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TECH SUPPORT FRAUD

Below is an important update from the Federal Bureau of Investigations’ cybercrime webpage detailing the problem of technical support fraud, suggestions for protection and how to report it:

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Based on new reporting, the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) is providing updated guidance regarding technical support fraud. Tech Support Fraud involves a criminal claiming to provide customer, security, or technical support in an effort to defraud unwitting individuals. This type of fraud continues to be a problematic and widespread scam.

In 2017, the IC3 received approximately 11,000 complaints related to tech support fraud. The claimed losses amounted to nearly $15 million, which represented an 86% increase in losses from 2016. While a majority of tech support fraud involves victims in the United States, IC3 has received complaints from victims in 85 different countries.

Criminals may pose as a security, customer, or technical support representative offering to resolve such issues as a compromised e-mail or bank account, a virus on a computer, or to assist with a software license renewal. Some recent complaints involve criminals posing as technical support representatives for GPS, printer, or cable companies, or support for virtual currency exchangers.

As this type of fraud has become more commonplace, criminals have started to pose as government agents, even offering to recover supposed losses related to tech support fraud schemes or to request financial assistance with “apprehending” criminals.

HOW THE FRAUD OCCURS

Initial contact with the victim typically occurs through the following methods:

Telephone: A victim receives an unsolicited telephone call from an individual claiming the victim’s device or computer is infected with a virus or is sending error messages to the caller. Callers are generally reported to have strong, foreign accents.

Search Engine Advertising: Individuals in need of tech support may use online search engines to find technical support companies. Criminals pay to have their fraudulent tech support company’s link show higher in search results hoping victims will choose one of the top links in search results.

Pop-up message: The victim receives an on-screen pop-up message claiming a virus has been found on their computer. In order to receive assistance, the message requests the victim call a phone number associated with the fraudulent tech support company.

Locked screen on a device: The victim’s device displays a frozen, locked screen with a phone number and instructions to contact a fraudulent tech support company. Some victims have reported being redirected to alternate Web sites before the locked screen occurs.

Pop-ups and Locked Screens

  • Often accompanied by a recorded, verbal message to contact a phone number for assistance.
  • Frequently programmed into links for advertisements or popular topics on social media.
  • Web addresses of popular Web sites (such as social media or financial Web sites) can be typo-squatted to result in a pop-up or locked screen if the victim incorrectly types the intended Web site address.

Phishing e-mail warning: The victim receives a phishing e-mail warning of a possible intrusion to their computer or an e-mail warning of a fraudulent account charge to their bank accounts or credit cards. The e-mail provides a phone number for the recipient to contact the fraudulent tech support.

Once the fraudulent tech support company representative makes verbal contact with the victim, the criminal tries to convince the victim to provide remote access to the victim’s device. If the device is a tablet or smart phone, the criminal often instructs the victim to connect the device to a computer. Once remotely connected, the criminal claims to find expired licenses, viruses, malware, or scareware. The criminal will inform the victim the issue can be removed for a fee. Criminals usually request payment through personal/electronic check, bank/wire transfer, debit/credit card, prepaid card, or virtual currency.

Another widespread issue is “the fake refund.” In this scheme, the criminal contacts the victim offering a refund for tech support services previously rendered. The criminal requests access to the victim’s device and instructs the victim to login to their online bank account to process a refund. As a result, the criminal gains control of the victim’s device and bank account. With this access, the criminal makes it appear as if too much money was refunded to the victim’s account and requests the victim return the difference back to the criminal’s company via a wire transfer or prepaid cards. In reality, there was no refund at all. Instead, the criminal transferred funds among the victim’s own accounts (checking, savings, retirement, etc.) to make it appear as though funds were deposited. The victim “returns” their own money to the criminal. The “refund and return” process can occur multiple times, resulting in the victim potentially losing thousands of dollars.

VARIATIONS AND TRENDS

Tech support fraud was originally an attempt by criminals to gain access to devices to extort payment for fraudulent services. However, criminals are creating new techniques and versions of the scheme to advance and perpetuate the fraud.

