IRS Tax Scams to Watch Out For in 2017

News Studio Michael Gregg Interview Cyber

Michael Gregg Cyber Security Interview

Tax Season is here and that means it’s time to watch out for hackers, scammers, and criminals. Criminals will be targeting your tax return. Michael Gregg was interviewed by Fox News on the tax scams of 2017. Mr. Gregg warned viewers to watch out for the these three types of IRS tax scams in 2017:

  1. Tax refund fraud: Criminals will steal your personal data in order to file fake tax returns on your behalf, thereby stealing your refund.
  2. Identity theft: Criminals will impersonate the IRS, threaten taxpayers with fines and penalties, in order to trick them into disclosing sensitive personal information which they can use for future frauds and financial theft.
  3. Financial theft: Criminals will impersonate the IRS to trick taxpayers into making payments directly to them, via credit card, wire transfer, etc.

 

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Tax Scams – Three Ways Hackers Plan to Steal Your Tax Return in 2017

Experts warn that there are several fraudulent tax scams as this year’s tax season begins. Taxpayer data is vulnerable and hackers are using several different techniques in 2017 to target your tax return. Three ways hackers can cash-out on unsuspecting victims include the following:

Target the taxpayer – This is a most common method of attack. One technique is phishing emails that pretending to be from IRS and ask you for personal information or ask you to click on malicious links or open files that are infected. Trojans are another technique; this malware can be used to extract sensitive data from your computer. The best defense is to be careful of emails that you open and keep in mind that hackers typically only need your name, social security number, and birth date to file your taxes.

Phishing email

Phishing Tax Scam Email

Target the tax return preparers – This criminal technique targets the tax preparer. The hacker launches an email campaign that sends phishing emails to tax preparers, posing as a potential client. The email contains a malicious attachment.  By opening the attachment, the tax preparer has installed malware onto his/her computer that can now act as a keylogger and capture social security numbers, birth date, and other data. This is more difficult to defend against as it targets the tax preparation professional.

Target the IRS – While it is true that the IRS has multiple layers of security, no system is perfect. As an example, last year, hackers compromised social security numbers from outside the IRS and used them to generate over 100,000 e-filing pins to file fake returns.

The deadline for your Federal Tax Returns this year is Tuesday, April 18th, and this year, just like previous ones, more people are expected to file their taxes online over the Internet. It is better to file earlier than later. If you are preparing your own tax return, there are many reputable, online tax preparation web sites and packages – TurboTax Online, H&R Block at Home, TaxAct, and others. Regardless of what tax package you use, keep in mind that these software packages collect your personal information. Also, don’t forget that your information is stored on your own computer as well.

Your personal information is extremely valuable to cyber criminals looking to steal your identity and commit identity fraud. Always be sure that you are careful with your personal data. Keep it encrypted, make sure your anti-virus is up-to-date, and be on the alert for phishing tax prep emails in your inbox.

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Snowden Movie Brings Issue of Personal Privacy to the Forefront

Michael Gregg appeared Friday, September 16th on The Fox Morning Show in Houston to talk about the risks to personal privacy that are now occurring because of technology and how these threats will become more advanced and widespread for the foreseeable future. Michael Gregg has been asked to comment on several movies that deal with hacking such as “BlackHat” and the “Snowden” movie that has just been released. One of the issues that is highlighted in the Snowden movie is the ability to remotely access smart phones to spy on individuals. Is this real? Yes, it is!

Michael Gregg Fox News Studio

Michael Gregg Fox News Studio Backstage

Smartphone malware such as Trojans, are growing rapidly which allow hackers to remotely activate a phone’s camera and microphone. We see this type of attack mainly targeting activists and journalists in foreign countries, but it is likely to become widespread among U.S. consumers over the next five to ten years.

Another real threat to online privacy is the growth of the Internet of Things (IoT). These are all of the devices out there from refrigerators, TVs, cars, and medical devices that have new Internet connectivity built in and smart features. The problem is that they’re not developed with security in mind, so it’s relatively easy for someone to hack them. Just imagine someone taking over your smart TVs embedded camera, Internet-connected thermostat, or IoT door locks.

Criminal hackers have become more sophisticated and it appears we are entering into a new age where highly personal and intrusive cyber attacks are becoming far more common. The ability to spy on others in their own homes or harass them by hijacking things within their homes or cars. Cyber extortion, harassment, and identity theft could become much worse than they are today. Cyber crime is now a big industry where even foreign governments are funding hacker groups to harass their enemies. Examples of this can be seem in the hacking of the Clinton campaign, the DNC, and Colin Powell’s emails.

