When your personal data goes public

Unfortunately, it’s impossible to control your personal information at all times. Companies and governments that store personal data sometimes screw up in the worst way:

The British government struggled Wednesday to explain its loss of computer disks containing detailed personal information on 25 million Britons [about 40% of the population], including an unknown number of bank account identifiers, in what analysts described as potentially the most significant privacy breach of the digital era.

You can’t do much when something like this happens. One thing you can do, however, is make sure your passwords are strong.

Experts said the information could allow crimes beyond identity theft. Some people use the name of a child or part of an address as a password on a bank account, so the combination of these details could allow someone to break their code.

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Phishing more lucrative than drugs

Consumer Reports published its 2007 State of the Net assessment last month in September, and one of the experts they interviewed made an astonishing claim: for organized crime groups, phishing (see Wikipedia definition of phishing) is more profitable than drugs:

The Anti-Phishing Working Group says that the number of phishing sites stood at 37,000 in May. Roughly 23,000 attacks occurred in that month.

Scammers’ phishing techniques are improving. “A year ago, phishing consisted of random spam,” says Art Manion, a top vulnerability analyst for CERT, an Internet emergency-response group based at Carnegie Mellon University. “Today, the e-mail looks like it’s from my bank or my company, with better grammar, more believable stories, and better URLs.”

Popular social-engineering techniques that entrap consumers include associating the mail with a holiday or event, such as the World Cup; spear-phishing, where the sender appears to be someone inside the company you work for; or telling you that your bank account has been compromised, and then urging you to enter personal information into a fake site that looks like the bank’s.

The profile of phishers is changing. “In 2002-2003, organized crime groups figured out this is a better way to make money than selling drugs,” says Alan Paller, director of research at the SANS Institute, which trains security professionals. He adds that some terrorists are “exhorting young jihadists to use computers to bring the U.S. to its knees.”

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eBook price drop

It’s been three months since I launched the Defending the Kingdom eBook, and it’s time for a price drop. In addition to lowering the price to $6, I’ve made some minor updates to the book.

Also, check out the free eBook Package, which includes everything you need to set things straight if you’ve had your identity stolen: sample letters to creditors and collection agencies, a step-by-step guide listing everyone you need to contact, a spreadsheet to keep track of your efforts, and an FTC affidavit.

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