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After computer hack, Nashotah pays $2K ransom for residents’ personal information

VILLAGE OF NASHOTAH – The village recently paid an unidentified hacker a $2,000 ransom to decrypt its computer system after a hack in late November that left some residents’ personal information exposed.

Village President Richard Lartz said Thursday, Dec. 7, that the hack “totally encrypted” Nashotah’s computer files, making them inaccessible to staff. He said the only information that was exposed during the breach were citizens’ names and driver’s license numbers, and possibly their addresses.

Social Security numbers and other sensitive information was not compromised. 

“The only information that got out was voter rolls,” Lartz said, emphasizing that neither he nor village staff know whether that information was used or dispersed by the hacker.

TIP SHEET: How to defend against ransomware

In an email, Reid Magney, public information officer for the Wisconsin Elections Commission, said because the village of Nashotah does not have access to Wisconsin’s statewide voter registration system, known as WisVote, the state’s system was not compromised. He said the village relies on the Waukesha County clerk’s staff to enter and maintain their records in the voter registration system. 

Nonetheless, in light of this incident, Magney sent out a message to all municipal and county clerks Dec. 8 detailing protections communities can take against cyber security threats.

Nashotah’s village board met in closed session Nov. 29 — and in open session Dec. 6 — to discuss the breach, which impacted only one municipal computer.

A letter describing the incident, and the village’s response to it, is being sent to residents, Lartz said, and will likely arrive in their mailboxes the week of Dec. 10.

The village board approved the content of that letter at the Dec. 6 meeting, and also approved the purchase of computer protection services and backup systems to prevent future incidents.

Lartz said the money for the ransom, which was sent to the hacker in the form of Bitcoin, a cryptocurrency, was paid out of the village’s surplus fund.

‘Ransomware’ attack

The hack was an instance of “ransomware,” an increasingly common cyberattack in which a type of malicious software threatens to publish the victim’s data or perpetually block access to it unless a ransom is paid.

Ransom payments are frequently demanded in Bitcoin or some other anonymous payment method.

According to the Federal Trade Commission, ransomware often arrives through phishing email campaigns, which often look like routine messages from legitimate companies but contain malware, frequently embedded in a hyperlink.

The FTC does not recommend paying a ransom, but the agency specifies that it’s up to the ransomware victim to “determine whether the risks and costs of paying are worth the possibility of getting [their] files back.”

The Richmond School District was the victim of such an attack in 2014 and paid a $400 ransom to release more than 43,000 district files.

According to the Herjavec Group, a cybersecurity firm, ransomware attacks cost victims about $1 billion total in 2016. 

What to do as ransomware victim

According to the FTC, there are three steps victims of ransomware attacks should take:

  • Contain the attack. Disconnect infected devices from your network to keep ransomware from spreading.
  • Restore your computer. If you’ve backed up your files, and removed any malware, you may be able to restore your computer. Follow the instructions from your operating system to re-boot your computer, if possible.
  • Contact law enforcement. Report ransomware attacks to the Internet Crime Complaint Center or an FBI field office.

The FBI field office in St. Francis can be reached at 414-276-4684.

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Android keyboard app leaks personal data of 31 million users

72597_security-privacy-hackers-locks-key-6778 Android keyboard app leaks personal data of 31 million usersEnlarge Image


James Martin/CNET

Personal data for more than 31 million users of an Android keyboard app called AI.type has leaked online, according to ZDNet and researchers at the Kromtech Security Center

The app’s database server wasn’t password-protected, which meant anyone could access more than 577 gigabytes of personal data, according to the report that was released today. The data was eventually secured after ZDNet attempted to contact the app’s creator, Eitan Fitusi.

Fitusi said in an email that the database in question contained about 50 percent of users’ basic data “about user use patterns of the keyboard.” He said the app is not collecting, storing or sending any password or credit card information.

According to ZDNet, each user record contains the user’s location and basic info such as the user’s full name, email addresses and how many days the app was installed. 

72597_security-privacy-hackers-locks-key-6778 Android keyboard app leaks personal data of 31 million users

AI.type virtual keyboard leaks personal data for 31 million Android users

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AI.type virtual keyboard leaks personal data for 31 million Android users

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Deal: Buy 3 Months, Get 3 Free. Unlimited Talk, Text.
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Retail health care lacks the personal connections that patients want and need

R

etail thinking is spreading quickly in health care. It promises greater convenience and speed for delivering basic health care services — but it isn’t what patients really want.

