It’s European #DataProtection day! Every day we visit websites and willingly hand over our name, address, and credit card number. Have you ever thought about what happens to that data or what your rights are?
Members of the European Union (EU) enjoy a high standard of protection of their personal data. The Digital Agenda for Europe lays it all out for you on their website. Here’s a summary:
The burden to protect you is on organizations
The EU Data Protection Directive ensures that personal data can only be gathered under strict conditions and for legitimate purposes. Organizations that collect and manage your personal information must also protect it from misuse and respect certain rights. One of the objectives is that organizations notify their customers, in plain language, what information is collected and how it is used as well as get permission before using any personal information.
One of the stumbling blocks has been the so-called one-stop-shop for businesses and citizens in each member state in which authorities will handle citizens’ complaints about any breach of the rules. There are just as many ideas on how to run it as there are EU member states.
You must be notified of cookies and data breaches
The Directive on Privacy and Electronic communications (ePrivacy Directive) ensures that all communications over public networks maintain a high level of privacy. For example, this directive requires website owners marketing online to EU citizens to obtain consent from users, via some kind of opt-in, before implementing cookies or other technologies to capture online visitor information. (See below for information on managing your cookies.)
If your data is stolen, the ePrivacy Directive states that you should be notified. That’s good because data theft can result in identity theft or fraud, damage to your reputation, loss of control over your personal data or a loss of confidentiality.
However, this fall, the rules changed slightly and now businesses don’t have to notify consumers that their personal data has been lost or stolen if the data has been encrypted. The ministers figure that the business has “appropriate technological protection measures” to protect the data that has been lost or stolen from being accessed by people not authorized to see it.
Viewing and managing your cookies
For those of you not familiar with the term, cookies are small files stored in your browser that contain information about your visit to a web page. They help tailor your online shopping experiences by doing things such as recording items in your shopping cart, they also recommend products based on your interests, allow auto-log in and compile browsing histories.
In most modern browsers, you can control cookie settings. The options include viewing stored cookies, controlling which sites you accept cookies from, and setting how long they may be stored and used.
- 1. Open the drop-down menu in the top right corner of the Chrome browser, select Settings.
- 2. At the bottom of the page, click Show advanced settings.
- 3. In the Privacy section, open the button that says Content settings.
- 4. Under Cookies, you check or uncheck the options to manage the settings.
- 5. To see individual cookies, click All cookies and site data.
- 6. To remove cookies, hover the mouse over the entry. Click the X to delete.
- 7. To delete all cookies, click Remove all.
For instructions to clear cookies in Firefox, please visit Mozilla’s support page.
For instructions on clearing and managing cookies in Internet Explorer, please search Microsoft help for your version of IE. Here’s general information.
2014 has been an active year for cybercrime. Let’s start with the most recent and then take a look at some of the other important security events of the year.
We are ending the year with the most publicized and destructive hack of a major global company by another country – now identified as North Korea. The Sony Entertainment attack, still being investigated by the FBI, resulted in the theft of 100 terabytes of confidential employee data, business documents, and unreleased films. It was an attack on privacy due to the theft of a massive amount of personal records, but also essentially blackmail; aiming to silence something that the North Korean government didn’t like – namely the release of The Interview, a movie depicting an assassination attempt on Kim Jong-Un.
Most of the blame for state-sponsored cybercrime in 2014 has been with Russian or Chinese hackers. Whether private or state-sponsored, these hackers have attempted to access secret information from the United States government, military, or large American companies. Recently, Chinese hackers sponsored by the military were indicted for economic espionage by the U.S. Department of Justice.
Along with the Sony breach, other notable companies that suffered from cybercrime include Home Depot, eBay, Michaels, Staples, Sally Beauty Supply, and others. A significant number of these breaches were begun months or years ago, but were revealed or discovered in 2014.
Nearly 110 million records were stolen from Home Depot; the largest ever breach of a U.S retailer. The cyber-heist included 56 million payment card numbers and 53 million email addresses.
JPMorgan Chase’s data breach impacted nearly 80 million households in the U.S., as well as 7 million small- and medium-sized businesses. Cybercriminals were able to gain access after stealing an employee’s password, reminiscent of the Target breach from 2013. This breach is said to be one of the largest breaches of a financial institution. The FBI is still investigating.
Financial and data stealing malware
GameOver Zeus, called the most infamous malware ever created, infected millions of Internet users around the world and has stolen millions of dollars by retrieving online banking credentials from the infected systems.
Tinba Trojan banking malware uses a social engineering technique called spearfishing to target its victims. The spam campaign targeted Bank of America, ING Direct, and HSBC customers using scare tactics to get customers to download a Trojan which gathered personal information.
Chinese hackers were at it again, and again, targeting South Korean banking customers with banking malware using a VPN connection. The customers were sent to a look-alike webpage where they were unknowingly handing cybercrooks their banking passwords and login information.
Many of the breaches that occurred in 2014 were because of unpatched security holes in software that hackers took advantage of. The names we heard most often were Adobe Flash Player/Plugin, Apple Quicktime, Oracle Java Runtime, and Adobe Acrobat Reader.
Avast’s selection of security products have a feature called Software Updater which shows you an overview of all your outdated software applications, so you can keep them up to date and eliminate any security vulnerabilities.
Update: The new eBay hack has customers changing passwords again. If you’re sick of changing your password every month after yet another breach, it’s time to consider a password management program like avast! Easy Pass.
The massive hack against Target, in which 40 million credit and debit card numbers were stolen, began with stolen login credentials from the air-conditioning repairman. This illustrates the old adage, “a chain is only as strong as its weakest link.”
While consumers can’t control why a third party contractor would have external network access at a major retailer, there are some things you can do to protect yourself.
How can I be notified if my email address or password was hacked?
Every two seconds in the US, someone becomes a victim of identity fraud. With 13.1 million victims last year and multiple companies (Facebook, Target, Neiman Marcus, Adobe) being exploited, there is a good chance you could be among them. You can use the have i been pwned notification service to learn if your email address was included in a large data breach. This service allows you to enter an email address and will notify you if your address appears in any databases added to the service. I learned that my email address was stolen from the Adobe breach, but thankfully, I haven’t been notified of anything else.
What’s your weakest link?
You can’t stop shopping, but there are things you can do (other than paying cash only) if you’ve become the victim of hacking.
- 1. Change your passwords We’ve talked about it plenty of times, but here’s a reminder: Make passwords long and strong. Combine capital and lowercase letters with numbers and symbols to create a more secure password. eNcrYP0123tion$ is stronger than Encryption123. If you can’t remember different passwords for all the accounts you have, use a password manager like avast! EasyPass. Read more…