Explainer: What do you do after a data breach?

FILE PHOTO: The logo and ticker for Capital One are displayed on a screen on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York, U.S., May 21, 2018. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid/File Photo

(Reuters) – A hacker has stolen the personal information of over 100 million people from Capital One Financial Corp, the company said this week, in the latest high-profile breach of sensitive consumer data.

Security experts say data breaches will continue to happen as cyber criminals and state-backed hackers target the protected information held by companies and government agencies.

Such attacks leave consumers vulnerable to fraud and identity theft. Here are some steps you can take to assess the severity of the breach and better secure yourself:

WHAT WAS COMPROMISED?

Breaches often cover a wide range of data. Information which is already publicly available, such as your name or email address, is seen as less of a concern.

Other details, however, can be extremely sensitive and need to remain private. For example, full credit card numbers, which could be used to make fraudulent purchases in your name, or passwords for your online accounts.

Even if stolen, the data may still be protected by encryption. Hacks by foreign governments are also usually seen as less dangerous for general consumers compared to data thefts by financially-motivated criminal gangs because most spy agencies do not sell or trade such information.

Much of the information stolen from Capital One was already public, including names and addresses of over 100 million people in the United States and Canada. But the breach also included 140,000 Social Security numbers which could be used to steal people’s identities.

To assess the severity of the breach, try and determine what information was compromised and in what format it was stolen.

AM I AFFECTED?

Try to establish if your data is likely to have been compromised in the breach. Are you a customer of the affected company? Do you know what data they hold on you? Does the breach only concern data collected in a specific time period?

Answering those questions will allow you to judge the level of risk, but remember some organizations may hold your data without you being aware. Those include credit-reporting companies such as Equifax Inc <EFX.N>, which suffered a breach in 2017 that affected 147 million people.

Breached companies are usually obliged to notify the people who are impacted, but this does not always happen immediately. Affected companies will typically post guidance for consumers on their own websites about data breaches.

Under the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), companies have to inform victims of severe data breaches “without undue delay.” They must then describe in “clear and plain language” the nature of the breach, the likely consequences and what measures being taken to deal with it.

IS THIS A SCAM?

If you think you data was compromised, be on high alert for scams and fraud.

Watch your bank account balances and payment card statements carefully, especially if you believe your financial information has been compromised. If you spot any unusual activity, contact your bank or card provider immediately and inform the appropriate law enforcement agency.

Be aware of so-called “phishing” websites purporting to offer information about the breach, or even compensation, but actually set up by criminals to try and trick you into revealing more personal details or making a payment to the wrong account.

Fraudsters may also contact you directly, by phone or email, and could now be armed with large amounts of detailed personal information which will make them harder to spot. If you’re unsure about someone’s identity, find the affected company’s contact information and contact them independently.

Experts recommend changing passwords frequently and using a combination of letters, characters and symbols to maintain a complex passphrase that is less likely to be guessed.

(Reporting by Jack Stubbs and Christopher Bing; Editing by Jonathan Weber and Susan Thomas)

Credit reporting agencies face pressure from skeptical U.S. Congress

FILE PHOTO: The logo and trading information for Credit reporting company Equifax Inc. are displayed on a screen on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York, U.S., September 26, 2017. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

By Pete Schroeder

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The nation’s major credit reporting agencies faced renewed scrutiny from Congress on Tuesday, as lawmakers consider legislation overhauling the industry.

Top executives from the three major credit reporting agencies – Equifax Inc, Experian Plc and TransUnion had to defend their business models before skeptical lawmakers who appeared eager to order changes to the sector following Equifax’s massive data breach, disclosed in 2017.

“Our nation’s consumer credit reporting system is broken,” said Representative Maxine Waters, chairwoman of the House Financial Services Committee. “I&rsquo;m troubled to the point where I do think that we need to start thinking about how we reimagine it and rebuild it from the ground … We will be introducing legislation.”

Waters has a draft bill that would limit the reach of such credit reports, shorten the time adverse information remains on consumers’ records, and make it easier for consumers to dispute errors on their reports.

Several Democrats made clear they were dissatisfied with the current state of the country’s credit reporting, arguing consumers lack control over their own data.

The panel’s top Republican, Representative Patrick McHenry, agreed the industry was in need of a makeover. However, he emphasized a desire to see more companies compete with the three largest agencies.