Retail thinking views patients as consumers: faceless targets for buying services and products that aren’t always health-related. It’s the thinking behind technology-assisted health care services, like ZocDoc, Amwell, and One Medical, which quickly triage symptoms or serve up medical advice. It’s the thinking that makes it possible for me to walk in, no appointment needed, to my local CVS or Target to have a cough or sore throat examined.

At the same time, it gives web-based apps opportunities to sell some of your information to advertisers, who want to sell you other things. It gives brick-and-mortar organizations cross-selling opportunities for everything from allergy medications to Halloween candy as I walk down the store aisle to get my flu shot from the pharmacist or have the nurse practitioner apply guideline-driven diagnosis and treatment. The providers I see during these interactions know nothing about me, offer little tailored advice, and the services they provide will be both limited and standardized in how they are delivered.

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Being viewed through the retail lens also means that I am asked to consume other offerings pitched to me by whoever provides me with health care, be it my insurance company or my employer. They try to get me interested in legal and babysitting services, gym memberships, pedometers, mail-order pharmacies, round-the-clock nurse help lines, life insurance, and more. They do this to help them earn more of my loyalty, generate more revenue for themselves, or reduce their costs.

The hospitals and medical offices I visit seek to keep me within their system of care delivery, make me a long-term customer, and refer me only to their providers and services, both of which they control. By using retail tactics like offering one-stop shopping — where I can get primary, specialty, and other types of care all without leaving the same building — and marketing their brand to me with simplified rating systems that show their high quality, they want me to trust that they have my interests at heart and can deliver any type of health care transaction I require.

Retail thinking has its place in health care today because there are some services and products that people need quickly and which do not require a personal touch or someone who understands them as unique individuals. Such services might be low-level acute care (think strep throat), flu shots and immunizations, and some forms of simple chronic disease management, such as blood sugar checks or foot and eye exams for people with diabetes, especially if they are guideline driven. There’s no question that retail thinking can also create purchasing opportunities for things patients find useful, if not always essential, and perhaps do so in ways that are cost-effective or convenient for us.

But retail health care is impersonal, lacks relational warmth, and isn’t what patients really want.

I interviewed 80 patients and doctors for a new book on the doctor-patient relationship in the era of efficiency-driven innovation, corporate care, and retail medicine. What I heard from patients is that the impersonal nature of retail thinking is frustrating them and lowering their expectations about the levels of emotional support and customized help they can get from any doctor, or from others in the health care system.


No patient with whom I spoke wanted transactional care at the expense of relational care. No one prioritized Fitbits, web-based assessments of symptoms, or seeing a stranger about a sore throat in a big-box store over a long-term personal connection with a doctor. What these individuals wanted most in health care was something human and more intimate, maintained through regular one-on-one interactions with experts they knew and trusted who were compassionate, empathetic, friendly, and respectful.

The physicians with whom I spoke wanted the same things.

This type of sustained personal experience between two people who know something about each other, and who are motivated to really talk and listen as care partners, is something retail thinking does not do well. It is not concerned with the emotional aspects of care, building interpersonal trust between doctor and patient, or getting to know people as individuals with their own relevant life stories.

Yet existing research demonstrates that these are the very features that are good for patients. For example, care continuity through a stable doctor-patient relationship improves health care quality and patient satisfaction. Doctor-patient trust, established through extended interpersonal contact, helps patients become more engaged in their care; creates a positive patient experience; and increases perceived effectiveness of care. Extended dialogue between patient and doctor positively affects health outcomes ranging from high blood pressure to mental health problems. Physician empathy is linked to more accurate diagnoses, better health outcomes, and an enhanced patient experience.

If you don’t believe the literature, just ask the patients I interviewed. Teddy, a healthy man in his 30s, believed that without feeling trust towards a specific doctor — which for him was forged over time through regular face time and conversations with that doctor — little could be uncovered of the more intimate, life story information that he felt was most important for keeping him healthy. He said he had never been completely honest with clinicians he didn’t know.

Hallie, a 50-year-old woman with several chronic diseases, talked confidently about better understanding how to manage her many conditions, and how they affected her everyday life — the result of having a doctor who knew something about her personally, who spent time not reading off a care guideline but instead asking her real-time questions about how she felt, and then showing genuine compassion with her daily struggles. Hallie felt better able to self-manage her care, which kept her from using the system unnecessarily.

