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2015: The Year Of The Breach; Close To 200 Million Personal Records Exposed

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ITRC logoThis year will go down as the year of the personal data breach. Consumers all over the world are learning their personal information is not safe with businesses, health insurers, financial institutions, the government, and even the educational sphere. Estimates of the number of personal records exposed in 2015 range from 176 million to more than 193 million from about 730 breaches.

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Research indicates hackers are concentrating on medical and health care sectors that store patient data that cannot be replicated like credit card data.

The Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC) data breach report tracks seven types of data losses: hacking, data on the move, insider theft, employee error and negligence, Internet exposure, -physical theft and accident. The research tracks four types of information stolen: protected health information, Social Security numbers, email/passwords-user names and credit/debit card numbers.

According to San Diego, Calif.-based ITRC, health care accounted for 68.1% of all breaches, followed by government/military, 19.4%, business, 9.2%, banking/credit/financial, 2.9%, and educational, 0.4%.

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The full extent of the personal information exposed is unknown, as the number of records compromised was not reported in many cases, the ITRC report notes.

Health Care Leads All Sectors In Exposed Data

Healthcare tab

In the health care sector, leading the list in terms of records lost was Anthem customers with 78.8 million; followed by Premera Blue Cross of Washington State, 11 million; Excellus Blue Cross
Blue Shield/Lifetime Healthcare, 10 million; Anthem Inc. – Blue Cross Blue Shield of Indiana, 8.8 million; UCLA Health, 4.2 million; Medical Informatics Engineering/NoMoreClipbo, 3.9 million; CareFirst BlueCross Blue Shield of Maryland, 1.1 million; and Empi Inc/DJO LLC of Minnesota, 160,000.

In the government/military sector, the Office of Personnel Management #2 lost 21.5 million records; followed by Office of Personnel Management in Washington, D.C., 4.2 million; and Georgia Secretary of State, 6 million.

In the business category, T-Mobile/Experian had 15 million records breached, followed by Vtech with 5 million; Missing Links Networks Inc./eCellar of California, 250,000; SterlingBackcheck, 100,000; Web.com, 93,000; Alfa Specialty Insurance Corp./Alfa Vision Insu, 86,000; Firekeepers Casino in Michigan, 85,000; We End Violence/California State Universities, 79,000; Securus Technologies in Texas, 63,000; Sally Beauty Holdings, Inc. of Texas, 62.210; Service Systems Associates/Zoos of Colorado, 60,000; Blue Sky Casino/French Lick Resort of Indiana, 54,624; Uber, 50,000; Autozone, 49,967; Nobel House Hotel and Resorts – The Commons in Washington State, 19,472.

(The Ashley Madison breach, which exposed an estimated 37 million accounts, was not included in the ITRC report.)

In the banking/credit/financial sector, Scottrade had 4.6 million records exposed, followed by Morgan Stanley, 350,000; Piedmont Advantage Credit Union, 46,000; and E*trade , 31,000.

In the education sector, Auburn University in Alabama topped the list with 364,012 records breached, followed by Metropolitan State University in Minnesota, 160,000; and Career Education Corp. in Illinois, 151,6626.

Also read: 21 million more US personnel exposed in second attack

Seven Top Breaches

10Fold, a San Francisco, Calif.-based B2B technology public relations firm, reviewed the ITRC data breach report and some additional information. 10Fold analyzed 720 data breaches and compiled a review of what it considers the top seven breaches.

The top seven breaches compromised more than 5 million records. Following is a summary of these seven.

Anthem

The Anthem breach of 78.8 million patient records in early 2015 marked the largest breach in history. By the end of February, Anthem reported the breach impacted an additional 8.8 to 18.8
million non-patient records, including names, Social Security numbers, birth dates, employment data and addresses.

The breach began a series of health care hacks, including Prermera Blue Cross, UCLA Health Systems, CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield and Excellus BlueCross BlueShield.

Excellus BlueCross Blue Shield

The attack on the health insurer began in December of 2013 following a series of attacks that took place earlier that year. The breach compromised personal information of more than 10 million members and leaves members vulnerable to identity theft and fraud. The information stolen included birth dates, Social Security numbers, names, member ID numbers, claims information and financial account information.

