Tag Archives: data

Cyber breach of IRS records

Image By: Sean MacEntee

CNN has reported that the major cyber breach of IRS records that happened recently originated in Russia.  According to the CNN news report over 100,000 people had their tax returns stolen, but just how big of a breach actually occurred hasn’t been determined yet as the IRS’ Criminal Investigation Unit and the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration are still conducting their investigation.

On Thursday, May 28 the FBI also opened their own investigation, and the Homeland Security Department was alerted. None of these agencies are discussing their ongoing investigations with the publci. Essentially, what is known is that the Russians have infiltrated the computer systems in both the White House and the State Department. This isn’t the first time that taxpayer data has been released. Taxpayer’s data security has actually been a problem for many years now (since 1997 according to the testimony about IRS Systems Security given before the Committee on Governmental Affairs at the U.S. Senate on Thursday, April 10, 1997). In fact, the IRS even goes so far as to call this their “number one problem.” With this breach, lawmakers on Capitol Hill began demanding answers.

As Rep. Peter Roskam said, “It’s a problem, no matter where it’s coming from.” However, the IRS isn’t alone when it comes to security breaches. Recently, millions of customers at Target, as well as Anthem Blue Cross, Blue Shield have also had their data compromised. Even Turbo Tax temporarily halted their service because of fraud. So, in today’s day and age, it is more important than ever to keep an eye on our private information. There are even some people who claim that things will get worse before getting better.

Regardless of whether the IRS contacted you or not, it is a good idea to sign up for a credit monitoring service. If you are one of the more than 100,000 households that were affected, the IRS will offer you these services for free. This is a significant step to engage in because this stolen information is oftentimes used to open credit card accounts on which the criminals rack up a lot of fraudulent charges. It is important to understand that even this doesn’t give you a full protection but it does provide for some against criminals who are trying to open new lines of credit in your name.

U.S. Secret Service Investigating Possible Data Breach at Sears?

Sears Holdings Corp. is launching an investigation in the wake of cyber attacks on other retail stores.  Sears, the retailer run by Edward Lampert, has not revealed any details of an actual attack or security breach.

Sears spokesman Howard Riefs said in a press statement, “There have been rumors and reports throughout the retail industry of security incidents at various retailers and we are actively reviewing our systems to determine if we have been a victim of a breach.”

Riefs added that there has been no information to indicate a breach so far which completely contradicts a report made by Bloomberg News.  Bloomberg News, using an un-indentified source, reported that the U.S. Secret Service was involved in investigating a secret breach at Sears.  The U.S. Secret Service is remaining quiet on whether or not it is actually investigating a breach at the retailer.

What is known is that the U.S. Secret Service is leading the investigation into last year’s cyber attack on Target and last year’s attack on Neiman Marcus.  The Target breach lead to the theft of approximately 40 million credit/debit card numbers and over 70 million pieces of personal data.  Neiman Marcus has also faced the harm of a data breach.  The luxury retailer had 1.1 million credit and debit cards hacked by malware that infiltrated terminals point of sale systems.

Target, Neiman Marcus and other retailers who have experienced data breaches are attempting to gain back customer support by doing a lot of damage control. Target has offered free credit monitoring  and identity theft protection to customers for free for one year as part of its damage control efforts.

The rumor that Sears is investigating a possible security breach may still harm the retailer.  Lampert has struggled to make Sears profitable after 28 straight quarters of declining sales. A tarnished image from a potential data breach isn’t going to make shoppers rush out to buy anything from the retailer.

Original reports of the Target and Neiman Marcus breaches made clear that it could take months to confirm that breaches were made, how many victims were affected, and account for what data was stolen.