Cliff, a stressed-out dad in his 50s, talked excitedly about finally having the same physician he could see on a consistent basis; a doctor who in their first visit had spent time just listening to him, nothing more; then taking that information and asking him questions about his own life; and finally tailoring therapeutic advice based on the entire dialogue. Janell, a career-minded mom in her 40s, recalled with joy the memory of a past primary care physician who remembered conversations they had during previous visits and who used that knowledge to give Janell tailored guidance about how to manage her life stressors more effectively.

Can an industry that wants to use retail tactics also deliver on the relational excellence that patients and research say is important? It’s not easy, given retail thinking’s focus on speed and efficiency. Here are four ways that might meld these two approaches.

First, put more thought into where not to use retail thinking in health care. It may make sense for care delivery that is routine, care that can be standardized in a straightforward way, and in situations where the patient wants convenience above all else. But that actually amounts to a limited menu of services, and even routine care can often reveal deeper problems in patients, requiring the kinds of relational features I’ve described.

Second, better measure and monetize the components of relational excellence, making it matter to health care organizations and third-party payers. That means carefully assessing dynamics like interpersonal trust between doctor and patient; analyzing those data to see how they positively affect health outcomes; and then giving this metric the same relative importance in high-quality care delivery compared to other things like prescribing a particular drug for a particular condition.

Third, look for innovative ways to strengthen the doctor-patient relationship, not undermine it. For example, the industry should experiment with using technology as a tool to give doctors more face time and direct contact with their patients. Right now, both doctors and patients perceive technology, primarily the electronic health record, as interfering with their relationship.

Fourth, and most important, the patient voice must be heard. This could include adopting greater transparency with respect to assessing patient satisfaction with retail tactics, say through Yelp-type accountability mechanisms, and conducting market research that goes beyond simple binary questions of “would you use this” or “would you like greater convenience in accessing your care” and instead delves deeper into discovering what patients really value.

In thinking about my discussions with patients, there is one other important thing they want. They want to decide when their health care should work like the drive-through at McDonald’s or buying with one click at Amazon and when it should be more personal than that, involving extended human-to-human interaction, highly trained experts who know their patients, and an abundance of the time, trust, and soft skills required to make us healthier long-term and see health care as the important part of our lives that it really is.

Timothy J. Hoff, Ph.D., is professor of management, health care systems, and health policy at the D’Amore-McKim School of Business and the School of Public Affairs and Policy at Northeastern University in Boston; a visiting associate fellow at Green-Templeton College and visiting scholar at Said Business School, both at the University of Oxford; and the author of “Next in Line: Lowered Care Expectations in the Age of Retail- and Value-Based Health” (Oxford University Press, September 2017).

Have your personal health records at your fingertips

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Sensitive personal information of 246000 DHS employees found on home computer

WASHINGTON — The sensitive personal information of 246,000 Department of Homeland Security employees was found on the home computer server of a DHS employee in May, according to documents obtained by USA TODAY.

Also discovered on the server was a copy of 159,000 case files from the inspector general’s investigative case management system, which suspects in an ongoing criminal investigation intended to market and sell, according to a report sent by DHS Inspector General John Roth on Nov. 24 to key members of Congress. 

The information included names, Social Security numbers and dates of birth, the report said.

The inspector general’s acting chief information security officer reported the breach to DHS officials on May 11, while IG agents reviewed the details.

.Acting DHS Secretary Elaine Duke decided on Aug. 21 to notify affected employees who were employed at the department through the end of 2014 about the breach. 

The department’s office of privacy is completing the details of the notices to those affected.

“All potentially affected individuals will be offered an 18-month subscription to credit monitoring services,” the report says.

Officials at Office of Inspector General, which acts as an internal watchdog at DHS, said in a statement provided to USA TODAY that “DHS is coordinating notice to the affected individuals and we are working closely with DHS to accomplish this.”

“The responsible individuals are no longer on the OIG payroll,” the statement said. 

Other agencies have suffered serious data breaches in recent years. In June 2015, the personal information of about 21.5 million people was leaked in a breach at the Office of Personnel Management.

Contributing: Donovan Slack.

