theft in the cynical terms of “not if but when”. It then became apparent to me that I could no longer think in terms of “if” or “when” but I should focus on “how often”.

I find it helpful to compare identity theft to personal health care. Eating the right foods, taking all the trendy vitamins and getting the recommended amount of exercise isn’t enough to guarantee perfect health. You are still susceptible to diseases that you can’t detect on your own. This is why you typically see a doctor for checkups on a regular basis. You should use the same thought process when considering the possibility of identity theft. Regardless of how much effort you put into securing your identity, your personal data will be stolen. This is why I feel strongly that we should focus on monitoring and preparing for identity theft with the same time and energy that we devote to trying to prevent it.

Just like your health care, it’s also worthwhile to take a proactive approach to handling identity theft. It’s important to have multiple methods of discovering if you are a victim of fraud. This can be as simple as checking your debit/credit card statements and using an automated solution (such as LifeLock) to monitor for irregularities in your credit report. Don’t just wait to receive a notice in the mail or find out about the latest hack on the news. It can take the companies that handle your personal data and process your credit cards months before they realize that they have been hacked. This gives the attackers ample time to take advantage of your stolen data.

It’s also worthwhile to prepare yourself for how to handle an incident when it occurs. This can be as simple as keeping a list of the contact information for all of your financial institutions so that you can notify them as soon as you detect suspicious activity. Also, a majority of the aforementioned credit monitoring solutions include assistance services in the event that a criminal begins using your identity. Be sure to take advantage of these resources as these organizations have the necessary institutional knowledge to help assist you.

In short, continue doing what you can to prevent your identity from being stolen. Simple things like setting complex passwords and avoiding the reuse of your passwords between different services can go a long way to prevent you from becoming a victim of identity theft. However, the next time you’re configuring a lengthy password, be sure to ask yourself “Am I prepared for identity theft?”

This article courtesy of Adam Luck – @adamjluck.

What To Do When Your Identity Gets Stolen

OK, so it happens. A lot. Companies and people don’t always do the right things and sometimes, criminals win. They steal identity data and get the chance to commit massive fraud. We all know about it. We hear the stories and we hear people talking, but we don’t think it will happen to us, until it does.

What now? What should you do when such an event occurs in your life? Well, this great article from our friends over at Help Net Security summarizes best practices for identify theft victims and their support systems as described by the Consumer Federation of America (CFA). I thought the article was not only good content, but an excellent point of reference for folks who might be impacted by identity theft. You should check it out here. Here are some more tips:

  1. You should also be well aware of your legal rights and responsibilities and not be afraid to engage with your state Attorney General’s office if you suspect vendors are not playing by the rules. You can find a list of state Attorney General contacts here:
  2. Legal representation may also be of assistance if the fraud you face is large enough to warrant the cost of representation. Don’t be afraid to engage with an attorney if the fraud costs are large or the legal complexity you face is astounding. Contact your state bar association for information on finding reputable consumer law attorneys in your area.
  3. If you are considering something like one of these consumer data/life “locking” services or the like, please check out a DIY approach here.

We hope you never have to use this information, but if you do, these are a few quick tidbits to get you started while avoiding further scams, fraud and abuse. As always, thanks for reading and stay safe out there!

Bad News in Trends of 2007

The infosec community got some bad news today in the first release of trends for 2007. Overall, things are not going as well as we would like. Attacks continue to rise and successful compromises that end in data compromise are up.

Attackers seems to have fully embraced client-side attacks and bot-nets for performing illicit activity and laptop theft is also seen as rising. As expected, identity theft is rapidly becoming a huge criminal enterprise with an entire underground economy emerging to support it.

Reports came out today that showed that malware attacks have doubled in 2007 and that data theft rates have TRIPLED!

From our standpoint, this validates that existing traditional security controls based around the perimeter simply are NOT WORKING. We must establish defense in depth. We must embrace enclaving, encryption of sensitive data and portable systems and establish proactive security mechanisms that can raise the bar of compromise out of the reach of the common attacker. Until we begin to think differently about security, data protection and privacy – these trends remain likely to increase even further.