Unless you’re living under a rock, you’ve heard about the Target breach and now this new Heartbleed. Even if you are living under a rock, they’ve likely affected you in some way. It seems like there’s a big story popping up every week in the news about breaches, hackers, identity theft, etc.
Last December, Target sent emails to their customers alerting them that almost 40 million credit and debit cards were stolen. More recently it's been reported that 110 million Americans were impacted. If you’re not a mathematician, 110 million Americans is 35% of the total population. Observation: wow, a LOT of people shop at Target. More topical observation: 35% of the ENTIRE country was affected by the Target breach. All this because some nefarious hacker stole the network credentials from Target’s unsuspecting HVAC contractor. I mean, how are you supposed to combat something like that? It’s been said it will cost Target “billions of dollars” (that’s plural on both words) to clean up the mess, so I’m sure they’ll figure out a way to combat these types of breaches in the future!
And now, we have Heartbleed. I’ve read about 14 propeller-head, pocket-protector explanations of the thing and the best I can come up with is this (My gift to you. It’s probably kind of somewhat accurate. You’re welcome.)…
In your URL, there are http and https webpages. The ‘s’ stands for secure, so you’ll see an https (with it’s accompanying little lock symbol thingey) when you’re entering secret squirrel info like your credit card or personal info. You’ll see just http if you’re doing less covert actions, like searching for info, reading articles, etc. The Heartbleed exploit enables attackers to bypass standard https online security protections. It allows them to eavesdrop on communications, steal data directly from services and users and to impersonate services and users. In short, this means any secure information (usernames, passwords, credit card info, etc.) you entered on an affected website could potentially already be in the hands of the bad guys who could be using it for bad things.
And don’t even get me started about the Canadian IRS (the CRA) hackers who removed approximately 900 social insurance numbers (equivalent to a U.S. social security number) in a six-hour period before the systems were shut down. That’s, like, half the population of Canada. Just kidding – sorry Canada! Due to security vulnerabilities caused by the Heartbleed bug, the CRA website was shut down and the 2014 tax filing deadline had to be extended. Dang, why can’t it happen in the US?
OK, now that we’re all properly terrified.
I could bore you with a million stats about the growth of this type of crime, but I won’t. Well, maybe just one… According to the FTC, identity theft affects as many as 10 million Americans each year. Of course, that stat was BEFORE all these new issues started popping up. Identity theft is one of the most popular forms of consumer fraud because it is the most profitable and continuous technology advancements make it hard for perpetrators to be caught. Oh, that’s just great!
Most conversations I have with people about the importance of identity theft protection start with them saying “Oh, my credit card company does that for me.” It’s important to know the difference between “credit card fraud” and “identity theft.” I spoke with Dave Carlson, President of the Membership division of Augeo Consumer Engagement Services, LLC, a company that’s provided identity theft protection services since 2005.
According to Dave, “While taking existing credit cards and using them is a serious crime, it’s not true identity theft which can have long term devastating effects on the victim. Credit card fraud is short term and relatively easy for companies and consumers to catch. True identity theft is when someone accesses your resources to get credit or other benefits in your name. An identity thief wants to assume your identity long-term, not just to use your credit card for a couple purchases. They are looking for ways to clone you and make money from your information for as long as they can!”
If you’re not familiar with how identity theft can impact your life, click here to read an article we wrote based on the movie, Identity Thief (starring Jason Bateman and Melissa McCarthy). Funny movie. Scary crime.
The bottom line is this: with all that’s going on, there’s a STRONG chance your personal information is in someone else’s hands. The problem is you don’t know it. That’s what identity theft protection is for – to watch for the “bread crumbs” of future crime, stop it early and help you recover your identity if it happens. Spending a few dollars now can save you thousands of dollars and hours in the future. What are you waiting for? If you’re still not convinced, click here to read a recent article we did that lays out 4 simple reasons you need identity theft protection.
Now it’s your turn to tell us your story. Have you been a victim of identity theft? Did you shop at Target during the breach – were you on their list? Have you felt the effects of the Heartbleed hack?