The Equifax breach just got worse for consumers. Yes, worse if that’s even possible. When it first announced the breach, Equifax said that the hacker or hackers had gotten “only” (Equifax’s word, not mine) gotten consumers’ names, SSN, birth dates, addresses and the numbers of driver’s licenses and credit cards for some, but not all, of the consumers.

So what’s gotten worse? First, rather than alert the public, the new details about the broader scope of the breach was contained in a document Equifax gave to the Senate Banking Committee. In that document, Equifax revealed that its forensic investigation uncovered the hackers got even more information — including consumers’ tax identification numbers, email addresses, phone numbers, credit card expiration dates and the States that issued the driver’s licenses.

While claiming they didn’t mislead consumers, the reality is that Equifax did just that. And that’s just added to their cavalier handling of the magnitude of consumers’ most sensitive information.

Peter Holley has an important article in the January 16th Washington Post. He’s written about the clauses in many car lease agreements and/or service agreements that authorize the car maker to collect customer data from the car itself (peter.holley@washpost.com; “Cars collect reams of information on owners”; Page A1).

As Mr. Holley highlights, customers may be unaware of the magnitude of personal information that can be collected by agreeing to this “tracking provision”.  It’s information not just about the way in which the customer uses her car (e.g., the speed at which the car’s driven) but even more detailed information about such personal preferences as where the customer shops, what the customer likes to eat and even down to such details about where the customer parks her car.

It’s hard to read the lengthy service and/or lease agreements but customers should make the effort to do so when buying a new car. While the car manufacturers might claim they only collect customer information with their explicit permission, they can assume such permission when a customer doesn’t read and object to this kind of “tracking” provision that’s buried in small print in a multi-page document.

Geoffrey Fowler reviews tech issues for The Washington Post (geoffrey.fowler@washpost.com). I regularly read his columns because he provides insightful expertise. He’s written a column about the Amazon Key that I urge everyone to read (“Amazon wants a key to your house. I did it. I regretted it”; Sunday, December 10; page 1, Business).

Mr. Fowler’s first-hand  assessment is very objective notwithstanding that Jeff Bezos owns The Washington Post and is also Amazon’s Chief Executive.

His cautionary tale is important for anyone considering buying the $250.00 Amazon Key that allows Amazon delivery personnel access, via an Internet-connected lock, to Amazon Key users. Sounds like a good anti-theft device, right? As Mr. Fowler writes, that initial appeal pales in comparison to the reality that using the Amazon Key means giving Amazon  the ability to become the operating system for the user’s entire house.

Mr. Fowler provides details about using the Amazon Key, his reactions and those of his family and — ultimately — their decision to stop using Amazon Key.

Uber not only sustained a breach of 57 million accounts but it hid that information for over a year — outrageous!! The accounts hacked included payment information, names and other personal and financial information. The hacked data comes from accounts of Uber customers and drivers.

In announcing this massive breach, Uber said — as if this would be great news — that no Social Security Numbers were included in the data that was stolen.

Seriously, that’s cold comfort to the millions of people whose accounts were breached.

Uber customers and drivers must pay especially close attention to your financial accounts to see if your data’s being used by the hackers. That is particularly important with all the holidays during which so much spending with credit and debit cards happens.

Over the last week or so, there have been articles (i.e., New York Times) about disturbing and inappropriate YouTube videos aimed at young children. Sarah Buhr has published a very informative article summarizing the situation in TechCrunch (“YouTube implements new policy to flag inappropriate videos targeted at children”; techcrunch.com; November 10).

As Ms. Buhr writes, YouTube is now implementing a new process that will — hopefully — stop young children from being able to access in the main YouTube app these types of videos. The videos have ranged from just being odd or strange to truly disturbing. As she writes, the videos have been targeted at young children using key words as well as children’s characters that are popular with them.

Parents with young children will need to double-check any YouTube videos being accessed by their children to make sure the new policy/process is in place — and more importantly, that’s it’s working.

As I’ve written in prior blogs, the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is going to impose significant privacy and security requirements on U.S. companies that might fall within its reach. I was recently interviewed by Allison Proffitt, an editor and reporter for several health related publications.