Re-targeting previous victims and contacts

  • Criminals pose as government officials or law enforcement. The criminal offers assistance in recovering losses from a previous tech support fraud incident. The criminal either requests funds from the victim to assist with the investigation or to cover fees associated with returning the lost funds.
  • Criminals pose as collection services claiming the victim did not pay for prior tech support services. The victim is often threatened with legal action if the victim does not pay a settlement fee.

Virtual currency

Virtual currency is increasingly targeted by tech support criminals, with individual victim losses often in the thousands of dollars.

  • Criminals pose as virtual currency support. Victims contact fraudulent virtual currency support numbers usually located via open source searches. The fraudulent support asks for access to the victim’s virtual currency wallet and transfers the victim’s virtual currency to another wallet for temporary holding during maintenance. The virtual currency is never returned to the victim, and the criminal ceases all communication.
  • Criminals who have access to a victim’s electronic device use the victim’s personal information and credit card to purchase and transfer virtual currency to an account controlled by the criminal.

Increasing use of victim’s personal information and accounts to conduct additional fraud

  • Criminals use the victim’s personal information to request bank transfers or open new accounts to accept and process unauthorized payments.
  • Criminals send phishing e-mails to the victim’s personal contacts from the victim’s computer.
  • Criminals download personal files containing financial accounts, passwords, and personal data (health records, social security numbers, tax information, etc.).

Additionally, IC3 complaints report:

  • Criminals who took control of victims’ devices and/or accounts and did not release control unless a ransom was paid.
  • Viruses, key logging software, and malware were installed on victims’ devices.
  • Criminals have become more belligerent, hostile, and abusive if challenged by victims.

SUGGESTIONS FOR PROTECTION

  • Remember that legitimate customer, security, or tech support companies will not initiate unsolicited contact with individuals.
  • Install ad-blocking software that eliminates or reduces pop-ups and malvertising (online advertising to spread malware).
  • Be cautious of customer support numbers obtained via open source searching. Phone numbers listed in a “sponsored” results section are likely boosted as a result of Search Engine Advertising.
  • Recognize fraudulent attempts and cease all communication with the criminal.
  • Resist the pressure to act quickly. Criminals will urge the victim to act fast to protect their device. The criminals create a sense of urgency to produce fear and lure the victim into immediate action.
  • Do not give unknown, unverified persons remote access to devices or accounts.
  • Ensure all computer anti-virus, security, and malware protection is up to date. Some victims report their anti-virus software provided warnings prior to attempt.

IF YOU ARE A VICTIM

  • Individuals who receive a pop-up or locked screen, should shut down the device immediately. Ignore any pop-ups instructing to not power off or restart the computer. Victims who reported shutting down the device and waiting a short time to restart usually find the pop-up or screen lock has disappeared.
  • Do not re-contact fraudulent tech scam companies. Expect additional fraudulent calls as these companies often share their customer database information.
  • Should a criminal gain access to a device or an account, individuals should take precautions to protect their identity. Immediately contact financial institutions to place protection on accounts as well as change passwords and actively monitor accounts and personal information for suspicious activity.

FILE A COMPLAINT

Individuals who believe they may be a victim of an online scam (regardless of dollar amount) should file a complaint with the IC3 at www.ic3.gov.screen-shot-2016-09-13-at-11-07-51-am The more often fraud and scams are reported, the better equipped law enforcement can be to address the issues.

To report tech support fraud, please be as descriptive as possible in the complaint including:

  1. Identifying information of the criminal and company. Include Web sites, phone numbers, and e-mail addresses used by the criminal and company or any numbers you may have called.
  2. Account names and numbers and financial institutions receiving any funds (e.g., bank accounts, wire transfers, prepaid card payments, virtual currency wallets) even if the funds were not actually lost.
  3. Description of interaction with the criminal.
  4. The e-mail, Web site, or link that caused a pop-up or locked screen.

