By Bruce Watson
Can consumers protect themselves from the NSA's domestic spying operations?
As more information emerges, the answer seems to be an emphatic "no." On Monday, whistleblower Edward Snowden explained that the NSA routinely engages in "incidental" collection of e-mails and the storing of millions of private messages indefinitely. He alleged that analysts regularly view this information, even if they do not have warrants to do so.
Snowden's claims seem to jibe with federal law as it is currently written. Because of 2008 amendments to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, the NSA can quite possibly justify listening into almost any domestic conversation or gaining access to almost any domestic e-mail. As Salon's Roxanne Palmer explained on Tuesday, the actual mechanisms for recording data are remarkably simple and commonplace. Even easier if, as the NSA document obtained by The Washington Post claimed, PRISM entails "collection directly from the servers" of major internet companies. The nine named companies -- including Yahoo, Google, Facebook, YouTube and AOL (the parent company of DailyFinance) -- have denied the claim, but such data collection is also covered by the FISA Amendments Act, which legally requires companies to grant the government access to their servers.
With more than 900 million users, Mark Zuckerberg's expanding social media empire has become a seemingly irreplaceable part of the online experience. Unfortunately, a byproduct of its success is that millions of Americans are far more at risk of falling victim to a number of cyber crimes.
To be sure, cyber crime is nothing new, but the social media revolution has made such crimes much easier to commit. People have "friends" they've never met; they make personal information widely available. And Facebook's hundreds of millions of users are a rich pool of targets.
According to an infographic published earlier this year by ZoneAlarm, a leading Internet security software provider, "roughly 4 million Facebook users experience spam on a daily basis, 20% of Facebook users have been exposed to malware," and Facebook receives 600,000 reports of hijacked log-ins every day.
Malware represents another growing threat for Facebook users, Dr. Kent Seamons, assistant professor in the computer science department at Brigham Young University said. "Hackers get malware on your machine and get tens if not hundreds of thousands of these machines under their control and then they rent them out to spammers and others," Seamons explains.
These rented accounts can then be used to advertise products illicitly or to request money from unsuspecting friends.
Ultimately, all social media sites make it easier for criminals to deceive their victims. According to a study published in Communications of ACM, a journal for computing professionals, the percentage of students that responded to a phishing email increased from 16% to 72% when the email included relevant social information about the target. Quite simple, scams that make it appear that a message comes from a friend make it more likely that the target will respond.These are nine of the ways criminals use Facebook:
After the third time this happened, she called up the credit union and asked them to knock it off.
"I finally told them if my card is stolen in Detroit, I'd call them, but they should stop blocking my card every time I paid for something in a new part of the city," she says.
Credit card banks are understandably reluctant to disclose the precise criteria they use to detect fraud, but we were able to find out what sorts of purchases tend to set off your bank's alarm bells. Here are a few of the warning signs they look for.
Filed under: Identity Theft
By Matt Brownell
No one is safe from identity theft -- not even John Roberts, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.
On the morning that the Supreme Court was scheduled to hear arguments about gay marriage, Roberts was overheard telling a barista at his local Starbucks that he would have to pay cash for his coffee, as his credit card information had been stolen. The Associated Press spoke to a Supreme Court spokesperson, who confirmed that someone got hold of one of the Chief Justice's credit card account numbers. Apparently that meant that Roberts had to use cash while he waited for a new card from the bank.
Supreme Court Justices: They're just like us!
Filed under: Identity Theft
By Michele Lerner
As if parents didn't have enough on their minds, now they have to worry about making sure their offspring aren't in the crosshairs of financial scammers. According to AllClear ID, an identity-theft protection company, children are 35 times more likely than adults to be identity theft victims.
It's hard to nail down exactly how pervasive the crime really is.
Erik Larson, president and founder of NextAdvisor.com, a company that analyzes identity-theft protection products, says between 2.5 percent and 10 percent of Americans under age 18 have had their identity stolen.
And according to a recent report by AllClear based on a survey of 27,000 financial records between September 2010 and December 2011, nearly 11 percent of kids had their personal information stolen. "The reason the data on this is incomplete is that people often don't know an identity theft has taken place," says Larson. "They don't realize it for years sometimes."
The way most young people find out they have been victimized is that they turn 18 and apply for their first job, first credit card, or a student loan and discover they already have bad credit.
"In the Boston area, a 17-year-old applied for a job and the employer pulled his credit," says Larson. "It turned out someone had used his Social Security number and bought a $47,000 houseboat and then defaulted on the loan. The boat had been purchased when he was just 7 years old."
So when the pile of junk mail comes to your attention, the first impulse is to eliminate this clutter from your counter. So into the recycling bin it goes.
But did you know that this unsolicited mail contains personal information that could easily be used in identity theft?
So don't just pitch, here are the reasons to shred these envelopes, letters and flyers before tossing in the blue bin.
Monday morning, as I read the reactions and reviews to the 85th Academy Awards from the night before, I came across an interesting intersection of Hollywood dazzle and Silicon Valley power: Sergey Brin, a co-founder of Google (NASDAQ:GOOG), and his wife Anne Wojcicki, were apparently at the Vanity Fair Oscars Party, schmoozing amongst that most exclusive and dazzling list of party guests, and promoting Google's new Glass device. Both Brin and his wife wore a pair of the smart wearable computers (they resemble a pair of eyeglasses), and Hollywood power players were invited to test out prototypes. Ms. Wojcicki said to the New York Times, "We've come a number of times, and no one ever wants to talk to us. Now we're very popular."
In a separate story, Brin told CNN: "Glass will also have an automatic picture-taking mode, snapping pics at preset intervals (such as every five seconds)." He has also demonstrated the feature in an email to select followers of the project's Google+ page.
Not every Google Glass will automatically record an image at preset intervals -- a spokesperson from Google has said the auto-photo function will not ship with the first Glass model -- but I'm certain that Brin recorded some fascinating footage Sunday night. Imagine if we could step into the lives of the George Clooneys and Jennifer Lawrences of the world. Imagine if we could, virtually at least, be at the Vanity Fair Oscar Party? With Google Glass, someday that may be a possibility. And that raises serious privacy concerns.
Here are five things you should never share in the real world.
Filed under: Identity Theft
By Matt Brownell
A tip for would-be identity thieves: When you buy a bunch of pricey merchandise with a stolen card number, make sure you don't accidentally ship the stolen goods to your victims.
That's evidently what one thief did after stealing the debit card number of an Anchorage, Alaska, couple. According to the Anchorage Daily News, Chris and Susie Lindford got a call from Credit Union 1 informing them that someone had stolen their debit card number and racked up an impressive $5,000 in charges in about an hour. The credit union quickly cancelled the card and refunded the money; the Linfords got on with their lives, probably under the assumption that the thief had made off with a rich bounty of merchandise.
And then the packages started arriving on their doorstep: stereo equipment, sports memorabilia, martial arts gear and women's jackets, among other items. Whoever stole the card apparently used the card's billing address as the shipping address, meaning the Lindfords wound up getting the merchandise ordered with their stolen card.