More: President Trump signs cybersecurity executive order

 

 

 

How Apple and Microsoft Won the Personal Computer Revolution of the 1970s, 80s, and 90s

Apple has continued to work this premise. They sell powerful high-margin hardware with some very basic programs, but count on heavy involvement from a deep and robust developer community to really fill user needs. They have a fully integrated ecosystem. There is a market (the AppStore for both Mac and i-Devices) for software, and users who buy from it know that the software has been vetted to some degree, isn’t malicious, and probably runs. There’s a review system from verified users only so it’s possible to know with some surety what it does. But to put your software in the store, you have be a registered Apple Developer – for which privilege you pay an annual fee. And to ship your software, you need to build it in an Apple developed programming language (Objective C or Swift), on an Apple supplied IDE (Xcode), on an Apple computing device (Mac).

UW-Extension: Gratitude can increase health and personal well-being

As we have enjoyed another Thanksgiving holiday, I thought it fitting to explore what research tells us about gratitude. More than a time of year, Thanksgiving is shown to be a key component to personal well-being and a hearty sense of connection to community.

I found a journal article from the Journal of Psychological Inquiry titled “Savoring Life, Past and Present” that suggests cognitive habits have a lot to do with gratitude —and hopefulness for that matter. Indeed, gratitude constructs can produce measures of health and well-being, and so, these are worthy of a little extra consideration.

Goal-Orientation

Whereas some people typically appraise goal pursuits—even very arduous ones—as challenges that are accompanied by optimism, others people appraise these as threats that are accompanied by an unpleasant direness. Grateful people not only seem to enjoy the psychosocial benefits that come from their increased likelihood of obtaining their goals, but they also seem to enjoy the very act of striving for goals to be realized in the future much more than not-so-grateful folks. The author is led to think that grateful people may be particularly attentive to the fact that the very pursuit of goals in itself brings meaning and purpose to their lives, and that these pursuits themselves — independent of whether the goals themselves are reached — can be savored rather than simply endured.

Being a Beneficiary

There is also something to be said for the cognitive-affective response to the recognition that one has been the beneficiary of someone else’s goodwill. In fact, one of the key psychological processes governing gratitude may be an awareness of how one’s very life is held together through the benevolent actions of other people. We can train ourselves to appreciate that we live in a society in which we benefit from many services, innovations, institutions, arts and culture that people whom we have never even met have made available for us to use and enjoy. Grateful people attend to the benefits in their lives, and are mindful that these benefits did not come out of nowhere.

Connectedness

Gratitude also correlates highly with nonconventional measures of what we can call spirituality, including measures that assess our sense of connectedness to nature, other people and the universe as a whole. The author thinks these correlations are important because they point to the ability of grateful people to pay attention to the ways in which their lives are connected to other events and activities occurring in the social, natural and (for some people) supernatural world. What matters to me is that our sense of community can actually be enhanced when we see our basic connection to — and reliance on — others.

Putting it all together:

Maybe I’m making this harder than it needs to be, or maybe this is a healthy reminder. If indeed gratitude is correlated positively with many measures of psychological well-being including vitality, satisfaction with life and a heightened sense of community, let’s share the love and share the leftovers. 

UW-Extension: Gratitude can increase health and personal well-being

As we have enjoyed another Thanksgiving holiday, I thought it fitting to explore what research tells us about gratitude. More than a time of year, Thanksgiving is shown to be a key component to personal well-being and a hearty sense of connection to community.

I found a journal article from the Journal of Psychological Inquiry titled “Savoring Life, Past and Present” that suggests cognitive habits have a lot to do with gratitude —and hopefulness for that matter. Indeed, gratitude constructs can produce measures of health and well-being, and so, these are worthy of a little extra consideration.

Goal-Orientation

Whereas some people typically appraise goal pursuits—even very arduous ones—as challenges that are accompanied by optimism, others people appraise these as threats that are accompanied by an unpleasant direness. Grateful people not only seem to enjoy the psychosocial benefits that come from their increased likelihood of obtaining their goals, but they also seem to enjoy the very act of striving for goals to be realized in the future much more than not-so-grateful folks. The author is led to think that grateful people may be particularly attentive to the fact that the very pursuit of goals in itself brings meaning and purpose to their lives, and that these pursuits themselves — independent of whether the goals themselves are reached — can be savored rather than simply endured.

Being a Beneficiary

There is also something to be said for the cognitive-affective response to the recognition that one has been the beneficiary of someone else’s goodwill. In fact, one of the key psychological processes governing gratitude may be an awareness of how one’s very life is held together through the benevolent actions of other people. We can train ourselves to appreciate that we live in a society in which we benefit from many services, innovations, institutions, arts and culture that people whom we have never even met have made available for us to use and enjoy. Grateful people attend to the benefits in their lives, and are mindful that these benefits did not come out of nowhere.