“What I see here is an oligopoly,” he told executives. “I don&rsquo;t see that vibrant competition which is needed for these agencies to actually help consumers.”

The massive data breach disclosed by Equifax in 2017, where a cyber attack exposed the personal data of roughly 148 million people, has driven calls from Washington for changes to the industry.

Legislation beefing up protections around consumer data is seen by analysts and lobbyists to be a rare area of common ground in the current Congress, where Democrats control the House and Republicans control the Senate.

Waters’ Senate counterpart, Banking Chairman Mike Crapo, has said legislation addressing the collection and protection of personal data is one of his top priorities this year. He is currently soliciting input on how consumers could retain more control over their personal information.

For their part, credit reporting agency executives told lawmakers they were working to address consumer concerns and bolster their cybersecurity to guard against future breaches.

“Consumers trust and expect that their credit reports contain the most accurate and complete data possible, and lenders rely on that information to help millions of consumers obtain the right loans at the right time,” said Equifax CEO Mark Begor in prepared testimony.

(Reporting by Pete Schroeder; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)

Mystery hacker steals data on 1,000 North Korean defectors in South

FILE PHOTO: A North Korean flag flutters on top of a 160-metre tower in North Korea's propaganda village of Gijungdong, in this picture taken from the Tae Sung freedom village near the Military Demarcation Line (MDL), inside the demilitarised zone separating the two Koreas, in Paju, South Korea, April 24, 2018. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji

By Hyonhee Shin

SEOUL (Reuters) – The personal information of nearly 1,000 North Koreans who defected to South Korea has been leaked after unknown hackers got access to a resettlement agency’s database, the South Korean Unification Ministry said on Friday.

The ministry said it discovered last week that the names, birth dates and addresses of 997 defectors had been stolen through a computer infected with malicious software at an agency called the Hana center, in the southern city of Gumi.

“The malware was planted through emails sent by an internal address,” a ministry official told reporters on condition of anonymity, due to the sensitivity of the issue, referring to a Hana center email account.

The Hana center is among 25 institutes the ministry runs around the country to help some 32,000 defectors adjust to life in the richer, democratic South by providing jobs, medical and legal support.

Defectors, most of whom risked their lives to flee poverty and political oppression, are a source of shame for North Korea. Its state media often denounces them as “human scum” and accuses South Korean spies of kidnapping some of them.

The ministry official declined to say if North Korea was believed to have been behind the hack, or what the motive might have been, saying a police investigation was under way to determine who did it.

North Korean hackers have in the past been accused of cyber attacks on South Korean state agencies and businesses.

North Korea stole classified documents from the South’s defense ministry and a shipbuilder last year, while a cryptocurrency exchange filed for bankruptcy following a cyber attack linked to the North.

North Korean state media has denied those cyber attacks.

The latest data breach comes at a delicate time for the two Koreas which have been rapidly improving their relations after years of confrontation.

The Unification Ministry said it was notifying the affected defectors and there were no reports of any negative impact of the data breach.

“We’re sorry this has happened and will make efforts to prevent it from recurring,” the ministry official said.

Several defectors, including one who became a South Korean television celebrity, have disappeared in recent years only to turn up later in North Korean state media, criticizing South Korea and the fate of defectors.

(Reporting by Hyonhee Shin; Editing by Robert Birsel)

Saks, Lord & Taylor hit by payment card data breach

The Lord & Taylor flagship store building is seen along Fifth Avenue in the Manhattan borough of New York City, U.S., October 24, 2017. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

By Jim Finkle and David Henry

TORONTO/NEW YORK (Reuters) – Retailer Hudson’s Bay Co on Sunday disclosed that it was the victim of a security breach that compromised data on payment cards used at Saks and Lord & Taylor stores in North America.

One cyber security firm said that it has evidence that millions of cards may have been compromised, which would make the breach one of the largest involving payment cards over the past year, but added that it was too soon to confirm whether that was the case.

Toronto-based Hudson’s Bay said in a statement that it had “taken steps to contain” the breach but did not say it had succeeded in confirming that its network was secure. It also did not say when the breach had begun or how many payment card numbers were taken.

“Once we have more clarity around the facts, we will notify our customers quickly and will offer those impacted free identity protection services, including credit and web monitoring,” the statement said.

