Thursday, May 19, 2011

I always feel like somebody's watching me

Hackers stealing personal information from big companies are a getting a lot of press lately and it seems that they are getting more sophisticated and effective at getting customer information and personal details. In early April, Epsilon, a marketing service firm that sends promotional emails for companies like Walgreens, Best Buy, TiVo, and more was hacked, but fortunately the hackers didn’t obtain any customer information more personal than email addresses (Associated Press, 2011). It may mean more spam, but as long as the spam isn’t responded to, hackers shouldn’t discover any more details more personal than that.

While I have companies like Walgreens send me emails (the company sends me money saving coupons!) when I heard about this breach, I wasn’t too concerned. The affected companies seemed to acknowledge the leak quickly and were doing their own research as to what happened.  I never send out personal information through email, and I feel pretty secure that all the companies involved handled this as best they could.

The more alarming attack came less than two weeks later to the Sony PlayStation Network. Personal details, including credit card information, were stolen from 77 million accounts (although not all 77 million accounts had credit card information), making this the largest security breach in history (Wikipedia, 2011).That is pretty scary, to put it mildly. Unlike the companies mentioned above, Sony took down the PlayStation Network, but didn’t acknowledge to their customers that they did in fact take down the network for several days (Ogg, 2011). The company didn’t even mention that they were exploited in an attack until a few days after that (Ogg, 2011) . The continual issues with getting the PlayStation network back up and the delay in announcing just what the heck happened is not making Sony any new friends.

My previous posts talked about the use of servers in computing. Gaining access to the servers was how this hacker reached PSN customer information and made the whole process look just like an online purchase (Ogg, 2011)

These two stories show that hackers are only going to get better at taking advantage of any technological weakness in a company. The good guys are trying to keep up but the onus is on the individual to keep his identity safe. Here is a link for any PlayStation gamers who need ideas on how to still play online but keep their identity safe.

Here is a link from Epsilon on how to avid getting scammed in phishing emails. I treat my email like my cell phone- if I don’t recognize who the incoming message is from, I don’t respond. When I have to go to a website, I type the link in my browser, and I don’t click on links in any suspicious emails.

If phishing is the least of your concerns, here is a link from OnGuard Online on how to reduce online identity theft. Always keep an eye on financial statements, credit reports, and don’t use the same password for different accounts.

Associated Press. (2011, April 4). Best Buy, TiVo, Walgreens Hacked Over the Weekend. Retrieved May 19, 2011, from Billboard:
Ogg, E. (2011, May 3). The PlayStation Network breach (FAQ). Retrieved May 19, 2011, from CNET:;txt
Wikipedia. (2011, May 18). PlayStation Network outage. Retrieved May 19, 2011, from Wikipedia:

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