Connectedness

Gratitude also correlates highly with nonconventional measures of what we can call spirituality, including measures that assess our sense of connectedness to nature, other people and the universe as a whole. The author thinks these correlations are important because they point to the ability of grateful people to pay attention to the ways in which their lives are connected to other events and activities occurring in the social, natural and (for some people) supernatural world. What matters to me is that our sense of community can actually be enhanced when we see our basic connection to — and reliance on — others.

Putting it all together:

Maybe I’m making this harder than it needs to be, or maybe this is a healthy reminder. If indeed gratitude is correlated positively with many measures of psychological well-being including vitality, satisfaction with life and a heightened sense of community, let’s share the love and share the leftovers. 

NC Dept. of Health warns of personal data breach

About 6,000 people are impacted by the breach

NC Dept. of Health warns of personal data breach

About 6,000 people are impacted by the breach

Black Friday Deal: 23andMe DNA Test – Health + Ancestry Personal Genetic Service

Go beyond your family tree to uncover ancestry markers in your DNA, with a genetic testing kit that you can use at home. The 23andMe DNA Test is available for the special Black Friday price of $99.99, a savings of 50 percent off the list price. A simple saliva test collects your DNA, and the extracted genetic data reveals your ancestral composition and even the percentage of DNA that you share with Neanderthals, which interbred with early humans.

The kit also includes analysis that can identify health-related genetic traits, such as celiac disease, late-onset Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease. Additional reports can indicate whether the subject is a carrier of genetic traits such as cystic fibrosis, sickle cell anemia and hereditary hearing loss.

23andMe received approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in April for their kits to report whether customers have hereditary traits that put them at risk for developing genetic diseases, according to the Los Angeles Times. However, the presence of a genetic marker for a health disorder does not necessarily mean that the person will develop that disease, the LA Times reported.

Black Friday Deal: 23andMe DNA Test – Health + Ancestry Personal Genetic Service

Go beyond your family tree to uncover ancestry markers in your DNA, with a genetic testing kit that you can use at home. The 23andMe DNA Test is available for the special Black Friday price of $99.99, a savings of 50 percent off the list price. A simple saliva test collects your DNA, and the extracted genetic data reveals your ancestral composition and even the percentage of DNA that you share with Neanderthals, which interbred with early humans.

The kit also includes analysis that can identify health-related genetic traits, such as celiac disease, late-onset Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease. Additional reports can indicate whether the subject is a carrier of genetic traits such as cystic fibrosis, sickle cell anemia and hereditary hearing loss.

23andMe received approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in April for their kits to report whether customers have hereditary traits that put them at risk for developing genetic diseases, according to the Los Angeles Times. However, the presence of a genetic marker for a health disorder does not necessarily mean that the person will develop that disease, the LA Times reported.

Uber concealed data breach for a year, paid hackers to delete stolen personal data

83aa6_uber-app-india-840x473 Uber concealed data breach for a year, paid hackers to delete stolen personal data

Uber has had a rough going in the public eye for some time now, and that looks to only get worse as the ride-sharing service recently divulged a data breach that happened over a year ago and that it paid the hackers $100,000 to delete the stolen personal data.

There is plenty to dissect here, so let’s start with the hack itself, which happened as a result of two people accessing an archive of rider and driver information in October 2016. This information was found on an Amazon Web Services account that handled computing tasks for Uber, with login information obtained through a private GitHub coding site.

The two attackers then emailed Uber, saying that they had personal information of 50 million Uber riders and 7 million Uber drivers. Obtained information included names, email addresses, and phone numbers, along with the US driver’s license numbers of 600,000 drivers. Thankfully, no Social Security numbers, credit card information, trip location details, or other information were obtained.

Thoughts on London’s Uber ban: Innovation vs Regulation

This is where things take a turn for the worse. When data breaches like this happen, companies are mandated to inform people and government agencies. Not only that, but Uber is legally obligated to disclose to regulators breaches of its riders’ driver’s license information. Instead, Uber decided to keep the breach hush-hush and paid the hackers $100,000 to delete the stolen personal data.

Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi, who was not with the company at the time of the hack, believes that the data was never used, but the company nevertheless secured the data implemented tighter security measures:

At the time of the incident, we took immediate steps to secure the data and shut down further unauthorized access by the individuals. We also implemented security measures to restrict access to and strengthen controls on our cloud-based storage accounts.

In addition to the aforementioned steps, Uber also brought on former National Security Agency general counsel Matt Olsen to help the company restructure its security teams and cybersecurity firm Mandiant to investigate the breach. Uber also plans to release a statement to its customers regarding the breach and will provide drivers free credit protection monitoring and identity theft protection.

Finally, Uber also asked for Joe Sullivan’s resignation, since Sullivan was the security chief who led the company’s response to the breach. Uber also fired Craig Clark, a senior lawyer who reported to Sullivan.

Latest Uber update brings live location sharing, beacon expansions, and much more

That may be all well and good, but might take a bit until Uber can put this in the past. Just a few hours ago, a lawsuit was filed in federal court in Los Angeles against Uber for its failure to “implement and maintain reasonable security procedures and practices appropriate to the nature and scope of the information compromised in the data breach.” New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman also confirmed he will launch an investigation into the breach.

Making matters worse, Uber faced the question of what to do about this breach while negotiating with the Federal Trade Commission over how to handle customer data and just after settling a lawsuit with New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.

Also keep in mind that this is all happening without so much as a word from Travis Kalanick, who was Uber’s CEO when the breach happened and who learned of it in November 2016. That begs the question of why Kalanick remains quiet about this, exactly how much he knew about the breach, and why he is still on Uber’s board.

Regardless of the answers, Uber still has a long way to go to change the negative narrative around it, and this only intensifies that struggle.

Clarity Money, a personal finance manager that helps users save cash, launches on Android

It can be a pain to juggle all your monthly expenses and credit card balances, especially if you have more than one bank account to keep track of. That’s why earlier this year, an app called Clarity Money launched (exclusively) on iOS, hoping to make it easier to manage bills and incomes. At the time, the company had hinted at plans to eventually release the app on other platforms, and so Clarity Money is now launching both on Google Play and as a standalone web app.

Clarity Money works similarly to Mint and other apps in the personal finance space. But in addition to being able to link a user’s bank accounts and automatically categorize their expenses — something most personal finance apps already do — Clarity Money also attempts to save its users money by helping them make smarter financial decisions.

It’s no secret that companies are big fans of monthly and annual subscription plans: people are far more likely to continue paying for a service through a subscription model than they are if they had to make a conscious decision to pay every month. By removing the friction and thought process involved, purchases effectively become opt-out instead of opt-in. That makes it easy to rack up hundreds of dollars in monthly payments, which is why Clarity Money presents users with an overview of all their subscriptions services, letting them cancel any directly from within the app — and potentially saving them a hefty sum.

Clarity Money can also recommend better deals on credit cards based on a user’s spending habits, and even identify negotiable bills and attempt to automatically obtain a lower rate. Using these methods, last year’s 1,000 beta users were able to save an average of $300 through Clarity Money.

2c030_nexus2cee_clarity-money-1-217x386 Clarity Money, a personal finance manager that helps users save cash, launches on Android 2c030_nexus2cee_clarity-money-1-217x386 Clarity Money, a personal finance manager that helps users save cash, launches on Android 2c030_nexus2cee_clarity-money-1-217x386 Clarity Money, a personal finance manager that helps users save cash, launches on Android

The app itself is pretty slick and easy to set up. It’s also entirely free to download and use (with no in-app purchases either), so there’s no reason not to download it and check it out for yourself.

Edit: As a few readers have pointed out, the app is, unfortunately, US-only. As someone who has just recently moved from Europe to the United States, I know only too well the frustration of not having access to a product or service due to my geographical location.

2c030_nexus2cee_clarity-money-1-217x386 Clarity Money, a personal finance manager that helps users save cash, launches on Android

Investigation: Contact 5 finds private, personal information on used computers

When getting rid of your old electronics like cellphones and computers, whether selling them, or throwing them away, do you think twice about the private data you’re leaving behind? 

A Contact 5 investigation found many of you, even government agencies and computer experts themselves are not.

Contact 5 went fishing for personal information with Alan Crowetz of Infostream. “These days when it comes to hackers and the bad guys, information is power,” said Crowetz. 

It’s information that’s sometimes left on computers their owners don’t want anymore, and end up selling. “Finding out social security numbers, finding passwords, finding financial information, that’s almost more valuable than money these days,” said Crowetz.  “This is a great source to find information that people don’t think twice about disposing of.”
 
