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Who is being hacked these days and why is it happening?

By Tom Skeen

Almost every day there is a new announcement of a company being hacked and information being compromised. Unfortunately, there is no company or individual that is immune to this new “norm” in the age of immediate need and immediate access to information.

Whether you run a large financial services firm, a small independently run ice cream shop or an internet dating site you are not exempt from hacking attempts, these days. Some ask why? The answer isn’t always simple, but I sum it up in a very simplistic answer. Money. That’s right, money. Just like the saying goes, “beauty is in the eye of the beholder”, but replace that with “the beauty of the information is in the eye of the buyer”.

Financial services firms offer services ranging from investments, credit cards, loans and debit and savings accounts just to name a few. This information, for obvious reasons, is significantly valuable to many types of criminals. These firms are spending millions of dollars on security each year to protect our information. Unfortunately, when an information breach does occur an announcement comes out with a statement as to what happened and that they are offering free credit monitoring for one year. So we are to just sit and wait for our information to be used? I would highly recommend that you are proactive. Get new cards issued, change your passwords on email, bank accounts, etc. and put individual alerting on all of your accounts. This all should be in addition to the free credit monitoring that’s being offered and demand that they give it to you for multiple years, not just one. Don’t just wait for your money to be missing and your identity to be compromised.

Small independently run businesses aren’t exempt either. What could possibly be valuable in the information obtained from an independently run ice cream shop? Well for starters, who doesn’t accept credit cards these days? If a merchant processes 100 unique credit cards each day and retains that information in their on-site computer system a hacker might be able to access the computer system via the Wi-Fi network. They could then possibly get access to all of the credit card data. I recommend that merchants not retain this credit card information after the transaction, encrypt ALL data in transit and if stored and use a separate secure Wi-Fi network for operations vs. for guest use.

Lastly, and an interesting breach of information that occurred over the last month or so, a social network for “non-traditional relationships” was hacked and lost just under 4 million records. I asked myself, why? Well after reading multiple publications, it was most likely for potential blackmail schemes and the sale of credit card information. It’s possible that the information contained very personal information that high-profile individuals would not want to be shared publicly. For obvious reasons you should always protect your identity and even when you think you have, if you paid for the services via a credit card you could be exposed. If you are a subject of blackmail, contact law enforcement immediately and consult legal counsel.
No one is exempt from being hacked these days and money is a motivator for many things whether legal or illegal. In this day and age everyone must be vigilant in protecting his or her information. The consequences of not doing this can be significant and costly.

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