Complainants are also encouraged to keep all original documentation, e-mails, faxes, and logs of all communications.

Because scams and fraudulent Web sites appear very quickly, individuals are encouraged to report possible Internet scams and fraudulent Web sites by filing a complaint with the IC3 at www.ic3.gov.screen-shot-2016-09-13-at-11-07-51-am To view previously released PSAs and Scam Alerts, visit the IC3 Press Room at www.ic3.gov/media/default.aspx.screen-shot-2016-09-13-at-11-07-51-am

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This icon appears next to every link that directs to a third party website not affiliated with Bank of Tucson. Please be advised that if you click this link you will be taken to a website hosted by another party, where you will no longer be subject to, or under the protection of, the privacy and security policies of Bank of Tucson. We recommend that you review and evaluate the privacy and security policies of the site that you are entering. Bank of Tucson assumes no liability for the content, information, security, policies or transactions provided by these other sites.

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Defenses Against Cybercrime

Through our work in cyber and information security, we have formed relationships with professionals at Secure the Villagescreen-shot-2016-09-13-at-11-07-51-am and Citadel Information Group.screen-shot-2016-09-13-at-11-07-51-am They have kindly allowed us to post on our blog site some of the articles they have authored about cyber security. This articlescreen-shot-2016-09-13-at-11-07-51-am provides a great overview of the business email compromise scam and how to avoid being taken in by it.

Business E-mail Compromise: Don’t Be a Victim

By Stan Stahl, PhD, President of Citadel Information Group, Inc. & Founder and President of Secure the Village

What to Do: Implement very strong controls on wire transfers

Screen Shot 2017-05-02 at 5.47.51 PMAssume all email or fax requests from a vendor to change bank accounts are fraudulent. Assume all email or fax requests from the company President or others are fraudulent. Assume all email or fax requests to set-up a new vendor are fraudulent. Pick up the phone, call the party in question and verify the request is legitimate.

If you discover you are a Business Email Compromise victim, immediately contact the FBI’s Southern California Cyber Fraud unit at sccf@leo.gov. They have established banking relationships and are often able to recover funds if they are notified within 72 hours.

And talk to your banker. Make sure they have your back.

It’s also a good idea to check with your insurance broker to ensure that business email compromise losses are covered.

Background

Not too long ago, email scams were relatively easy to detect. They were often from unknown contacts and referenced bank or credit card information which was clearly incorrect. Sometimes, the emails would simply contain a link. As time has passed, fraudulent attempts to gain control of your online banking, your critical information, and your identity have become more skillful and harder to spot. These days’ emails often appear to come from recognized accounts, are well written, and–at least at first glance–seem legitimate.

The newest — and one of the costliest — in a long line of fraudulent e-mail scams is “Business E-Mail Compromise” (BEC).

Business Email Compromise (BEC) is a very sophisticated attempt to induce a business to willingly hand over their money to a cybercriminal. In Business Email Compromise (BEC), crooks spoof communications from executives or vendors at the victim firm in a bid to initiate unauthorized wire transfers.

According to the FBI, thieves stole nearly $750 million in such scams from more than 7,000 victim companies in the U.S. between October 2013 and August 2015. Business Email Compromise cost Ubiquiti Networks $46 million.screen-shot-2016-09-13-at-11-07-51-am

Collectively, Business Email Compromise has resulted in actual and attempted losses of over a billion dollars worldwide. The FBI reports, “…since the beginning of 2015 there has been a 270 percent increase in identified BEC victims. Victim companies have come from all 50 U.S. states and nearly 80 countries abroad.”

BECs can target businesses working with foreign suppliers or regularly performing wire transfer payments, although they have also targeted some that do not strictly fit this criterion. In order to solicit unauthorized transfers of funds, the scams compromise legitimate business e-mail accounts through social engineering or computer intrusion techniques. Prior to making contact, the scammers learn enough about their target to create emails that use language specific to the company and request wire transfers that seem legitimate.