WHAT ARE HACKERS LOOKING FOR?

Contact 5 used popular sites like Craigslist and Ebay for our search, while Crowetz told us what exactly the hackers and bad guys would be looking for in the perfect computer. We did this, so we could tell you how to protect yourself when selling. 

“For me, I want to find things that are older. Those are much more likely to be a target because it’s less likely to be a computer knowledgeable person and the older they are, the more data that’s on there,” said Crowetz. 
 
Crowetz says bad guys will also be looking at what version of Windows is on a computer. Crowetz says when someone wipes a computer clean before selling, they usually re-load the newer versions of Windows back on it, to make it more desirable. If the computer you’re looking to buy has an older version of Windows, it may mean the person never wiped the computer in the first place. 
 
“If they say 5 or 6 years old, they’ve probably wiped and reloaded it. But if they say it’s only 3-4 years old, you know there’s a decent chance this is the original, they have not done anything,” says Crowetz.

So watch out if someone starts asking about what version of Windows you use, “there’s usually ulterior motives,” said Crowetz. “If I am a hacker, I am going to take the time to ask questions.”

Be clear, in your advertisements, that you wiped the computer and re-loaded it before selling it, advises Crowetz. 

“Most of the time, the right way to wipe a computer takes hours and people are not willing to do that, even when someone has erased and reformatted their computer, they can pull that data out really easily.”

Or if you work in computers, write it down as well. “Here’s a good example here. I am a computer technician. Already I’m not interested,” said Crowetz while shopping on Ebay.

Laptops are also more convenient to hack, according to Crowetz. “A lot of times you can grab passwords off laptops.”
 
And even if your computer doesn’t turn on, that doesn’t mean the data is gone. “What they don’t realize is that even if the computer doesn’t work, the hard drive still does. I can still take that hard drive out and look at the data. So that’s a good sign, there’s a chance they didn’t wipe this computer,” Crowetz told us about one advertisement. 

WHAT WE FOUND 
 
Contact 5 bought 4 computers. One from Craigslist, two HP computer towers from the Palm Springs Police Department and one from Ebay. 

The laptop from Craigslist was securely wiped. The computer towers from the Palm Springs Police Department Crowetz said still had some data.

“I found it really surprising, those weren’t wiped at all. However they lucked out. They put special software on there, so you can’t tamper, you can’t save information, almost nothing on the computer. They didn’t erase it, which is still concerning to me, makes me wonder if they’re getting rid of other accounting computers, and not erasing the data,” said Crowetz.

Now for the 4th, belonging to the Erie family: “It is alarming. And I’m a guy who deals with security and stuff, I should be used to this kind of thing. But this is just so bad,” said Crowetz. 

We could see every website the 6 person family had used from 2005 to 2010, when the computer was used. There were millions of emails, pictures of the children.

There was also tax returns belonging to the children. “I can use social security numbers to open up credit cards, bank accounts. I have enough personal information on there, I can reset their passwords for their bank accounts,” said Crowetz. “It’s a pedophile’s perfect scenario, it’s identity theft perfect scenario.”

 An incredible return for a computer available to anyone for just $40. A computer that was also dead, but the hard drive still worked just fine. “I might as well be holding a 10,000 bill in my hand right now,” according to Crowetz. 

But not only did the Erie’s put themselves at risk, they also endangered thousands of others. Christine’s husband used the computer for work, he had personal information on more than 10,000 former or potential clients on the laptop.

“It’s a list of people who are looking for financial advice. You can’t even imagine how valuable that would be to a bad guy. In this case I know these people have money, because it shows their income, I have their email address, their phone number, that really gives me a great way to steal their identity or reach out to them to scam them. If I just ripped off 1% of these people I would be rolling in the dough,” Crowetz says. 
 
“I can sell this to another bad guy on the dark web who might buy this from me for a $1000. Instant return.”

We tracked down Christine Erie, one of the owners of the computer. She told us, “it didn’t work, hadn’t turned on in probably 5 years. Probably sitting in the closet for ten.”

She said she did put a magnet to the computer before giving it away, because she “had heard you could put a magnet up to it, and it would wipe everything. And we had a big round magnet and I tried that but I guess it didn’t work.” As we found, it didn’t.

Christine Erie called the entire situation, “scary.” 