A company spokeswoman declined to elaborate.

The breach comes as Hudson’s Bay struggles to improve its financial performance as a tough retail environment has weighed on sales and margins. Last June, it launched a transformation plan to cut costs and is working to monetize the value of its substantial real estate holdings.

Hudson’s Bay disclosed the incident after New York-based cyber security firm Gemini Advisory reported on its blog that Saks and Lord & Taylor had been hacked by a well-known criminal group known as JokerStash.

JokerStash, which sells stolen data on the criminal underground, on Wednesday said that it planned to release more than 5 million stolen credit cards, according to Gemini Chief Technology Officer Dmitry Chorine.

The hacking group has so far released about 125,000 payment cards, about 75 percent of which appear to have been taken from the Hudson’s Bay units, Chorine told Reuters by telephone.

The bulk of the 5 million card numbers that JokerStash said it plans to release are likely from Saks and Lord & Taylor, but it is too early to say for sure, Chorine said.

“It’s hard to assess at the moment, primarily because hackers have not released the entire cards in one batch,” he told Reuters.

Alex Holden, chief information security officer with cyber security firm Hold Security, confirmed that the 125,000 cards had been released by JokerStash but said it was too soon to estimate how many had been taken from Hudson’s Bay.

If in fact millions of records were stolen, the breach would be one of the largest involving payment cards in the past year, but it would still be far smaller than any of the biggest thefts on record, which occurred a decade ago.

Hackers stole more than 130 million credit cards from credit-card processor Heartland Payment Systems, convenience store operator 7-Eleven Inc and grocer Hannaford Brothers Co, from 2006 to 2008, according to U.S. federal investigators.

Cyber criminals stole some 40 million payment cards in a 2013 hack on Target Corp and 56 million from Home Depot Inc in 2014.

Hudson’s Bay said there is no indication its recent breach involved online sales at Saks and Lord &Taylor outlets or its Hudson’s Bay, Home Outfitters and HBC Europe units.

The company said that customers will not be liable for fraudulent charges resulting from the breach.

(Reporting by Jim Finkle in Toronto and David Henry in New York; Editing by Bill Rigby and Steve Orlofsky)

U.S. warns public about attacks on energy, industrial firms

U.S. warns public about attacks on energy, industrial firms

By Jim Finkle

(Reuters) – The U.S government issued a rare public warning about hacking campaigns targeting energy and industrial firms, the latest evidence that cyber attacks present an increasing threat to the power industry and other public infrastructure.

The Department of Homeland Security and Federal Bureau of Investigation warned in a report distributed via email late on Friday that the nuclear, energy, aviation, water and critical manufacturing industries have been targeted along with government entities in attacks dating back to at least May.

The agencies warned that hackers had succeeded in compromising some targeted networks, but did not identify specific victims or describe any cases of sabotage.

The objective of the attackers is to compromise organizational networks with malicious emails and tainted websites to obtain credentials for accessing computer networks of their targets, the report said.

U.S. authorities have been monitoring the activity for months, which they initially detailed in a confidential June report first reported by Reuters. That document, which was privately distributed to firms at risk of attacks, described a narrower set of activity focusing on the nuclear, energy and critical manufacturing sectors.

Homeland Security and FBI representatives could not be reached for comment on Saturday morning.

Robert Lee, an expert in securing industrial networks, said the report describes activities from two or three groups that have stolen user credentials and spied on organizations in the United States and other nations, but not launched destructive attacks.

“This is very aggressive activity,” said Lee, chief executive of cyber-security firm Dragos.

He said the report appears to describe groups working in the interests of the Russian government, though he declined to elaborate.  Dragos is also monitoring other groups targeting infrastructure that appear to be aligned with China, Iran, North Korea, he said.

The hacking described in the government report is unlikely to result in dramatic attacks in the near term, Lee said, but he added that it is still troubling: “We don’t want our adversaries learning enough to be able to do things that are disruptive later.”

The report said that hackers have succeeded in infiltrating some targets, including at least one energy generator, and conducting reconnaissance on their networks. It was accompanied by six technical documents describing malware used in the attacks.

Homeland Security “has confidence that this campaign is still ongoing and threat actors are actively pursuing their objectives over a long-term campaign,” the report said.

Government agencies and energy firms previously declined to identify any of the victims in the attacks described in June’s confidential report.

