COVID Vax Posts Help ID Thieves

You lock your doors. Security cameras ring your house. And then you post pictures of your vaccination cards on Facebook after you get your injection. We regard our vaccinations as an achievement and an encouragement for others to get their shots. Identity thieves are not gonna miss their shot at mining your data.

Let’s be real. The information on most vaccination cards is minimal: your name and your date of birth. Both pieces of information are likely known to many people and organizations who interact with you, and it’s all readily available on public information websites. We won’t get into how many of you don’t make your year of birth available on Facebook for “privacy” reasons. But you do appreciate birthday greetings.

That said, let’s get back to the vaccination cards. I fall into two groups: 1c for my age and 1b for health reasons. If an ID thief is looking for some way to carry out medical fraud, my info is right there. Looking at my age and 1b status, the thief has the makings of a target. The name and date of birth on an official document validates who you are.

The thief can find my home address. Again, it’s public information, but when it’s added to my “dossier,” it’s another piece of a puzzle. I know I have added more clues about me when I shared some of my hospital visits. By and of themselves, each piece is small, but a thief may have enough to start looking at things just to let me know that they know me.

Then comes the phishing email disguised as an offer about some kind of insurance. If I bite by clicking on a link or opening an attachment, the thief can plant some malware to get a lot more information by mining my data. They might even get into my medical records and have enough info to file a false claim for treatment I never had. They might also lock me out of my records by changing all my login credentials and using HIPPA regulations. In short, I can wind up on the hook to pay for treatment I never had, and I can’t get info about the bill.

It’s one scenario about how big data can be mined – legally and illegally – from one small piece.

You can be vulnerable in other ways.

Let’s say you take a car trip somewhere, and you post a picture that includes your car and shows its license plate number. If your car is desirable, a thief can use your license plate number to trace your address – or maybe start observing you. When you leave the car somewhere, such as in a supermarket parking lot, it’s easy enough to get the VIN number through the windshield and then take steps to retitle your car before stealing it and selling it “legitimately.”

Big data makes these examples possible. There’s a lot more out there all the time, and hackers are more sophisticated. Better software tools allow more thieves to gather and analyze data to pinpoint a target and let them commit a larger number of small crimes that add up to decent money.

Our advice is simple: Don’t put any more of your data out there than is absolutely necessary. Be careful about what you photograph and post. Be careful about how you handle email and about the info you provide – even to legitimate businesses and organizations – by email or telephone. Even with those you know, question why they need certain information, such as your Social Security Number. Use common sense.

You can augment your common sense by keeping all your operating system and application software up to date; updates usually include security patches and bug fixes. Install, properly configure and update anti-virus and malware protection software. We can help you install and maintain software. Call us – 973-433-6676 – or email us to set up an appointment.

Oh, and one more thing: Get your COVID vaccination as soon as you can!

COVID-19 Crisis – Keeping Your Technology Safe and Productive

A letter to our Clients and Friends:

It’s time to step back and take a deep breath. Yes, breathe in. Exhale slowly. Relax.

We don’t know how long our public health crisis with the coronavirus will last nor how it will end. But we’re in it together, and we at Sterling Rose want to offer you a few guidelines to help make your work and home disruption a little less disruptive.

If you are an employer or partner in a small business and need to conduct business from home, here’s what you should be doing:

  • Make sure everyone with a laptop computer – whether company-issued or personally owned – can log into your cloud or server to access the apps and files that drive your business. If there’s a problem, contact us.
  • Make sure that all of your hardware has the latest firmware (it’s basically like app software for hardware) installed. Do the same for your employee’s personal computers if they are working from home and logging into your tech system.
  • Make sure all of your software – OS, apps, web browsers – has the latest updates and upgrades installed. While updates improve performance, they also have the latest security patches, and that will be most important. Hackers will be in high gear to try to penetrate your defenses.
  • Make double sure that any employees who use their personal computers to conduct your business have of their software up to date for the same reasons.
  • Make sure you and your employees have strong network passwords for Wi-Fi networks and that everyone has installed and activated antivirus and malware protection programs. We strongly encourage everyone to have a password management program in place, too, for convenience and security.
  • Train everybody and constantly remind them to be careful about emails they receive and respond to and links they click. This is like the holiday shopping season for hackers. They’ll prey on your trying to do many things in a short time while under stress. If something looks just the slightest bit out of place, don’t click. Make a phone call.

If you are working at home and/or have kids at home who need to learn online, here’s what you should be doing.

  • Make sure you have the internet and Wi-Fi capacity to handle multiple users at one time. You could have two people working and using cellphones while your kids are either online for classes or homework and/or streaming 4k content on HD TVs or other devices.
  • Make sure your network is secure with a strong password – complemented by antivirus and malware protection software for every device that comes on your network. If your Wi-Fi system has the capability, set up a guest network for family and friends who visit – even though we’re not supposed to have visitors. It will help keep your network secure.
  • Make sure everyone who is on your network has strong passwords for online activities, and make sure everyone in your home has up-to-date firmware, OS software and app software for every device and system they have.
  • Make sure everyone in your home understands the threats caused by hackers. If you’re working at home, you’ll be under stress, so be careful about the emails you open and the links you click. Your kids at home may be bored. Make sure they are careful about the emails they open, the chats they get involved in and the links they click.

Again, take a deep breath, exhale slowly and relax. Take an extra minute to make sure you have your technology safe and functioning and take two extra minutes to make sure everyone – at the office and at home – is aware of the need to practice good online health while we try to avoid getting sick.

Finally, know that we are available to help you, your employees and your family be happy and productive online. Call us – 973-433-6676 – for any problems you have with technology at home or work. We’ll do our best to solve your problems by remote, and we’re still available for onsite visits to solve your problems.

We can all get through this together. We just need to be careful with our personal health and technological health.

All the best,

Norman Rosenthal
Sterling Rose