The recent data breaches of state voter registration databases and U.S. Olympic athletes’ medical records by Russian hackers are examples of how U.S. citizens can be caught in the middle of cyber conflicts between the U.S. and other countries. In the years ahead, we could see more instances of consumer data being stolen and dumped on the web by foreign hackers who oppose the U.S. government.

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Ransomware / Data Sabotage – A Growing Threat

Michael Gregg has a new article out on Cyber-ransom that’s featured in the FBI’s Law Enforcement Bulletin. The article examines the growing risk of data sabotage. Ransomware is the perfect, digital weapon for a saboteur as it’s extremely destructive and difficult to remove.

data sabotage Ransonware Jackware

Cyber-ransom is basically a data sabotage threat that has spread quickly over the last several years. Ransomware is known by many names such as Reveton, CryptoLocker, and CryptoWall among others. Regardless the name, the objective is the same, payment!  Attackers instruct those infected to provide payment and only then will the ransomware be removed.

If this is not bad enough, security experts are discussing the theoretical concept of Jackware. While this is currently theoretical, cyber security researchers foresee the day when ransomware may migrate to automobiles. The idea is that hackers would disable cars until victims pay. You can read more about that here: Five Ways Your Car Can Be Hacked

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How Data Brokers Threaten Your Privacy and Resell Your Information

Data brokers are buying, sharing and selling your information online.  While you have probably never heard of these companies…. they know all sorts of information about you and have most likely added you into a category such as: Financially Challenged, Democrat, Republican, Expectant Parent, or even Bible Lifestyle.

That’s not all they know. Their database of information includes address, property ownership, income, criminal records, family members, and even hobbies. If you have searched for something on the Internet or make online purchases data brokers know it.

From smart phone apps that spy on you to wearable’s and fitness trackers that record your every heartbeat, more and more of you personal data is tracked and resold to data brokers. Michael Gregg’s new article explores how data brokers threaten consumer privacy.  Read more about this topic at Michael Gregg‘s  Huffington Post article.

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The US / Russian Simmering Cyberwar

Russia’s cyber assault on the US election is one of the most provocative acts we have seen against the US from a cyber prospective. It should be clear that cyberwar is an effective tool for Russia’s military and political goals. How should we respond… Read more of Michael’s new article on Huffington Post.

 

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Is Windows 10 Spying On You or Simply Building a Better User Experience?

Microsoft has come under fire from privacy advocates because many end-users feel that Window 10 is way too intrusive.  While it is true that much of this data is used to enhance user experience, Microsoft’s lack of transparency isn’t doing much to dispel the notion that they are spying on end users, gathering much more personal information than needed, and making it way too difficult to opt out. If you’re wondering what kind of data Microsoft collects from Windows 10 users, it includes:

  • Personal information about your browsing habits and what you’re doing on your computer
  • It borrows bandwidth from your computer without asking for shared downloads, much like a peer to peer network
  • Per the end user license agreement (EULA), it can scans for illegal games (xbox)
  • Forced updates

To get a better idea of what Microsoft is doing with Windows 10, you’ll need to read the end user agreement. It’s about 12,000 words, so you may want to have your lawyer handy as you are going through it!

If you want to reduce the amount of spying that Windows does, you will need to open Settings and click on Privacy. There, you’ll need to navigate through 13 different screens to disable the first layer of data collection. You will also need to visit https://choice.microsoft.com to opt out of personalized ads. This won’t keep you from seeing ads; it’ll simply block ads targeting you based on your browsing history.

Even after all of these changes, Windows 10 will continue to send information to Microsoft. To further block its ability to spy on you, consider downloading Windows 10 Tracking Disable Tool from Majorgeeks.com. This tool blacklists many of the IP’s that Windows 10 sends the tracking data to. To further reduce data aggregation Windows 10 users should also consider installing ghostery from www.ghostery.com.

So, while you can reduce the amount of spying that Windows 10 does by default, the OS is designed in such a way to make the process very difficult for the average user which is unnecessary.

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Why Ethical Hackers Are In Strong Demand

Ethical hackers are in strong demand because modern cyber attacks can be highly focused, targeting your online assets and intellectual property. Especially in this BYOD (bring your own device) era, security breaches must be avoided. It’s like a hole in the wall of your office or a hole in the fence at your property line. The malicious hacker get easy entry. If it is your proprietary data that they are helping themselves to, losses can mount quickly.