New video sneak peek at ‘The Fifth Estate’


We talk in here a great deal about online security and what can happen with that security is breached. Both good and bad things can happen. We have also heard a great deal in the media about “The Fifth Estate.” Not exactly a new concept, but one which is gaining in momentum:

***The Fifth Estate refers to citizen journalism. “Fifth Estate” is used to describe media outlets (including the blogosphere) that see themselves in opposition to mainstream media (the official press), any class or group in society other than the clergy (First Estate), the nobility (Second Estate), the commoners (Third Estate) and the press (Fourth Estate). It has been used to describe civil society, the poor or the proletariat.***

We have heard a great deal about WikiLeaks, which has forever changed the way people view information and data, both the release of it as well as the hiding it.  “The Fifth Estate” is a new thriller movie which is based on the real events.

Official description . . . “WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange (Benedict Cumberbatch) and his colleague Daniel Domscheit-Berg (Daniel Brühl) team up to become underground watchdogs of the privileged and powerful. On a shoestring, they create a platform that allows whistleblowers to anonymously leak covert data, shining a light on the dark recesses of government secrets and corporate crimes. Soon, they are breaking more hard news than the world’s most legendary media organizations combined. But when Assange and Berg gain access to the biggest trove of confidential intelligence documents in U.S. history, they battle each other and a defining question of our time: what are the costs of keeping secrets in a free society—and what are the costs of exposing them?”

I know I’m excited to see this side of the story and where actions like these may lead.


THE FIFTH ESTATE opens in theatres everywhere on October 18th!

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How The Cloud Saves Your Data from Total Destruction

save your data in the cloud If you’ve needed to access work-related information from anywhere other than the office, you understand the inherent value of cloud computing. Cloud computing stores everything from graphs to policy briefings online, making them available to authorized users via the Internet. Not long ago, only large companies with a vast amount of expensive information networks could afford to give their employees this level of convenience and efficiency. Cloud storage gives small businesses a secure method of online backup while providing fluid access to information without the drawbacks of hard drives, flash drives and disks.

Have a Safety Net

While operating your small business on a cloud system of computing undoubtedly saves time and money, like any method of information storage, backup is essential. While a cloud system stores information on the Internet, a cloud backup system duplicates all online material before storing it with an online-storage service provider. Should your cloud system become compromised or damaged, the only method of protection is using an online backup service, which can be a life saver.

Proactive Damage Prevention

Imagine there’s a major technological catastrophe at your workplace. Someone hacks into the network and damages the cloud. That means every link, connection, contract and categorized folder inside the cloud is potentially damaged. Now think about this: How much money would your company lose if your entire bank of information was inaccessible for several days or more?

  • A major corporation with hundreds of IT specialists can perform damage control by attempting to recover as much intact information as possible.
  • As a small business, the recovery period is likely to take much longer, costing more time and money than necessary.

Total Recovery

Most small-business owners keep copies, either hard or virtual, of only their most important files, such as tax information or patent designs. Unfortunately, this information isn’t necessary for successful day-to-day operations, and the data that is critical to keep the business running smoothly is rarely backed up.

  • When it comes to preserving profitability, all documents, information and contact lists become vital.
  • Installing cloud backup is like adding a layer of carbon paper to your pad. Once installed, everything you have stored or will store in your cloud automatically transfers to an off-site virtual vault, where it remains until needed.

System & Program Storage

Accessing daily operational documents is only half the battle when it comes to running your small business. Another important feature of cloud backup is system and program storage.

  • Imagine that in addition to your documents, graphs and individual files, your business relies on three separate programs for estimating contractor fees, delivering paychecks and viewing potential worksites with detailed underground utility maps. Cloud backup not only stores these programs, it also preserves any information normally stored in each program.
  • A cloud system lets you control which employees have access to specific information. Having online backup means preserving the security settings for each individual program and file. When you implement cloud backup, the security settings are automatically installed.

Fast Access

Should your cloud system become inaccessible or damaged, the cloud backup lets you continue operating your business by immediately providing a duplicate version of your entire cloud. Exact procedures depend on the backup software, but you can be assured that implementing the cloud backup storage takes less time and costs less money than correcting a corrupted system.

Did hacktivist group Antisec take a big bite out of Apple?