Premera Blue Cross

The health insurer discovered the attack affecting 11 million members in January of this year after it began in May of 2014. Investigators found the attackers infiltrated the information technology
system, enabling them to gain access to personal information of members and applicants, including Social Security numbers, member identification numbers, birth dates and bank account information. Members included Microsoft, Starbucks and Amazon employees.

VTech

VTech, the maker of tablets and gadgets for children, had kids’ and parents’ information compromised by the breach of the Kid Connect and Learning Lodge app store customer database. The breach affected 6.4 million kids and 4.9 million parent accounts globally and marked the first attack to directly target children. It exposed personal ID information like passwords, download history, IP addresses, names, and children’s birth dates and genders.

Experian/T-Mobile

Attackers breached a server in a North American Experian/T-Mobile business unit containing personal ID information of about 15 million T-Mobile customers. The information included birth dates, names, Social Security numbers and alternate IDs like driver’s license numbers. One cause of the breach was that T-Mobile shared customer information with Experian to process credit card checks for device or service financing.

When customers share information with a business, the personal data is not always protected.

Office of Personnel Management

The attack affected 19.7 million individuals who applied for security clearances, plus 1.8 million relatives and other government personnel associates and 3.6 million former and current employees. The compromised data included 5.6 million fingerprint records that belong to background check applicants.

The breach alarmed intelligence officials about the theft of data on government forms submitted for security clearances. These applicants shared information about themselves, including health history and prior relationships. Hackers that gain access to information about employees with security clearances can cause irreparable damage to users’ privacy.

Ashley Madison

A hacker group called The Impact Team accessed the website’s user database, including financial and proprietary information of 37 million users. The hackers released a manifesto noting the “full delete” feature on the Ashley Madison website was false and that the company did not remove the personally identifiable customer information for those who wanted it deleted.

The statement instructed Avid Live Media (ALM), the parent company, to permanently delete the forums or all customer information would be released. The hackers released the customer information records two months later since ALM opted to keep the website running.

Images from Shutterstock and IRTC.

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Ethereum Notches Two-Month High as Bitcoin Offspring Triggers Volatility

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Digital currency Ethereum climbed to a two-month high on Monday, taking some of the heat off Bitcoin and Bitcoin Cash, which have slumped since the weekend.

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Ethereum Forges Higher Path

Concerns over Bitcoin created a favourable tailwind for Ethereum (ETH/USD), which is the world’s No. 2 digital currency by total assets. Ether’s price topped $340.00 on Monday and later settled at $323.54. That was the highest since June 20.

At its peak, ether was up 10% on the day and 70% for the month of August.

The ETH/USD was last down 2.2% at $315.02, according to Bitfinex. Prices are due for a brisk recovery, based on the daily momentum indicators.

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Fractured Bitcoin Community

Bitcoin and its offshoot, Bitcoin Cash, retreated on Monday following a volatile weekend. The BTC/USD slumped at the start of the week and was down more than 3% on Tuesday, with prices falling below $3,900.00. Just last week, Bitcoin was trading at new records near $4,500.00.

Bitcoin Cash, which emerged after the Aug. 1 hard fork, climbed to new records on Saturday, but has been in free-fall ever since. The BTH was down another 20% on Tuesday to $594.49, according to CoinMarketCap. Its total market value has dropped by several billion over the past two days.

Analysts say that a “fractured” Bitcoin community has made Ethereum a more attractive bet this week. The ether token has shown remarkable poise over the past seven days, despite trading well shy of a new record.

Other drivers behind Ethereum’s advance are steady demand from South Korean investors and growing confidence in a smooth upgrade for the the ETH network. The upgrade, which has been dubbed “Metropolis,” is expected in the next several weeks. Its key benefits include tighter transaction privacy and greater efficiency.

Ethereum Prices Unaffected by ICO Heist

Fin-tech developer Enigma was on the receiving end of a cyber-heist on Monday after hackers took over the company’s website, mailing list and instant messaging platforms. The hack occurred three weeks before Enigma’s planned Initial Coin Offering (ICO) for September 11.

In addition to defacing the company’s website, the hackers pushed a special “pre-sale” ahead of the ICO. While many users realized it was a scam, 1,492 ether tokens – valued at $495,000 – were directed into the hackers’ cryptocurrency wallet by unsuspecting backers.