One of the significant implications that I raised with her is the GDPR’s impact on U.S. based clinical trials. She quoted me at length in her recent article about this very issue. Her October 24th article is titled “What Europe’s New Privacy Regulations Mean for US Trials” and can be found at clinicalinformaticnews.com.

This will come as no surprise given the way Yahoo has handled the 2013 data breach.

Yahoo announced yesterday (October 3rd) that all –yes ALL — 3 billion of its 2013 user accounts were breached. Originally, Yahoo had announced that it was only (!!) 1 billion user accounts that had been hacked.

Yahoo keeps saying that no credit card information or unencrypted passwords for these hacked accounts “appear” to have been stolen by the hackers. Okay, so let’s hope the next Yahoo announcement isn’t one that changes their hedging their liability language of “appear to have been stolen” to “uh, sorry folks but this information was stolen.”

As much as I dislike raising the specter of worse potential news to come, Yahoo’s assertions about this breach doesn’t engender much trust.

The Better Business Bureau (BBB) is warning consumers to be aware of scammers trying to make things even worse for victims of the Equifax data breach (www.bbb.org; “Scam Alert: Con Artists Bank on Equifax Breach”).

How does the scam work? BBB warns consumers that scammers are sending out robo calls with a message that the call’s from Equifax which needs to verify the consumer’s account information. Asked to stay on the line, the call’s then connected to a “representative” who will try to get the consumer to reveal her personal financial information.

Don’t do it! Hang up the call ASAP! Yes, consumers getting these scam calls could be among the 143 million people whose information was hacked. But, per BBB, Equifax won’t (we hope) be calling consumers to confirm account information.

In addition to hanging up, BBB alerts consumers not to trust “caller ID”. Scammers know how to “spoof” phone numbers so their calls appear to be from a legitimate company or government organization.

Be alert for these phishing phone calls. Unfortunately, more scams are likely to keep emerging as scammers create more ways to use the massive Equifax breach for their criminal ends.

 

 

 

 

 

Equifax announced yesterday a breach of historic proportions — up to 143 million consumers whose most sensitive data has been breached. This includes SSNs, dates of birth, addresses and whatever other data Equifax — a credit reporting agency — has on millions and millions of individuals.

Everyone needs to go ASAP to the website they’ve created to see if they are among the millions whose information has been hacked. That website is: http://www.equifaxsecurity2017.com. The first step on that site is the “Check Potential Impact” tab where you enter your last name and the last 6 digits of your SSN. Doing so brings up a message of either “no impact” or “thanks” with a date on which to enroll in TrustedIDPremier — meaning that you’re among the millions whose information has been hacked.

The public will likely never know how this happened. Consumers have to be pro-active — go to the Equifax site; go to the Federal Trade Commission website (www.FTC.gov/idtheft) to learn about additional protective steps to take; and of course, keep a very close eye on credit card statements and bank accounts.

 

Phishing scams continue to proliferate. As Graham Cluley wrote in a recent article, one of the main reasons for this ongoing problem is that users keep clicking on links and/or attachments in emails and other documents. But Mr. Cluley also noted in that same blog that Google is taking a pro-active step to help Gmail users avoid links and attachments meant to capture and/or infect the users’ iPhones and other devices (grahamcluley.com; “Gmail now warns iOS users about suspicious links in fight against phishing threats”; August 14).

As Mr. Cluley wrote, Google just announced this new anti-phishing security check for Gmail. Now when a Gmail user clicks on a link that’s been detected to be suspicious on an iPhone or iPad, an alert reading “Suspicious link” will pop up on the screen. The user will be advised to confirm whether the link or attachment is valid. The very useful steps Gmail users should take when seeing such an alert are outlined in both Mr Cluley’s blog and the Google announcement (gsuiteupdates.googleblog.com).

Gmail users should read Mr. Cluley’s blog and the Google announcement to familiarize themselves with these steps ahead of time. That way, they’ll be ready in case they ever see the “Suspicious link” alert.