Imagine getting a letter being notified that your sensitive information (ie. name, social security, medical history, etc.) was hacked. As unnerving as that is, in today’s day and age, it seems almost everyone has been a victim of this. What makes this particular story unique is that the hackers didn’t break in to steal the information for identity theft purposes.

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We all know that hacking into other people’s e-mail accounts is wrong; especially if you are planning on committing a crime like fraud or stealing personal details with the intention of blackmail. But what if you looked into your family member’s e-mail account, only because you were fearing for the safety of your own child?—from your own home computer. Should it be punishable on the same level of crime as identity fraud or stealing millions of dollars from giant corporations?

For Leon Walker, a Michigan man that looked into his wife’s e-mail address, it might just be. Walker was charged with unauthorized access to a computer in order to “acquire, alter, damage, delete or destroy property,” and will be going to trial on Feb. 7th. If found guilty he might face up to 5 years in prison.

But how exactly did Walker “hack” into his wife’s e-mail account, and why?

It wasn’t by using any technical or complex hacking process or tool. Instead, he used their home computer, which he had paid for, and looked up his wife’s e-mail password in an address book that she keept right next to the computer. And what he found he was rightly suspicious about.

His wife was having an affair with her second ex-husband, who  had previously been arrested for beating her in front of her son. Finding this out, Walker not only had reason to confront her, but he also brought up the e-mail in their divorce and child custody battle, which is when she reported him to the police.

But should Walker be found guilty of this crime? And should it even be considered a crime in a domestic case where the man was fearing for the safety of his own children? Widener University law professor Michael Dimino says even though generally these laws are applied to identity theft cases or stealing trade secrets, people could be rightfully prosecuted under these statutes if their interest is just curiosity.

We will find out on Feb 7th what the judges decide, but until then what do you think? Is it right to snoop on your significant other’s e-mail, or should it be a crime?

(Via NY Daily News) / (Graph taken from Today)  / (Image by Comedy_nose, licensed under Creative Commons)

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homeland-securityPresident Obama is currently reevaluating the country’s cyber security to protect both citizens and the government from harmful cyber attack.

One such exercise that is strengthening the nation’s cyber security is the “U.S. Cyber Challenge.” This multi player video game inspired challenge takes kids from age 17-21 who have above average computer skills or even hacking abilities and challenges them to a game called NetWars, where competitors play against each other in a game that tests their hacking skills.

Organizers say “the competition is aimed at identifying young people with exceptional computer skills and inspiring them to join the country’s woefully understaffed ranks of cyber security specialists needed to protect systems used by the military, industry and everyday people.”

While President Obama attempts to ameliorate this system, there are a few basic precautions you can take to better protect yourself from a cyber security breach. One such thing would be putting a credit freeze on your account if you suspect suspicious activity. This makes you Social Security number less susceptible to online theft. Another way to protect yourself would be to continually change your passwords  and create secure passwords when using online accounts. Besides these tips, basic common sense comes into play when entering sensitive banking or personal data and monitoring what exactly happens to this information after its submitted.

(Via the Examiner)

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security-alert-for-tech-firSending your laptop out for repair is a standard fact of life. Perhaps you spilled a drink on it, or maybe you dropped it, but whatever is ailing your computer, you may want to double check exactly who you’re sending it to. A new study reveals that certain data-recovery services claiming that they will fix your computer, may actually be responsible for privacy breach incidents where customers report losing personal or private information.

According to the Ponemon study, 83% of the respondents who said that their organizations had lost sensitive data, 19% of these firms said it was after hiring a third-party-data recovery firm.

“A lot of organizations are focused on firewalls or perimeter controls and ignoring simple issues like these,” says Larry Ponemon, the group’s chief executive. “You’re handing over your company’s crown jewels to a stranger, often without assessing what security controls are in place to reduce the risks.”

“Companies are trusting their data to third parties without a lot of vetting,” Ponemon says. “These are people who could be incompetent or even criminal. The risk is very real.”

(Via Forbes)

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comethief A man in Austin, Texas, awoke from a coma to find himself the victim of identity theft. Within the two months that he was unconscious, a woman had used his debit card to steal over $1,300 from his bank account. The man had his backpack in the hospital room with him, which also had his wallet with debit card in it.

“It’s disgusting. It’s bad enough that it was stolen from him, but he obviously wasn’t aware of it, couldn’t take care of himself and someone took advantage of that fact,” Police Detective Matt Conley said.

Thankfully for the man, the thief’s photo has been taken at some of the ATMs and police are now looking for her. She’s Hispanic, in her late 20’s to mid-30’s.  She has a young child and drives a maroon 2005-2006 Chevrolet Silverado LS crew cab or extended cab pickup with a tan interior and a black toolbox in the bed. If you have any information, call the APD Financial Crimes Unit at 974-5290. or CrimeStoppers at 472-TIPS.

(Via Kens5)

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discoverAccording to estimates by the U.S. Census Bureau more than one-third of Americans are unwilling to mail in their census information due to fear of identity theft.

According to the government, this is of major concern. Nearly 10 million people were victims of identity theft last year. This constitutes a 22% increase from the year before, and 43% of these cases didn’t even involve a computer. Instead they involved simple things such as stolen wallets and pilfered trash. Criminals are stealing identities as easily as stealing trash bins in banks and dumpster diving around local homes.

Heith Copes of the University of Alabama at Birmingham stated “What motivates all these offenders is money, and that’s where you see the distinction between street life and those living a middle-class lifestyle. The street-life types, these are the hardcore offenders. They live this life of the party, drugs, going out – this hedonistic lifestyle. And they use the money to support that lifestyle. It’s a cash-intensive lifestyle. It encourages them to commit more crime, and the cycle continues. The middle class is trying to portray a middle-class lifestyle; they’re trying to pay off houses and cars they can’t afford.”

The fact remains that the people who are perpetrating these crimes are not highly sophisticated, technologically advanced, or super geniuses. Rather they are everyday people who could be doing something as simple as going through you trash. Simple precautions such as shredding bank statements and other personal information can be enough to protect yourself from this type of crime.

(Via Miller-McCune)

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