Hactivist group Antisec strikes again – or did they?  Did they manage to take a bite out of the big “Apple” and do it from and FBI agent’s Dell notebook?  According to the Anonymous-allied hackers, they have and it’s been reported that a list of 12.4 million Apple Unique Device Identifiers (UDID) was gained.   This information also provided user names, device names and types and for some it included names, addresses, cell and home phone numbers.  Sounds like an identity theft nightmare, or it would be if Antisec wasn’t playing “Robin Hood” to the FBI’s Sheriff John, or so the story goes.

Did this hacking really happen?

According to the FBI (Oh no you didn’t!) .  A recent FBI statement denies stating,  “The FBI is aware of published reports alleging that an FBI laptop was compromised and private data regarding Apple UDIDs was exposed. At this time, there is no evidence indicating that an FBI laptop was compromised or that the FBI either sought or obtained this data.”

According to Antisec, Continue reading Did hacktivist group Antisec take a big bite out of Apple?

“Anonymous” targets Stratfor: Credit card data information breach

Over the holiday weekend, it wasn’t only the elves that were busy or naughty little children that were disappointed.  The hacker collective known as “Anonymous” was busy in his and/or her workshop too creating a data breach targeting Stratfor, an international security think tank.
Who is Stratfor?
Stratfor, based in Austin, Texas “provides political, economic and military analysis to help clients reduce risk” according to their own promotions. 
Who is Anonymous?
Well, who knows really but Anonymous is a group of hackers who’ve hacked off several companies in the past year and then tweeted taunts from their own twitter account.  Anonymous is known for their signature stamp of a circle that reads “Anonymous is legion.  We do not forget.  We do not forgive.”  On the outside there is a circular chain and on the inside a headless business suit.  Hmmm… It kind of looks like a regrettable tattoo.
What the hackers did:
1. Anonymous reportedly ransacked Stratfor’s computers, stealing thousands of credit card number and other personal information.
2. To date, Anonymous has published two lists of credit card details to the Internet with of total of about 17,000 credit card listings.
3. There have also been large donations made from the credit cards to charities such as the Red Cross.
“These donations will never reach the ones in need,” writes Mikko Hypponen at F-Secure. “In fact, these actions will just end up hurting the charities, not helping them.  Credit card companies will do a chargeback to the charities, which will have to return the money. In some cases, charities could be hit with penalties. At the very least, they will lose time and money in handling chargebacks.”
What the hackers claimed to have done:
Anonymous also claims to have gleaned the company’s confidential client list containing sensitive information about high profile clients that just might include Apple, the U.S. Air Force and the Miami P.D. Continue reading “Anonymous” targets Stratfor: Credit card data information breach

Is the United States getting “smart” about credit cards?

So what happens when the United States lags behind in credit card technology?  Does it really matter if the rest of the industrialized world is now using credit cards with chips instead of magnetic strips?  Well, it does matter if you’re an overseas traveler.
As other countries have already adopted credit cards with chips and are done with or at least transitioning out credit cards with magnets, not all places abroad even have a “swipe” machine for magnetic strip credit cards, including places like train kiosk.  In other places, businesses use both but U.S. travelers have been learning that cashiers are often very unfamiliar with how to use the seemingly obsolete machines.
The smart cards, called EVM cards, have an encrypted chip to tighten security.  This EVM was a joint project of Visa, MasterCard and Europay.
Wells Fargo gave out 15,000 credit cards with chips earlier this year and reports that the response for international travelers was a huge success.  Wells Fargo says they plan to offer more chip embedded credit cards for travelers.  U.S. Bank also gave 20,000 select travel rewards customers smart cards this year as well.

Discount Coupon: Stellar Phoenix Windows Recovery (April)

We’ve already done reviews on this site about Stellar Phoenix Windows Recovery (negatives and) positives for data backup and data recovery.

Stellar just announced that they have a coupon for getting a 10% discount.

This discount applies to ALL products available at the site through the link below (StellarInfo.com – link takes you there directly).

The discount lasts only through the end of April, so you’ll need to be quick.

