Quick Blips: January 2018

Tech Scams

(1) An Oct. 6 Alteryx data breach in a cloud-based repository was made public on Dec. 19, 2017. It exposed up to 248 identity fields, but excluded the individual’s names.  Alteryx’s data sets appear to belong to Experion, a credit reporting agency.

(2) Sonic, America’s Drive-In, is the latest victim of a potential data breach. KrebsOnSecurity1, a news website suspected the Sonic breach compromised Sonic’s system. Cyber thieves make a decent haul by selling the identities on the Dark Web. You may contact your credit card company to cancel your card and ask them to issue you a new one. You may also contact Equifax, Experian, or TransUnion credit report agencies to place a fraud alert on your credit report. The fraud alert lasts for 90 days, but you can renew it. Buyers may not use your identity information for a while, giving you a false sense of security.

(3) Norton discovered a number of “Porn Clicker” malware apps on the Google Play Store. They silently connect with pornographic websites in order to fraudulently earn the developers of the malware “click-through advertising” revenue. The malware automatically reboots without the user’s consent. This malware consumes bandwidth, reduces battery life and the performance of a users’ device. (4) Mailsploit: Emails have been exploited to permit sender spoofing. Mailsploit is a collective name for several vulnerabilities affecting e-mail clients. By Dec. 5, 2017, thirty-three different email bases were attacked. The attacker falsifies the address the mail comes from.  The recipient thinks the mail is coming from you and opens it willingly. The false sender delivers a malicious email to target a recipient in your email address file. You may go to https://mailsploit.com to see if your vendor has been affected by Mailsploit. Many have been “patched,” while some others have been “triaged.” Mozilla and Opera refuse to fix the bug because they consider it a server-side problem.

All internet devices need protection, including your granddaughter’s new Internet-connected teddy bear, who reads her bedtime stories, and your own Alexa by Echo, for examples.

(Norton by Symantec Corp. <us.Norton.com/internetsecurity-emerging threats…. Dec. 22, 2017.)

Other Scams

Andrew Johnson, a Consumer Information specialist with the FTC, warns readers to avoid garments, gizmos, pills, or potions that promise weight loss. He says never trust any weight loss product that promises no diet or exercise. The reality is a definite change of lifestyle to lose weight. The FTC has fined several major companies for false advertising without true scientific evidence. (Dec. 29, 2017). Lesley Fair reports that the companies were nailed with a $40 million judgment. (Consumer Protection Year in Review, FTC. Dec. 28, 2017). 

Tax Identity Theft Awareness Week

January 29—February 2, 2018 is designated as tax identity theft awareness week. Thieves may be looking forward to getting your refund. All they need is your social security number to get a tax refund or a job. Visit <ftc.gov/taxidtheft> for details about a free webinar. (Gresin, Seena.  Attorney, Division of Consumer and Business Education, FTC. Dec. 27, 2017.)

Tips to Avoid Falls in the Ice and Snow

Winterize shoes, boots or assistive devices with spike-less ice and snow gripper sole covers. Find them in sporting goods stores. Purchase online ice grippers for cane tips. Choose winter shoes with rubber soles to maintain traction. Carry kitty litter in a sealed plastic bag in your pocket and cast it ahead of you on slippery surfaces. Attach tiny flashlights to your key chains for our shortened daylight hours. (NCOA National Council on Aging. Dec. 2017).

Do Homework for Medical Services 

Check with your Emergency Room and your anesthetist prior to needing them to see if they accept your insurance. Make sure you know what is in network and what is out of network. The hospital may be in network while the hospitalist is not. (News Channel 10 at 6:00 pm Amarillo. June 19, 2017.) 

Unwanted Pre-Approved Credit Card Offers

It may rightly scare you to consider what pre-approved credit cards can do in the hands of thieves. You may opt out by calling 1-888-5OPTOUT. Your social security number is required. If you do not opt out, you must shred everything that has any personal information on it. (Davis, April. “Regional BBB Shares Tips on Avoiding Unwanted Credit Card Offers. Borger News-Herald. Aug. 2, 2017. p. 1.) 

Monitor Your Credit Reports

Bev O’Shea of NerdWallet writes, “Monitoring your credit reports should be like flossing: a routine that’s not fascinating but that can help prevent something painful from developing.” (USA Today. Rpt. in Amarillo Globe-News. Oct. 22, 2017. B 11.)

Upon Aging

Nine of the ten 2017 Nobel honorees in science and economics were over 70 years of age. The tenth honoree was 68. John Goodenough (95), team leader and researcher at UT in Austin, developed a cheap, fast-charging battery that could revolutionize electric vehicles. (“For Nobel Winners, Age Is Just a Number.” AARP Bulletin. Nov. 2017, p. 6.) Pioneering brain scientist Brenda Milner, 99, offered groundbreaking research that unlocked the mysteries of memory. She continues to explore links between brain function and behavior. She is a neuroscientist and professor at Canada’s prestigious McGill University. She claims to be curious and interested in human quirks. In the 1950s, she discovered that the hippocampus is the seat of memories. The hippocampus is getting attention now for its role in memory loss and dementia. (Play to Your Strengths—Something That Challenges You a Bit!” AARP Bulletin. Oct. 2017, p. 34.)  It’s a shame that our minds are so easily duped by Facebook users’ prompts and targeted ads which used tools and words to divide people and influence their thinking, by insurance sharks that put out false information to confuse minds, and by our own laxity in using and developing our minds. We cannot all be geniuses, but we must not let our minds deteriorate for lack of challenge. Earl Nightingale (one of 15 survivors on the USS Arizona, a radio and motivational speaker) wrote, “When we set an important goal for ourselves, we present to our minds a problem to be solved, a challenge to be successfully fulfilled." What new challenge is expanding your brain?

Smiling and Flu Shots

Kavita Vedhara, a researcher at the University of Nottingham in the United Kingdom, says, “We have known since 1996 that negative moods like stress affect how well our vaccines work. . . . A positive good, healthy diet, exercise and lower stress all lead to an improved immune response, but the biggest factor in how well the vaccine works is the patient’s mood on the day of the vaccination.”   A person in a happier mood has more antibodies, which causes a higher immunity. (“To Prevent Flu, Smile!” AARP Bulletin. Nov. 2017. p. 4).