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Surviving Equifax and the New Normal for Cybercrime.

October 01, 2017 | by Brad Deflin
Brad Deflin

The Equifax breach marks an inflection point in the history of cyber crime.

If you haven't accepted the "new normal" for cyber risk yet, the Equifax breach ought to do the trick.  Here's the why, what, and how of freezing your credit files and much more.

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It is highly likely some of your personal information was lost to hackers well before the Equifax headlines last month.  Your social security number, credit card numbers, bank account information, and the passwords you regularly use - all have been and are still being stolen from the numerous corporations, government agencies, small businesses, and professional advisors you trust.  You should assume most of it's for sale on the darknet, or will be soon.

Your Equifax data though?  This stuff is different.

Why Equifax data is like rocket fuel for cyber criminals. 

Cybercriminals that have been collecting and data-curating your stuff have a new advantage with Equifax-like information.  Now their attacks are fueled with details like the color of your first car,  your childhood pet's name, where you met your spouse, and the bank that held your first mortgage - to list a few.

These are the missing pieces of your information puzzle cybercriminals have been waiting for - the details that fill the blanks in their data-curation software to broadly expand their potential targets and sharply increase their chances for greater financial success. 

For cybercriminals around the world, it's a new game on.  

Cyber attacks will proliferate broadly through the year-end holidays. 

It's as predictable as the holiday shopping season - cybercrime for profit regularly surges between October and January.  Online activity like shopping and banking increases, and we are naturally distracted by greater activity, personally and professionally.  Hackers know this, and their plans for the holidays likely include you and some aspects of your family and business.  You should be extra aware and careful through the new year 2018.  

But, here's the big story. 

The Equifax breach is launching a new era in cybercrime.  From here on it's cause and effect, and the aftermath is as predictable as it is bankable. 

The wild financial profits from cybercrime in the coming months will act like a magnet pulling in new players from wannabe's to professional cartels, and, frankly, everything in between.  Street criminals, pickpockets, traditional burglars and thieves, extortionists, and fraudsters - they will all want in. 

And then, it's tax season.  Predictable cause and effect coupled with historical experience and patterns tell us we are entering the golden-years for professional criminals everywhere.

I'm sticking with my prediction - the first cyber criminal on the Forbes 100 Richest list by 2020.

Cybercrime is easy money.  It's safe to perpetrate.  The profits are big, and the loot is in the form of anonymous cryptocurrencies - portable and liquid too.  There is no scene of the crime, victims abound, and they're easy targets - clueless to what is happening during the act and without recourse after the fact.

You, your family, and your business should expect and prepare for years of sharply increasing risks from ID theft, financial fraud, and cyber-related damages we may not yet begin to envision.  If you don't want to be a victim and prefer not contributing to the riches of this new breed of criminal cartel, here is what you must do now.

Do not wait. Do these three things now:

To prepare for the coming aftermath of the Equifax breach and others, and to position for years of significantly greater cyber risk, you must accomplish these three basics now.

  • Privatize your email.

    If you are still on "free" email - like Gmail, AOL, Yahoo, MSN, or any of the others more designed to collect and curate your information than they are for email, you are directly in the hackers' line of sight.  These email systems are the backbone for their criminal perpetration, and it is only a matter of time before you suffer loss and potentially life-altering consequences and inconvenience.  See below for how we privatize email domains for individuals, families, professional advisors, and small businesses to step off the grid of risk and enjoy a lifetime of greater security and peace.  And, if you are a Realtor®, financial, legal, or healthcare professional still using "free" email, including in your personal life, you are on the cutting edge of committing malpractice against yourself, your clients, your practice, and your industry.  This is not an overstatement.  Finally, if your Realtor® is conducting your business using a "free" email account, find a new Realtor®.  Fast.  

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  • Protect your computers and smartphones.   

    We call this "Device Protection", and like "Private Email Domains", it's one of the "Four Fundamentals" for survival in this new age of risk.  The retail and "free" versions of antivirus are not up to the challenges faced today, but fortunately, we uniquely make commercial-grade versions available to anyone.  These systems are "Monitored and Managed" for real-time defense and use artificial intelligence and machine learning for maximum automation and efficacy.  This stuff works.  Like, incredibly well.  Ask any of our clients - many will not connect online with out it installed and protecting.  

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 Don't let the credit agencies push you down another path that includes more fees and submission of additional personal information.  They are not on your side. Their business models count on collecting as much as they can for resale and maximizing their profits at your expense.  Security guru Brian Krebs includes precise instructions in his report available here, including the maddening phone prompts you will want to know to expedite the process.  

Why Credit Freeze vs. Credit Monitoring?

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Credit monitoring does nothing to prevent ID theft and anyone can get a free credit score online.  In 2015, the U.S. Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) puts it like this:

"Whether your personal information has been stolen or not, your best protection against someone opening new credit accounts in your name is the security freeze (also known as the credit freeze), not the often offered, under achieving credit monitoring."

U.S. Public Interest Research Group, Oct. 2015

 

Some take-aways from the report:

  • You can easily “unfreeze” your credit report when you want to apply for new credit.  Freezes can be temporarily or permanently lifted when you want.

  • A security freeze does not affect your credit score.

  • Feel free to look at your credit score or report as often as you want; your own inquiries have no effect on your score.

  • Security freezes are available to consumers in all 50 states and DC.  A security freeze costs between $3 - 10 for each of the three big national credit bureaus.  

red arrow.png"The top targets for ID theft and credit fraud are kids and seniors."

 

Freezing Credit Accounts for Kids  

Hackers see kids as less aware, more unprepared and under-protected, and with ample room in their credit status to create bogus accounts.  Consequences can be far greater than mild inconvenience and these hacks are one of the fastest growing crimes in the U.S.

States around the country have successfully pushed the credit bureaus to allow the creation and freezing of credit reports for minors as a defensive measure for what is expected to be a scourge for many years to come. 

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The lighter colored states in the map above are those that allow a parent or guardian to order a freeze on the minor's account.

 

 

 

 

The procedure varies by state, but you can find the specifics you need here:  

http://www.ncsl.org/research/financial-services-and-commerce/consumer-report-security-freeze-state-statutes.aspx

Total Digital Security uniquely combines new-school training and education resources with state-of-the-science technology that works to protect - all day, every day, personally and professionally. 

Contact us for more information about our solutions and services.

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Topics: Privacy and Online Safety for Individuals, Protecting Home and Family from Cyber-Crime, Cybercrime Prevention

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