(Reporting by Jim Finkle in Toronto; Editing by Nick Zieminski)

Merck cyber attack may cost insurers $275 million: Verisk’s PCS

Merck cyber attack may cost insurers $275 million: Verisk's PCS

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Insurers could pay $275 million to cover the insured portion of drugmaker Merck & Co’s loss from a cyber attack in June, according to a forecast by Verisk Analytics Inc’s Property Claim Services (PCS) unit.

Merck, however, has not disclosed the magnitude of its uninsured losses from the “NotPetya” attack, which disrupted production of some Merck medicines and vaccines.

The company was among dozens of firms worldwide hit in the June 27 attack, which began in Ukraine, then rapidly spread through corporate networks of multinationals with operations or suppliers in Eastern Europe.

“Merck has not yet fully quantified its losses, much less given any of its insurers an estimate of the total amount of those losses,” Merck spokeswoman Claire Gillespie said in a statement.

She reiterated that Merck has insurance that would cover some costs, but declined to elaborate or say how much Merck expects to have to pay on its own.

The drugmaker said in July that it had suffered a worldwide disruption of its operations as a result of the malware. It was still in the process of restoring its manufacturing operations a month later.

Merck said then that it was confident it would be able to maintain a continuous supply of its top-selling and life-saving drugs, but warned of temporary delays in delivering some other products.

NotPetya is a destructive virus that spread quickly across computer networks, crippling computers by encrypting hard drives so that machines cannot run. The attacks caused massive disruptions to industrial networks that rely on computers because businesses must individually replace damaged drives, a labor-intensive process.

Cyber insurance can be expensive to buy and is not widely used outside the United States, with one insurer previously describing the cost as $100,000 for $10 million in data breach insurance.

Policies typically cover expenses stemming from a data breach, such as forensics and data restoration, among other costs. Coverage also helps pay for business interruption expenses when a breach or malware attack shuts down a company’s website.

Some companies without cyber insurance have used their policies covering kidnap, ransom and extortion to recoup losses caused by ransomware viruses.

PCS provides estimates on a wide variety of insured losses, ranging from damages caused by hacks to hurricanes and wildfires.

(Reporting by Michael Erman in New York and Noor Zainab Hussain in Bengaluru, additional reporting by Suzanne Barlyn; editing by Jim Finkle and G Crosse)

IRS puts Equifax contract on hold during security review

FILE PHOTO: Credit reporting company Equifax Inc. corporate offices are pictured in Atlanta, Georgia, U.S., September 8, 2017. REUTERS/Tami Chappell/File Photo

By John McCrank

NEW YORK (Reuters) – The U.S. Internal Revenue Service has temporarily suspended a contract worth more than $7 million it recently awarded to Equifax Inc following a security issue with the beleaguered credit reporting agency’s website on Thursday.

Equifax, which disclosed last month that cyber criminals breached its systems between mid-May and late July and made off with sensitive data on 145.5 million people, said on Thursday it shut down one of its website pages after discovering that a third-party vendor was running malicious code on the page.

“The IRS notified us that they have issued a stop-work order under our Transaction Support for Identity Management contract,” an Equifax spokesperson said on Friday.

“We remain confident that we are the best party to perform the services required in this contract,” the spokesperson said. “We are engaging IRS officials to review the facts and clarify available options.”

The IRS is the first organization to say publicly that it is suspending a contract with Equifax since the credit reporting agency’s security problems came to light.

Atlanta-based Equifax said its systems were not compromised by the incident on Thursday, which involved bogus pop-up windows on the web page that could trick visitors into installing software that automatically displays advertising material.

Still, the IRS said it decided to temporarily suspended its short-term contract with Equifax for identity-proofing services.

“During this suspension, the IRS will continue its review of Equifax systems and security,” the agency said in a statement. There was no indication that any of the IRS data shared with Equifax under the contract had been compromised, it added.

The move means that the IRS will temporarily be unable to create new accounts for taxpayers using its Secure Access portal, which supports applications including online accounts and transcripts. Users who already had Secure Access accounts will not be affected, the IRS said.

IRS granted the $7.25 million contract to Equifax on Sept. 29, weeks after Equifax disclosed the massive data hack that drew scathing criticism from several lawmakers.

“From its initial announcement, the timing and nature of this IRS-Equifax contract raised some serious red flags … we are pleased to see the IRS suspend its contract with Equifax,” Republican Representatives Greg Walden and Robert Latta said in a joint statement on Friday.

“Our focus now remains on protecting consumers and getting answers for the 145 million Americans impacted by this massive breach,” they said.

Government contracts in areas such as healthcare, law enforcement, social services, and tax and revenue, are major sources of revenue for Equifax.

In 2016, government services made up 5 percent of Equifax’s overall $3.1 billion in revenue, accounting for 10 percent of its workforce solutions revenues, 3 percent of its U.S. information solutions revenues, and 7 percent of its international revenues, according to a regulatory financial filing.

(Reporting by John McCrank in New York; additional reporting by Dustin Volz in Washington; Editing by Bill Rigby)

Equifax takes down web page after reports of new hack

The logo and trading information for Credit reporting company Equifax Inc. are displayed on a screen on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York, U.S., September 26, 2017. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

By John McCrank

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Equifax Inc said on Thursday it has taken one of its customer help web pages offline as its security team looks into reports of another potential cyber breach at the credit reporting company, which recently disclosed a hack that compromised the sensitive information of 145.5 million people.

The move came after an independent security analyst on Wednesday found part of Equifax’s website was under the control of attackers trying to trick visitors into installing fraudulent Adobe Flash updates that could infect computers with malware, the technology news website Ars Technica reported.

“We are aware of the situation identified on the equifax.com website in the credit report assistance link,” Equifax spokesman Wyatt Jefferies said in an email. “Our IT and security teams are looking into this matter, and out of an abundance of caution have temporarily taken this page offline.”

The Atlanta-based company, which has faced seething criticism from consumers, regulators and lawmakers over its handling of the earlier breach, said it would provide more information as it becomes available.

Equifax disclosed on Sept. 7 that its systems had been breached between mid-May and late July. In the fallout, the company has parted ways with its chief executive, chief information officer and chief security officer.

The breach has prompted investigations by multiple federal and state agencies, including a criminal probe by the U.S. Department of Justice.

As a credit reporting agency, Equifax keeps vast amounts of consumer data for banks and other creditors to use to determine the chances of their customers’ defaulting.

(Reporting by John McCrank; Editing by Bill Rigby)

Rising hacker threat will trigger boom in cyber crime insurance, Tryg says

People pose in front of a display showing the word 'cyber' in binary code, in this picture illustration taken in Zenica December 27, 2014. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic

COPENHAGEN (Reuters) – Insurer Tryg <TRYG.CO> expects 90 percent of its corporate customers to buy cyber crime insurance within five years as the threat from hackers and viruses to crucial data and IT systems grows.

Tryg, Denmark’s biggest insurer, has sold 5,000 cyber crime insurance policies since the turn of the year when it launched a new product providing assistance in restoring data and getting systems up and running if a firm is hit by a cyber attack.

“There are no corporate clients today that don’t have insurance on their buildings or cars, but I think that within a very few years it will be just as evident that you should insure against cyber crime,” chief executive Morten Hubbe told Reuters on Wednesday.

The initial rise in demand for cyber insurance was prompted by the ransomware attack, named “Wannacry”, that infected more than 300,000 computers worldwide in May.

He estimated that around 50 percent of the firm’s corporate clients would buy such an insurance by 2020 and from that point it would only take “a couple of years” to reach 90 percent.

Tryg’s two business segments for small and medium size businesses and larger corporate customers accounts for 44 percent of the group’s total premium income.

“The biggest risk to us is that significantly more customers get hit than we believe and that it gives us a huge economic loss,” said Hubbe.

While the firm has good insight into how often a house burns down or a bicycle is stolen on average, the frequency and extent of cyber crimes is hard to predict.

Tryg will also offer extensions to the basic insurance that cover consequential losses, back-up of data and a so-called DNS box aimed at blocking web pages known to contain viruses and malware.

For the big industrial players, Tryg would look to cooperate with global reinsurers to spread the risk when big companies lose revenues in connection with cyber attacks.

The world’s biggest container shipping firm Maersk Line <MAERSKb.CO> saw a $2-300 million bill from a June cyber attack that disrupted its operations for weeks.

(Reporting by Stine Jacobsen; editing by Ken Ferris)