For more information on BECs, see https://www.fbi.gov/news/stories/2015/august/business-e-mail-compromise/business-e-mail-compromisescreen-shot-2016-09-13-at-11-07-51-am and http://krebsonsecurity.com/2015/08/fbi-1-2b-lost-to-business-email-scams/screen-shot-2016-09-13-at-11-07-51-am

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FBI: How to Protect Your Computer 

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Below are some key steps to protecting your computer from intrusion, as detailed on the Federal Bureau of Investigations’ cybercrime webpage:

Keep Your Firewall Turned On: A firewall helps protect your computer from hackers who might try to gain access to crash it, delete information, or even steal passwords or other sensitive information. Software firewalls are widely recommended for single computers. The software is prepackaged on some operating systems or can be purchased for individual computers. For multiple networked computers, hardware routers typically provide firewall protection.

Install or Update Your Antivirus Software: Antivirus software is designed to prevent malicious software programs from embedding on your computer. If it detects malicious code, like a virus or a worm, it works to disarm or remove it. Viruses can infect computers without users’ knowledge. Most types of antivirus software can be set up to update automatically.

Install or Update Your Antispyware Technology: Spyware is just what it sounds like—software that is surreptitiously installed on your computer to let others peer into your activities on the computer. Some spyware collects information about you without your consent or produces unwanted pop-up ads on your web browser. Some operating systems offer free spyware protection, and inexpensive software is readily available for download on the Internet or at your local computer store. Be wary of ads on the Internet offering downloadable antispyware—in some cases these products may be fake and may actually contain spyware or other malicious code. It’s like buying groceries—shop where you trust.

Keep Your Operating System Up to Date: Computer operating systems are periodically updated to stay in tune with technology requirements and to fix security holes. Be sure to install the updates to ensure your computer has the latest protection.

Be Careful What You Download: Carelessly downloading e-mail attachments can circumvent even the most vigilant anti-virus software. Never open an e-mail attachment from someone you don’t know, and be wary of forwarded attachments from people you do know. They may have unwittingly advanced malicious code.

Turn Off Your Computer: With the growth of high-speed Internet connections, many opt to leave their computers on and ready for action. The downside is that being “always on” renders computers more susceptible. Beyond firewall protection, which is designed to fend off unwanted attacks, turning the computer off effectively severs an attacker’s connection—be it spyware or a botnet that employs your computer’s resources to reach out to other unwitting users.

https://www.fbi.gov/investigate/cyberscreen-shot-2016-09-13-at-11-07-51-am

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Cyber security alert … There are only two kinds, which one are you?

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Thank you to article author Linda Drake of Trailblazer Advisors and to Inside Tucson Business for allowing us to republish this article on our blog.

Read the original article here:
http://www.insidetucsonbusiness.com/business_chatter/cyber-security-alert-there-are-only-two-kinds-which-one/article_993e8646-0d61-11e6-a13e-9bf1e63a7270.html↗

A common meme in the imploding industry of information security is the assertion that there are only two kinds of companies:

Those that have been hacked and those who don’t know they’ve been hacked!

Which one are you?

There are some stunning statistics* that every small and medium-sized business should know that require your attention and action for your protection.

No business or organization can prevent data breaches. A single credit card data breach can cost your business $217 per incident

According to experts, the cost of a company-wide data breach costs a minimum of $10,000

92 percent of companies experiencing a breach did not know it (they were notified by a 3rd party)

75 percent of breaches occur in businesses with less than 100 employees.

Only 25 percent of breaches are IT or hacker-related; this means 75 percent of breach events are related to current/former employees, customers, vendors, contractors and organized crime or social engineering.

Yet, 83 percent of SMB’s do not have a formal cybersecurity plan.

Most importantly, 64 percent of companies with 500 or fewer employees go out of business within a year of being hacked!

If the last statement does not compel you to take action, close your business down now!

The age of the ‘Internet of Everything’ is upon us. Companies need to harness this technology as an asset or potentially endure irreparable harm.  According to Gartner Research, companies incur four times the expense to respond to data breach events than the installation of appropriate security technology to prevent it.  Of course, the actual expense of a breach does not include the correspondent frustration, aggravation and untold embarrassment.

