Tag Archives: Federal Trade Commission

The Dark Web: What you and your business need to know

ftcDuring a recent meeting at Prince Law Offices, P.C., we were discussing ransomware and the dark web.  The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recently posted a helpful description of the dark web and how it may impact you and your business.

You probably have heard about the “dark web” and wondered how it affects businesses – including small businesses. That was one of the topics addressed at an FTC conference earlier this year on identity theft. Recent headlines about high-profile data breaches have added even more urgency to the discussion. So why should the dark web matter to your company? Unfortunately, when a business suffers a breach, the dark web is often the next stop that sensitive data makes after it’s been stolen.

What is the dark web?

It’s a term that describes places on the internet not indexed by traditional search engines. While not every site on the dark web engages in criminal activity, the dark web is where sites that illegally sell consumer data and other black market goods tend to congregate. For identity thieves, the dark web is a sophisticated marketplace providing one-stop shopping to get the tools to commit cybercrime – whether it’s malware kits, stolen account information, or “drop” or “cash-out” services to help monetize their crimes.

What’s the link between the dark web and a business that experiences a breach?

In many instances, data stolen from businesses ends up on the dark web where criminals buy and sell it to commit fraud, get fake identity documents, or fund their criminal organizations.

Dark web offerings often include but aren’t limited to stolen credit cards. Identity thieves also can get compromised bank accounts, health records, credentials, and forged documents. They can even buy entire wallets, complete with credit cards, driver’s licenses, and documents like Social Security numbers and birth certificates – everything a criminal needs to create a new identity.

 

 

How does the dark web impact small businesses?

With so much media focus on data breaches at companies that possess personal information about millions of consumers, some smaller businesses and organizations might think that cybercriminals wouldn’t target them. They would be wrong. First, the reality is that cybercriminals don’t always target a particular business. They often use automated tools to scope out vulnerabilities in any system, including small businesses. Second, as presenters noted at the FTC conference, information available for sale on the dark web is up to 20 times more likely to come from an entity whose breach wasn’t reported in the media. Many of these are smaller retailers, restaurant chains, medical practices, school districts, etc. In fact, most of the breaches the U.S. Secret Service investigates involve small businesses.

There’s another way that data breaches injure us all. Identity theft and fraud have become go-to methods for funding criminal activity in the U.S. and around the world.

And all of this data links back to a real person – your customer – whose life can be adversely affected. Turning their financial affairs into a Gordian Knot is just the start. Some people have had their licenses revoked, been pulled over and arrested, or had criminal warrants issued in their name because of identity theft. When their information is used to commit medical identity theft, even their health could be at risk. Criminals have been known to use stolen data to get medical care or prescription drugs in someone else’s name. When an identity theft victim’s medical records become commingled with a perpetrator’s health information, the consequences could be catastrophic.

What can you and your business do to reduce the risk that information you collect could find its way to the dark web?

It starts with security and continues with your commitment to stick with it. The FTC’s data security page has resources for businesses of any size and sector. If you have customers, employees, or friends who are victims of identity theft, encourage them to report it and get a customized recovery plan at IdentityTheft.gov.

If you or your business have legal questions or concerns regarding disaster preparedness, computer law, privacy, or cybersecurity law matters, contact attorney Jeffrey A. Franklin at Prince Law Offices.

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Stick with Security – Part 1

stick_with_security_1When it comes to data security, what’s reasonable will depend on the size and nature of your business and the kind of data you deal with. But certain principles apply across the board: Don’t collect sensitive information you don’t need. Protect the information you maintain. And train your staff to carry out your policies.

The FTC’s Start with Security initiative was built on those fundamentals. Some helpful tips follow.

DON’T COLLECT PERSONAL INFORMATION YOU DON’T NEED.

It’s a simple proposition: If you don’t ask for sensitive data in the first place, you won’t have to take steps to protect it. Of course, there will be data you must maintain, but the old habit of collecting confidential information “just because” doesn’t hold water in the cyber era. Continue reading

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Stick with Security: FTC Providing Insights on Data Security Practices

ftc_logo_430As part of its ongoing efforts to help businesses ensure they are taking reasonable steps to protect and secure consumer data, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is publishing a series of blog posts using hypothetical examples based on lessons from closed investigations, FTC law enforcement actions, and questions from businesses. These new posts will build on the FTC’s Start with Security guide for businesses.