The irony in all this is that Engima is a cryptography company that prides itself on top-notch security protocols. The company issued a statement that its servers had not been compromised.

ETH/USD (Bitfinex)

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Ethereum Prices on Track for 35% Monthly Drop

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It has been a difficult month for ethereum. The world’s No. 2 digital currency has lost a third of its value over the past 30 days following a series of cyber breaches targeting vulnerable wallets and ICOs.

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Ethereum Struggles to Regain Momentum

Ethereum (ETH/USD) was trading near $197.00 Sunday at 6:30 BST, according to Bitfinex. That represents a decline of around 5%. At current values, ethereum’s market cap was $18.4 billion.

The ETH/USD exchange rate has struggled throughout July, with prices briefly falling below $160.00. The decline, which amounted to a 60-day low, lured bargain-hunters back into the market. After surging back toward $250.00, the ETH/USD has consolidated below the $220-mark, which continues to offer strong resistance. On the opposite side of the spectrum, major support is located at $180.00.

A price recovery may prove elusive in the short-term, with the Relative Strength Index (RSI) and Stochastic indicator signalling weak underlying momentum.

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Despite its recent decline, ethereum’s value has surged more than 2,200% this year.

Cyber Attacks, SEC Weigh on Market

The ethereum network suffered a large-scale cyber breach earlier this month resulting in the loss of tens of millions of dollars. A community of ethical hackers quickly banded together to “rescue” hundreds of millions of dollars worth of tokens.

Blockchain-based trading platform Coindash was also hijacked during an initial coin offering (ICO). The breach exposed Coindash’s ether wallet address, resulting in the loss of $7 million worth of ether.

The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has also taken an interest in the ethereum-based ICO market. Last week, the regulator concluded that a certain multi-million dollar token sale last year violated securities law. Although ICOs have been compared to crowd-sourcing, the SEC maintained that some tokens were in fact securities.

Analysts say the SEC ruling could impact the future of ICOs, although it remains unclear how the regulator is pursuing this market. The SEC’s July 25 press release cautions investors about ICOs in general.

ETH/USD (Bitfinex)


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Coders Safeguard Vulnerable Ethereum Wallets Following Security Breach

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hacker extortion bitcoin

Ethereum suffered large-scale security breaches last week after anonymous hackers targeted vulnerable wallets in the network, resulting in the loss of tens of millions of dollars. However, it didn’t take long for a volunteer group of coders to “rescue” the funds in 500 at-risk wallets before the same attackers could get to them too.

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White Hat Group Takes Charge

The so-called White Hat Group showed initiative by “rescuing” the funds using the same techniques the thieves employed to compromise $32 million USD worth of ether from three multi-signature wallets. As of Monday, the White Hat Group of ethical hackers was in possession of $86 million worth of ether and an additional $122 million in tokens.

Tokens are digital assets that are sold during an Initial Coin Offering (ICO) fundraising event. They have proven to be extremely popular.

Tens of millions of dollars worth of ether and tokens have already been returned to their owners. The White Hat Group says it will issue full refunds by the end of July.

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Blockchain-based trading platform Coindash was also breached last week, resulting in the loss of more than $7 million worth of ether.

Security Breaches Nothing New in Crypto World

For all its benefits, cryptocurrency has been vulnerable to several high-profile security breaches. Last summer, Hong Kong-based Bitfinex was the target of a major attack that resulted in the theft of around $70 million worth of bitcoins. In response, the exchange announced a controversial plans to “socialize” its losses among all users. Each Bitfinex trader was docked 36% as a result.

Bitcoin prices declined sharply following the attack, stopping what had been a blistering summer of gains.

Ethereum Enterprise Alliance

For anyone doubting the potential of the ether, take a look at the list of companies participating in the Enterprise Ethereum Alliance (EEA). The EEA is a forum that connects Fortune 500 companies, startups and academics with ethereum subject matter experts.  The EEA is made up of multinational banks and some of the world’s biggest technology companies.

The forum has made cyber security a top priority, according to a May 22 press release. In the release, companies like Infosys, Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group, Synechron and others expressed their intent to contribute to the future of ethereum’s security.

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