As a business owner you may be asking yourself, am I really at risk?  “Indeed, you really are!” retorted Kathy Delaney Winger, Esq., an attorney who practices in the area of cybersecurity.   “All companies must protect ‘Personally Identifiable Information,’ commonly termed (PII).” PII can be defined as any information about an individual maintained by an agency, including (1) any information that can be used to distinguish or trace an individual’s identity, such as name, social security number, date and place of birth, mother’s maiden name, or biometric records; and (2) any other information that is linked or linkable to an individual, such as medical, educational, financial, and employment information.”

“The truth is,” stated Kathy, “the definition of information is very broad, as is your obligation to protect it.  For example, even if a business owner hires a third party to perform services that involve the use of PII (such as payroll processors) the business owner may still be at risk if a breach occurs.”

According to Kathy, there are multiple factors that you should consider when thinking about cybersecurity and protecting your business.  “It’s critically important to be aware of the PII that your business is collecting, holding and/or sharing with third parties,” said Kathy.  “Once you’ve made yourself aware of it, you should take steps to protect the information and have a plan as to how you will handle matters (such as complying with your obligation to notify affected parties) in the event of a breach.”  Kathy recommends that business owners work closely with professionals who are knowledgeable in this area, including lawyers and companies that specialize in computer security.  According to Kathy, businesses should also discuss the issue with insurance professionals.  “I recommend that business owners consider purchasing cyber insurance that will protect the company should a breach occur,” said Kathy.  She continued “the statistics cited at the start of this article illustrate that, once a breach occurs, a company’s liability can be extensive.  Thus, business owners are well advised to insure against data breach losses just as they insure against many other kinds of losses.”

According to James Riley, CEO of JNR Networks, the number one technology virus is the user!  Most systems are compromised by users who knowingly or unknowingly create the vulnerability of access to your data.

So what steps should you take to protect your data and your company?

The first, most immediate action is modifying the approach to passwords.  Some IT experts suggest that you should treat passwords like underwear: don’t leave them where people can see them, change them often, do not lend them to others, and make sure they are a good “fit”. Further, the obfuscation of passwords is critical.

“Passwords should not include the obvious,” James suggests.  “Do not use passwords with your kids’ names, spouse, pets or anything that people know about you,” James commented. Passwords should be at least 8 characters that include upper and lower case, numbers and symbols.  The key to a unique and memorable password is the linking and twisting of terms that only have meaning to you.  “Spell words that are jumbled and have no relationship to each other, just to you.”

Beyond the password basics, James added, “All companies need at the very minimum, business grade (BG) antivirus software, BG firewalls, and BG equipment. But, all the best of these tools are nothing without the development of Acceptable Use Policies (AUP) that are established, reinforced and enforced in each company.”

One of our country’s greatest founding fathers had it right—

“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”

In the 18th century Ben Franklin had no idea that his words would be so applicable in this era coined, “The Third Wave of the Internet,” by AOL’s founder, Steve Case. The SMB bottom-line regarding cybersecurity is a simple message: explore, embrace, manage and, above all, control cyber technology before it controls you.

*Statistics presented by a panel of experts for AZ Tech Council at the recent Tech Junction Conference in Tucson.  Kathy Delaney Winger, Esq. of The Law Offices of Kathy Delaney Winger and James Riley, CEO of JNR Networks were two of the panelists.

Linda Drake is a 25 year, seasoned global entrepreneur, corporate executive, author and Certified Professional & Executive Coach.  As a CEO for CEO’s, Linda founded Trailblazer Advisors to catapult economic growth and leadership skills for business owners and senior management at any stage in the business lifecycle.  She believes that strong business leadership and entrepreneurism are the heart and promise of America. Linda is the President of the International Coaching Federation of Southern Arizona. 

