Investigator: Be aware of security risks as you shop
Posted December 22, 2014
The reports of data breaches and security hacks number in the millions.
At Staples, about 1.2 million customer payment cards compromised. At Target, 40 million accounts vulnerable; at Home Depot, more than 50 million.
Even the entertainment isn't safe. A hack into Sony Pictures has produced months of embarrassment and the cancellation of the studio's big Christmas release, "The Interview."
The degree of insecurity is not surprising to those who try to deter digital attacks.
"Believe it or not, there are a lot of breaches that do not get reported," said Giovanni Masucci, of National Digital Forensics, Inc.
Masucci gets called in to "solve" a hack – to help companies determine where their weakness is and how bad the potential for compromised information.
He says the holidays, when customers and companies are busy with offline and online digital transactions, can be a ripe time for credit card and identity thieves.
"It only starts with one little hole, and I am seeing it more and more," Masucci said.
One group can crack a payment system and steal credit card numbers, then sell those numbers to other groups on the internet who run up charges.
They key, Masucci says, is keeping track of bank and credit card statements.
"If you do online banking, check everyday," he advises.
Online shoppers should also pay close attention to the websites they frequent. Hackers will often imitate a legitimate site, or redirect customers to a fake payment page.
The same precautions apply for those who shop, bank and make payments via cellphone.
"At the very least, put some anti-virus on your mobile devices," Masucci said.
And he reiterates the most common bit of advice: The best way to protect your information is to use strong passwords and change them often, about every 30 days.