“Thankfully you guys bought it,” Christine told Contact 5. 

WHAT TO DO WHEN SELLING OR DONATING AN OLD COMPUTER

Crowetz’s first piece of advice? It’s probably not worth it to even sell in the first place.

“Is it really worth 30, 40 dollars for the risk you’re taking to sell an old computer,” said Crowetz.

But if you do want to, here’s a couple things to think about.

1. Take the hard drive out, and destroy it.
2. DBAN.org: It’s a free program that scrubs data from a hard drive. 
3. Take your computer to an expert and have them wipe it. 

WHAT HACKERS LOOK FOR IN A USED COMPUTER:

Contact 5 finds private, personal information on used computers


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Data that can be used to take money from you





 Contact 5 finds private, personal information on used computers

 Contact 5 finds private, personal information on used computers

When getting rid of your old electronics, like cellphones and computers, whether selling them or throwing them away, do you think twice about the private data you’re leaving behind?

A Contact 5 investigation found many of you, even government agencies and those who work in the computer industry themselves, are not.

Contact 5 went fishing for personal information with Alan Crowetz of Infostream. “These days when it comes to hackers and the bad guys, information is power,” said Crowetz. “Finding out social security numbers, finding passwords, finding financial information, that’s almost more valuable than money these days.”

It’s information that’s sometimes left on computers their owners don’t want anymore.

“This is a great source to find information that people don’t think twice about disposing of,” said Crowetz.  

Contact 5 used sites like Craigslist and Ebay, and Florida auctions online.

While we searched, Crowetz told us exactly what the hackers and bad guys would be looking for in the perfect computer.

“For me, I want to find things that are older. Those are much more likely to be a target because it’s less likely to be a computer knowledgeable person and the older they are, the more data that’s on there,” said Crowetz.

To learn more about what the hackers are searching for online, and to see what we found on those computers we bought, something our expert called “awful and frightening,” tune in Monday at 5 PM.

There will also be tips on how to properly dispose of your private data, so you don’t get taken advantage of.

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Internet Trolls, Corporations And Your Personal Data: New Regulations Coming

I was recently trolled. I’m no Lady Gaga, but apparently some internet trolls seek easy targets. He (she?) used my public photos to invent a new ‘me’, lobbing severely racist, misogynistic comments around Instagram.

Fortunately, friends alerted me and the Facebook and Instagram teams took swift action. Before this, I hadn’t thought much about my personal data. I’ve committed to being more thoughtful.

Dramatic new protections for your personal data rights are on the way. Unfortunately, these protections could threaten other things you value, such as convenience and customization (and they won’t matter much to trolls). A range of data-driven business models, existing and future, might be at risk. How will we balance innovation and service against security? While not always in conflict, they exist in tension. What will be society’s position? What will be yours?

It might seem obvious that we each own our personal data, but in rapidly evolving social, cyber clouds, ownership is murky. After our photos, comments and interactions transition to ether, they become untethered and easily usurped. They take on lives of their own that can be used for many purposes, ethical or nefarious. We have surprisingly little control.

The European Parliament in Strasbourg, France. The EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) becomes enforceable in May, 2018– and few companies are unprepared.  (Photo credit: FREDERICK FLORIN/AFP/Getty Images)

Dramatic Changes– Few Enterprises Are Prepared

In 2016, with little public recognition here in the US, the European Union (EU) adopted the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), intended to turn control of personal data back to individuals. These new rules, enforceable as of May, 2018, will have substantial implications for many data-enabled business models. Companies that do business in the EU, or collect data about EU citizens, will be required to protect those data in more rigorous ways. The new regulations provide for sanctions that can include up to 4% of a corporation’s global revenues of the prior year.

Over the past year, I’ve queried many people who should be concerned about the GDPR. In European business circles, it’s topic du jour. In the US, few people appear engaged beyond corporate IT and legal departments. At a recent tech event in Chicago, I inquired about GDPR with a partner from a major technology-focused law firm. He explained that was someone else’s role at the firm. He also shared that GDPR doesn’t appear particularly urgent to most US clients. That could be a costly mistake.

The regulation advances a range of consumer rights in the digital age, and it’s far more comprehensive than many companies expect. (For a good summary, see the UK government’s Information Commissioner’s Office site.) One of the most aggressive components proposes an individual’s “right to erasure,” essentially requiring companies to delete an individual’s personal data upon that person’s request.




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