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FBI Article: Ransomware on the Rise

We noticed that a lot of you really liked the last FBI cyber security article we ran. We’re pleased the Bureau has encouraged us to share their articles on this topic, so we’re happy to do so again. This article deals with a concerning type of cybercrime called ransomware, where a malware restricts access to the infected computer/network and demands that the operators pay some sort of ransom to regain control of their network. We hope this article is helpful to you. Please let us know if you have information or ideas on this topic that our readers may want to hear.

You can find this article, as well as many other articles you may find valuable to keep your business and staff secure against cybercrime, at this web address:

https://www.fbi.gov/news/stories/2015/january/ransomware-on-the-rise/ransomware-on-the-rise↗

For more information about fraud protection tools and product features provided by Bank of Tucson, please visit our website.

Ransomware on the Rise
FBI and Partners Working to Combat This Cyber Threat

Your computer screen freezes with a pop-up message—supposedly from the FBI or another federal agency—saying that because you violated some sort of federal law your computer will remain locked until you pay a fine. Or you get a pop-up message telling you that your personal files have been encrypted and you have to pay to get the key needed decrypt them.

Screen Shot 2015-12-03 at 10.50.23 AMThese scenarios are examples of ransomware scams, which involve a type of malware that infects computers and restricts users’ access to their files or threatens the permanent destruction of their information unless a ransom—anywhere from hundreds to thousands of dollars—is paid.

Ransomware doesn’t just impact home computers.
Businesses, financial institutions, government agencies, academic institutions, and other organizations can and have become infected with it as well, resulting in the loss of sensitive or proprietary information, a disruption to regular operations, financial losses incurred to restore systems and files, and/or potential harm to an organization’s reputation.

Ransomware has been around for several years, but there’s been a definite uptick lately in its use by cyber criminals. And the FBI, along with public and private sector partners, is targeting these offenders and their scams.

Screen Shot 2015-12-03 at 10.47.22 AMWhen ransomware first hit the scene, computers predominately became infected with it when users opened e-mail attachments that contained the malware.
But more recently, we’re seeing an increasing number of incidents involving so-called “drive-by” ransomware, where users can infect their computers simply by clicking on a compromised website, often lured there by a deceptive e-mail or pop-up window.

Another new trend involves the ransom payment method. While some of the earlier ransomware scams involved having victims pay “ransom” with pre-paid cards, victims are now increasingly asked to pay with Bitcoin, a decentralized virtual currency network that attracts criminals because of the anonymity the system offers.

Also a growing problem is ransomware that locks down mobile phones and demands payments to unlock them.

The FBI and our federal, international, and private sector partners have taken proactive steps to neutralize some of the more significant ransomware scams through law enforcement actions against major botnets↗ that facilitated the distribution and operation of ransomware.

For example:

  • Reveton ransomware, delivered by malware known as Citadel, falsely warned victims that their computers had been identified by the FBI or Department of Justice as being associated with child pornography websites or other illegal online activity. In June 2013, Microsoft, the FBI, and our financial partners disrupted a massive criminal botnet built on the Citadel malware, putting the brakes on Reveton’s distribution. FBI statement↗ and additional details.↗
  • Cryptolocker was a highly sophisticated ransomware that used cryptographic key pairs to encrypt the computer files of its victims and demanded ransom for the encryption key. In June 2014, the FBI announced—in conjunction with the Gameover Zeus botnet disruption—that U.S. and foreign law enforcement officials had seized Cryptolocker command and control servers. The investigation into the criminals behind Cryptolocker continues, but the malware is unable to encrypt any additional computers.Additional details.↗

If you think you’ve been a victim of Cryptolocker, visit the Department of Homeland Security’s U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team (CERT) CryptoLocker webpage↗ for remediation information.

The FBI—along with its federal, international, and private sector partners—will continue to combat ransomware and other cyber threats. If you believe you’ve been the victim of a ransomware scheme or other cyber fraud activity, please report it to the Bureau’s Internet Crime Complaint Center.↗

screen-shot-2016-09-28-at-7-28-21-pm_____________________________________________________________________________________________________________

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