Low tech thieves risk biting dogs and nosy neighbors to boost a delivery from Amazon left on your porch by FedEx or the US Postal Service. The sophisticated package booster is alert to your cleverly hidden camera in a doorbell and will park his vehicle a few feet down the curb so as to preclude the capture of his or her license plate. Many of us have had bar-b-cue grills, bicycles and hose reels stolen, all aggravating and terribly inconvenient. Recently a thief walked into our open garage and helped themselves to Sharon’s purse, left in the car seat, which was a major and expensive event for us. (The smart key for her car set us back 500.00 and that was just the beginning!) If you are reading this post, then you are at least computer savvy enough to be at risk for another, far more sophisticated kind of thievery that is rocking our world. Privacy is no longer a matter of closed doors and window blinds. Let’s have a look at what is going on, in terms that do not require Sheldon Cooper’s skill set to understand.
Your online identity is for sale. A recent Fox News article notes that cyber-security experts have attached a price tag of just north of $1,700.00 for for this information that typically contains such things as credit card data, your SSAN, billing address and the names of your children and purchasing preferences. There is an active market for your identity on the “dark web”, information that enables high tech thieves to rely on technical expertise rather than a strong back to steal from you. Although the price fluctuates, much like the stock market, a Netflix account, Uber login, or AirBnB account will fetch around $10.00 each, a la carte. Your g-mail log in can be bought on the dark web for as little as 1.00 while your I-Tunes account is worth around $15.00. If you rely on PayPal, and we do, the account information for this little gem will bring around $250.00 to the enterprising cyber thief. Did you ever have unauthorized purchases on a credit card? In spite of chip readers and other retail technologies, credit card information in the hands of a internet thief can be quite lucrative, the price for a single credit card on the dark web ranges from $5.00 to $20.00 with savvy dark web buyers paying as much as $100.00 for two complete card ID’s or $350.00 for ten. When you secure an online purchase with a credit card, you are “guaranteed” the security of the card information. By whom and what is the penalty for compromise? Years ago, I received a Sunday morning phone call from a Discover fraud investigator. Our Discover account had been used to purchase a large assortment of baby clothes and furniture. I established a rapport with the investigator and was able to obtain the delivery address for this purchase. One of our investigators was able to locate this address and the young, very pregnant resident who, after careful questioning, confessed to pulling our card information from a file in her place of employment, a movie rental store. She and her attorney pressed us for a compassionate response given her condition. These pleas fell on deaf ears and we went to court resulting in her sentence to a term in jail. (This was not her first use of a customer’s card to steal). Dark web operatives are much, much harder to detect and adjudicate, than this high tech porch thief!
An old technology is the use of passwords to gain access to various accounts, the first level of security. There is malware, such as “Keylogger” that will capture every one of them, a handy acquisition for the dark web operative and obviously terribly inconvenient for you. The recent FaceBook fiasco, in which millions of account records have been compromised, is a treasure trove for dark web operatives with each complete social media account worth about $40.00 to the thieves. Do you have a Smart TV? Yes? Perfect as these essential components of virtually every household in America are also capturing data about your life’s preferences. There is a little understood aspect to viewing your favorite shows called “Automatic Content Recognition”, capturing remarkable marketing information for use by companies who will rely on it to direct market to your preferences. It is just another way that your behavior is being tracked, a potential bit of intelligence that can be used by dark web operatives. This information seems harmless, and usually is, but can become a part of your dark web profile and provide lead information related to your retail preferences, and by extension, account information. Wow!
The astute reader, by now, is asking about counter measures. Yes, they exist and dark web operatives are constantly refining their arsenal of counter measures to the counter measures that we rely on! It is a never ending game to these folks. I have friends who have been alert to these possibilities for years and avoid the internet when making purchases, instead relying on brick and mortar retail. When we talk, I promote the cost advantages and convenience of the internet and they respond with the horrid cost and inconvenience of a compromised identity. When you are not compromised, the convenience afforded by the internet is a great thing. An enterprising hacker can turn this convenience into a tremendous inconvenience by simply shopping the dark web.
Convenience can be expensive……