Then, there are those Internet vandals too, known as hacktivist. Hackers doing critical damage just for the fun of it, hacktivist are despised in the real world; they should be online as well. Again, cyber security experts can set up a line of defense before the vandals , the hackers, ever attack.

And, these guards can step in to repair damage after its occurred as well. They can plug the hole in the fence before it completely gives way. And, just as that miscreant may leave footprints as he makes a hasty retreat, cyber criminals may leave a trail as well.

Why not take steps to stop the troublemakers before they ever arrive at your online address? There is no better place to be pro-active than in cyber-security. It is possible to hire experts that can test for vulnerabilities in your cloud-based and other systems.

Avert a potential disaster, and enjoy peace-of-mind that will allow uninterrupted attention to growing your enterprise.

For further assistance, either before or after the fact, please contact us today.

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The Prevalence of Cyber Crime

While many people acknowledge the prevalence of hacking and cyber crime, many, including businesses, do not take the necessary steps to ensure their cyber security. Even though there have been so many big cyber hacking cases exposed such as Target, Home Depot, Sony, and Anthem.  Then there is the other side of hacking, the part that no one see’s. Because much of hacking is undetected, it is difficult to estimate the total number of people that have been hacked, though it is safe to say that almost everyone has been affected by cyber crime of some sort. Professionals urge both people and businesses to consider the effects of cyber crime, hoping that they will take more serious steps to prevent destructive hacking.

A article by by NBC News discusses how even experts of cyber security struggle to keep hackers away. While the experts use high tech security for their businesses, they are forced to use low tech equipment for their personal use. Of the widespreadness of hacking, former Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff stated,
“There are two types of people: those who have been hacked, and those who don’t know they’ve been hacked.”

Because of their knowledge and experience with hacking, many cyber security experts have become obsessed with preventing cyber crime. Eugene Kaspersky, owner of the anti-virus software company Kaspersky, admits to being paranoid about cyber crime, and even uses a six year old Sony Ericsson cellphone because it is more difficult to hack, according to the article.

Although many businesses have already taken the steps for their cyber security, others are still lacking and are putting themselves at considerable risk. The constant skepticism from experts about cyber security signals that everyone should take cyber crime seriously. While people who do not have sufficient cyber security can be damaged by hacking, businesses that do not have sufficient security put themselves at even more risk, as they have more data to lose, more information to depend on, and more money at stake.

If you’re interested in cyber security and would like to protect your business from cyber crime, contact us.

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The CISSP Exam Update and Eight Domain Rewrite for 2015

For individuals considering the (ISC)² CISSP exam, you need to be aware of a major update that will go into effect April 1, 2015.  Gone are the ten domains that have been with us for many years. Here are the current ten domains.

1. Operations security

2. Telecommunications and network security

3. Information security governance and risk management

4. Software development security

5. Cryptography

6. Security architecture and design

7. Access control

8. Business continuity and disaster recovery planning

9. Legal, regulations, investigations and compliance

10. Physical (environmental) security

According to the ISC2 website, “refreshed technical content has been added to the Official (ISC)² CISSP CBK to reflect the most current topics in the information security industry today.” These changes include reordering the domains and reducing the current ten domains to eight.  Listed below are the eight CISSP domains:

1. Security and Risk Management (Security, Risk, Compliance, Law, Regulations, Business Continuity)

2. Asset Security (Protecting Security of Assets)

3. Security Engineering (Engineering and Management of Security)

4. Communications and Network Security (Designing and Protecting Network Security)

5. Identity and Access Management (Controlling Access and Managing Identity)

6. Security Assessment and Testing (Designing, Performing, and Analyzing Security Testing)

7. Security Operations (Foundational Concepts, Investigations, Incident Management, Disaster Recovery)

8. Software Development Security (Understanding, Applying, and Enforcing Software Security)

Exam candidates have been asking what they should they do, keep studying or wait for the new exam? Keep studying! IT/cyber security has not changed overnight.  It’s more of a steady evolution.  While the topics are being reorganized, everything you have or are learning will still be relevant. Over the next few days and weeks, I will be comparing the current ten domains to the new 8 domains where I can get started on the update to the CISSP Exam Cram. I will post more about these changes to the new April 15, 2015 version of the CISSP exam. Stay tuned…

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