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E-Mail Hack Biggest Crime in History

Apr 7, 2011

By Steffen Schmidt 

 
 
By Steffen Schmidt
 
The world’s largest “permissions-based” e-mail marketing company, Epsilon, reported late last week that someone hacked into its computer system and stole an unknown number of e-mail addresses and names.
 
This is probably the single largest criminal act in history in terms of numbers of people affected since this company potentially has compromised the recipients of the 40 BILLION or so e-mails they send out each year.  As you know, I am a professor of public policy and have co-written with Michael McCoy two books on identity theft. I am also co-founder of the blog stolendata.blogspot.com and a developer of the Iowa State university Engineering On Line certification workshop Information Security and Identity Theft Policy. 
 
To me this is a stunning example of the huge risk anyone using e-mail now faces of being the victim of highly targeted “Spear Phishing” which is a sophisticated form of sending real-looking links to companies the recipient is familiar with (such as a bank or a retailer) and then soliciting “updates” or other information. The unsuspecting person clicks on the link and is routed to a criminal web site where their accounts and even potentially their full identity will be stolen.
 
Some of the companies affected are Kroger; TiVo; U.S. Bank; JP Morgan Chase; Capital One; Citi; Home Shopping Network; Ameriprise Financial; LL Bean Visa Card; McKinsey & Company; Ritz-Carlton Rewards; Marriott Rewards; Hilton; New York & Company; Brookstone; Walgreens; The College Board; Disney Destinations; TIAA/CREF; Red Roof Inns; and Best Buy. Unfortunately we still don’t know the extent of the breach because the company has been sketchy in its transparency. 
In other words, there is a good chance that as you read this YOU will now be targeted with spear phishing e-mail because your e mail and name associated with one or more of these businesses was stolen! Be very careful what you click on for many years. Usually the cyber crime syndicates wait a while, create fake web sites, and plan strategy before trying to commit their acts. 
 
I know for a fact that it will be many, many years of painful and costly trouble for millions of people. I have also said that someone needs to be tried, convicted, and do serious jail time for such negligence of a huge and sensitive data base. We know that fines and slaps on the wrist have never worked either with the oil industry, mining, banking and Wall Street, or the airlines in terms of inspecting fuselages. 
 
We know that the federal government is panicked about hacks and attacks against the military and other national security infrastructure. The same digital or cyber war is also being fought against the civilian U.S. population in terms of financial as well as identity theft. This incident is a clear example of how high the risks have become in the age of the Internet. It suggests that we need much more demanding national information security management and protection policy. Republicans may want to deregulate but this is what happens when companies are allowed to more-or-less self regulate. There is no compelling reason for them to spend more money on security. 
 
This type of event is happening more and more frequently which is why we have created the class Information Security and Identity Theft Policy taught through Engineering On Line, Iowa State University.
 
The class is for professionals in the insurance, law enforcement, financial services, education, healthcare, and other industries need to be trained and certified in information security to meet federal and state best practices. I think the class is also of interest to consumers because it goes through all of the forms of ID theft and discusses some remedial and protective steps that people can take. 
 
This short Internet class provides professionals with the necessary security and Identity theft awareness training and awards a certificate upon successful completion. The class is very user friendly guiding the students through each module to completion at their own pace. We have included video clips and other visual material to make the class interesting as well as practical. 
 
If you want to check out the class and costs please go to the link below.
 
 
You can sign up now. The class runs 24-7 all year round on the Internet.
 
________
 
Steffen “Dr Politics” Schmidt is a University Professor of Political Science and Public Policy at Iowa State University, a Des Moines Register blogger, and the Chief Political and International Correspondent for InsiderIowa.com. He has studied, written and commented on the Iowa caucuses since 1970 and is a frequent commentator on television including CNN en Español. He is the lead author of the most widely used college textbook, American Government and Politics Today (Cengage Publishing) now in its 17th 2011-2012 edition. 

 

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