Get a 10% discount on all products available through Stellar
(Including Stellar Phoenix Windows Recovery)

Code: April2011

Data Rescue 3 (for PC Windows Users)

Save $60 over retail on Data Rescue 3 PC by getting it on Amazon
Link below takes you directly to Amazon price and page:

Mac Version here:


I saw someone online say that Data Rescue 3 for Windows was made by a company called Recoversoft.

I’m fairly certain (99.999% sure) that the company is actually called Prosoft.

I’m not sure if they were ever called Recoversoft, but you can see the company listed on the Amazon page is Prosoft.

Data Rescue 3 is really known for being a popular recovery software among Mac users.

However, PC (Windows XP, Windows Vista, and Windows 7) users will also find Prosoft’s data recovery software to be a great tool for help with data recovery on Windows machines.

One of the reviewers on Amazon said that they got confused by the user Interface, but that the tech support was able to help very quickly simply by sending back a couple of emails.

The review goes on to say that the software worked very well for them after learning how to use the program.

Generally speaking, for both the Windows and Mac versions of Data Rescue 3, the big selling point is the customer support.

People feel like when they do get stuck, Prosoft is there to help them with a real person who understands their questions and responds in a helpful way.

Another reviewer said that one nice thing about Prosoft’s software is that it does not require Windows to be running in order to get back your data. This particular reviewer was using Windows Vista and when he ran into trouble and called Prosoft, they “actually answered the phone and even called me back”.

If you can get a software company to restore your confidence and give you great answers to your challenges, that’s a product worth looking into.

If you are in need of data recovery for your Windows machine, we recommend taking a look at Data Rescue 3 PC.

You’ll find the best price for the software on Amazon.

Save $60 over retail on Data Rescue 3 PC by getting it on Amazon
Link below takes you directly to Amazon price and page:

(Mac Version here: http://www.identitytheftsecrets.com/data-rescue-3-mac)

Stellar Data Recovery Review

Get a free download of Stellar Data Recovery (trial) through the review link:

In our review of Stellar Data Recovery, we found few difficulties or challenges. The software installs easily, the program does what it says it will do.

While it won’t recover all files ( no software can recover everything – especially if your files have been lost due to serious physical damage of a hard drive), Stellar Data recovery can help you get back your data.

What causes data loss?

Files become corrupted. This means that the basic structure of the data breaks apart.

Think of it like a chain linked together.

If the chain gets pulled too hard, or if physical pressure causes some change to the chain, the links can become weak and even break.

A file or data can become corrupted for a variety of reasons.

Some possible ways that Data Loss can occur include:

Resizing of partitions on a hard drive (which can either be incomplete or simply not work)
Computer malfunction (where the data isn’t “linked” correctly in the process of creating it)
Formatting a hard drive (which is basically like melting all the links back to their basic metal form)
Damage in the bootup/startup records (Where the computer simply can’t find the chain it needs)
Files that are cross-linked (two processes pulling on the chain at the same time expecting it to do different things)
Infections from viruses (Think of rust or metal eating bacteria)
Power Surges (sudden and powerful pulls on the chain)

Stellar Data Recovery seems to work well regardless of the reasons for data loss.

The program (in the time we reviewed it) worked well for data recovery on all kinds of damaged files.

Some of the tools that we liked while reviewing the Stellar Data Recovery software included:
A utility called S.M.A.R.T. which checks the drive and offers quick alerts
Cloning and imaging of the hard drive (creating a backup easily)
Easy searching for any specific file or folder (assuming you know what’s missing on your hard drive)
File Recovery for deleted files (if you’ve deleted an MS PowerPoint, Word, Excel, Access, BKF, or Zip file, Stellar Data Recovery can get it back for you).

Stellar Data Recovery can also get back audio, video, and photo files from your computer’s Hard Drive, or peripherals like memory cards, thumb/pen drives, SD cards, and other external drives.

And, as you would expect from a data recovery software, Stellar offers e-mail recovery which will help you get back deleted or lost emails in Microsoft Outlook and Outlook Express.

Overall, our review of Stellar Data Recovery was a positive experience.

Get a free download of Stellar Data Recovery (trial) through the review link: