In October 2018, security researcher Bob Diachenko identified multiple exposed databases with hundreds of millions of records. One of those datasets was an Elasticsearch instance on AWS containing sales lead data and 5.8M unique email addresses. The data contained information relating to individuals and the companies they worked for including their names, email addresses and company name and contact information. Despite best efforts, it was not possible to identify the owner of the data hence this breach as been titled “Elasticsearch Sales Leads”.
In approximately April 2016, the “marketing automation for agents and professional service providers” company KnownCircle had a large volume of data obtained by an external party. The data belonging to the now defunct service appeared in JSON format and contained gigabytes of data related to the real estate and insurance sectors. The personal data in the breach appears to have primarily been used for marketing purposes, including logs of emails sent and tracking of gift cards. A small number of passwords for KnownCircle staff were also present and were stored as bcrypt hashes.
In August 2018, the Roblox trading site Rbx.Rocks suffered a data breach. The personal data of almost 25k people was impacted by the breach and included names, email addresses and passwords stored as bcrypt hashes. The website has since gone offline with a message stating that “Rbx.Rocks v2.0 is currently under construction”.
In November 2018, the Società Italiana degli Autori ed Editori (Italian Society of Authors and Publishers, or SIAE) was hacked, defaced and almost 4GB of data leaked publicly via Twitter. The data included over 14k registered users’ names, email addresses and passwords.
In November 2018, the WordPress sandboxing service that allows people to create temporary websites WP Sandbox discovered their service was being used to host a phishing site attempting to collect Microsoft OneDrive accounts. After identifying the malicious site, WP Sandbox took it offline, contacted the 858 people who provided information to it then self-submitted their addresses to HIBP. The phishing page requested both email addresses and passwords.
A year after offering free credit monitoring to all Americans on account of its massive data breach that exposed the personal information of nearly 148 million people, Equifax now says it has chosen to extend the offer by turning to a credit monitoring service offered by a top competitor — Experian. And to do that, it will soon be sharing with Experian contact information that affected consumers gave to Equifax in order to sign up for the service.
The news came in an email Equifax is sending to people who took the company up on its offer for one year of free credit monitoring through its TrustedID Premier service.
Here’s the introduction from that message:
“We recently sent you an email advising you that, until further notice, we would be extending the free TrustedID® Premier subscription you enrolled in following the September 7, 2017 cybersecurity incident. We are now pleased to let you know that Equifax has chosen Experian®, one of the three nationwide credit bureaus, to provide you with an additional year of free credit monitoring service. This extension is at no cost to you , and you will not be asked to provide a credit card number or other payment information. You have until January 31, 2019 to enroll in this extension of free credit monitoring through IDnotify, a part of Experian.”
Equifax says it will share the name, address, date of birth, Social Security number and self-provided phone number and email address with Experian for anyone who signed up for its original TrustedID Premier offering. That is, unless those folks affirmatively opt-out of having that information transferred from Equifax to Experian.
But not to worry, Equifax says: Experian already has most of this data.
“Experian currently has and is using this information (except phone number and email address) in the fulfillment of the Experian file monitoring which is part of your current service with TrustedID Premier,” Equifax wrote in its email. “Experian will only use the information Equifax is sharing to confirm your identity and securely enroll you in the Experian product, and will not use it for marketing or solicitation.”
Even though people who don’t opt-out of the new IDnotify offer will have their contact information automatically shared with Experian, TrustedID Premier users must still affirmatively enroll in the new program before then end of January 2019 — the date the TrustedID product expires.
Equifax’s FAQ on the changes is available here.
Talk about the blind leading the blind. It appears that in order to opt-out of the information sharing or enroll in the new Experian program, people will need to click a customized link in the email that Equifax is sending to TrustedID enrollees. I’m not aware of another method for opting our or signing up, but I’ve asked Equifax for clarification on that point.
Fundamentally, I see no problem with people using these credit monitoring services as long as they are free. Credit monitoring services can be useful in helping consumers dig themselves out of the mess caused by identity theft.
The chief danger I see in relying on credit monitoring services to stop identity theft, however, is that these services traditionally have been very good at doing that. As I’ve written ad nauseum, credit monitoring services are more useful at detecting *when* someone opens a new line of credit in your name. What this means is that while they might let you know when someone has stolen your identity, they’re not likely to prevent that from occurring in the first place.
The best mechanism for preventing identity thieves from creating and abusing new accounts in your name is to freeze your credit file with Experian, Equifax and TransUnion. This process is now free for all Americans, and simply blocks potential creditors from viewing your credit file.
Since very few creditors are willing to grant new lines of credit without being able to determine how risky it is to do so, freezing your credit file with the Big Three is a great way to stop all sorts of ID theft shenanigans. I explain in much greater detail how to freeze your files and what’s involved with that in this post from September.
Please note that if you haven’t yet frozen your credit and you’d like to take advantage of this offer from Equifax/Experian, it’s a good idea to enroll in the IDnotify first, as it’s often not possible to enroll in credit monitoring services *after* you’ve frozen your credit. That said, Equifax’s FAQ suggests this might not be the case, noting that if your Equifax credit report is frozen, the security freeze will stay in place for people who enroll in the new program.
I imagine this arrangement should help the credit bureaus steer more people away away from freezing their and toward their respective “credit lock” services, which the bureaus have marketed as just as good as a credit freeze but also easier to use.
All three big bureaus tout their credit lock services as an easier and faster alternative to freezes — mainly because these alternatives aren’t as disruptive to their bottom lines. According to a recent post by CreditKarma.com, consumers can use these services to quickly lock or unlock access to credit inquiries, although some bureaus can take up to 48 hours. In contrast, they can take up to five business days to act on a freeze request, although in my experience the automated freeze process via the bureaus’ freeze sites has been more or less instantaneous (assuming the request actually goes through).
TransUnion and Equifax both offer free credit lock services, while Experian’s is free for 30 days and $19.99 for each additional month. However, TransUnion says those who take advantage of their free lock service agree to receive targeted marketing offers. What’s more, TransUnion also pushes consumers who sign up for its free lock service to subscribe to its “premium” lock services for a monthly fee with a perpetual auto-renewal.
Unsurprisingly, the bureaus’ use of the term credit lock has confused many consumers; this was almost certainly by design. But here’s one basic fact consumers should keep in mind about these lock services: Unlike freezes, locks are not governed by any law, meaning that the credit bureaus can change the terms of these arrangements when and if it suits them to do so.
Did you receive this offer from Equifax/Experian? Are you planning to opt out or enroll? Sound off in the comments below.
In January 2018, the Joomla template website JoomlArt inadvertantly exposed more than 22k unique customer records in a Jira ticket. The exposed data was from iJoomla and JomSocial, both services that JoomlArt acquired the previous year. The data included usernames, email addresses, purchases and passwords stored as MD5 hashes. When contacted, JoomlArt advised they were aware of the incident and had previously notified impacted parties.
In July 2016, the self-proclaimed “Ultimate Source For Your Mac” website Mac Forums suffered a data breach. The vBulletin-based system exposed over 326k usernames, email and IP addresses, dates of birth and passwords stored as salted MD5 hashes. The data was later discovered being traded on a popular hacking forum. Mac Forums did not respond when contacted about the incident via their contact us form.
In approximately 2008, the site to help parents name their children known as Baby Names suffered a data breach. The incident exposed 846k email addresses and passwords stored as salted MD5 hashes. When contacted in October 2018, Baby Names advised that “the breach happened at least ten years ago” and that members were notified at the time.
In June 2016, the game development studio Facepunch suffered a data breach that exposed 343k users. The breached data included usernames, email and IP addresses, dates of birth and salted MD5 password hashes. The data was provided to HIBP by whitehat security researcher and data analyst Adam Davies.
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