FTC Acting Chairman Maureen K. Ohlhausen pledged earlier this year to be more transparent about the lessons learned from the FTC’s closed data security investigations and to provide additional information for businesses about practices that contribute to reasonable data security, culminating in this “Stick with Security” Initiative.

In the first blog post published July 21, 2017, the FTC highlights some of the themes that have emerged from an examination of closed FTC data security investigations. For example, while news reports might call attention to a data breach, they might not focus on the fact that the company that suffered the breach had encrypted the data, which substantially reduces the risk of consumer injury (and legal liability). Another lesson gleaned is that security researchers’ valuable work can alert us to new vulnerabilities, but sometimes the risk of a vulnerability being exploited to cause consumer injury is more theoretical than likely. Another key lesson is that in almost every closed case, the entities involved used the same common-sense security fundamentals outlined in the FTC’s Start with Security guide for businesses.

If you or your business have questions or concerns regarding fraud, computer law, privacy, or cybersecurity law matters, contact attorney Jeffrey A. Franklin at Prince Law Offices.

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FTC Cybersecurity Roundtables with Small Businesses

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is hosting small business owners in a series of public roundtables across the United States to discuss the most pressing challenges small businesses face in protecting the security of their computers and networks.

Engage, connect, protect - small business & data security roundtablesThe Engage, Connect, and Protect Initiative: Small Business and Data Security Roundtables are part of an ongoing initiative by Acting FTC Chairman Maureen K. Ohlhausen aimed at helping small businesses, which included the launch of a new website in May focused on helping small business owners avoid scams and protect their computers and networks from cyberattacks. There are more than 28 million small businesses nationwide, employing nearly 57 million people, according to the Small Business Administration (SBA).

“The FTC has been a leader in guiding businesses of all sizes on how to protect the data in their care,” Acting Chairman Ohlhausen said. “Companies with only a few employees face unique challenges when it comes to cybersecurity. We’ll use what we learn in the roundtables to tailor our practical resource materials for small businesses.”

The first roundtable event will take place July 25 in Portland, Oregon, in partnership with the National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA), the SBA, and other organizations. This event will be followed by a roundtable discussion in Cleveland, Ohio, on September 6, hosted by the FTC and the Council of Smaller Enterprises and in collaboration with the SBA. Another roundtable event will take place later in September in Des Moines, Iowa, sponsored by the NCSA.

The roundtables will bring together FTC staff along with the SBA and other federal partners, industry associations, and the small business community. The comments and feedback generated by the roundtables will be used to help the FTC and its partners provide additional education and guidance for small business owners on cybersecurity issues.

If you or your business have questions or concerns regarding fraud, computer law, privacy, or cybersecurity law matters, contact attorney Jeffrey A. Franklin at Prince Law Offices.

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Is the USPTO really contacting your company? Maybe not.

ftc_logo_430If your business has taken steps to protect your intellectual property with patents or trademarks, you’ve probably had correspondence or communications with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). But some businesses report receiving letters or emails that look to be from the USPTO, but really aren’t.

Prince Law Offices, P.C., the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the USPTO want you to know there are companies that contact patent and trademark holders asking for fees for “services” like renewing your trademark registration, signing you up for trademark monitoring services, recording your trademarks with government agencies, or listing them on a private “registry.” The names, emblems, and wording may seem official and the correspondence may even include USPTO application serial numbers, filing dates, or other publicly-available information. But the solicitations aren’t from the USPTO and some may offer services that are overpriced, unnecessary, or downright deceptive. Patent or trademark holders have paid companies hundreds or even thousands of dollars, mistakenly thinking they were paying fees to the USPTO – or paying fees the USPTO requires – to maintain and protect their patents and trademarks.

Our advice and that of the FTC to businesses: Read any notice about your patents or trademarks very carefully. Official mail from the USPTO will come from the “United States Patent and Trademark Office” in Alexandria, VA. If it comes via e-mail, the domain will be “@uspto.gov.”

The USPTO has more information about commercial solicitations that resemble official USPTO communications including a local example Patent & Trademark Bureau (Philadelphia, PA).

If you receive questionable patent- or trademark-related correspondence, report it to the FTC and email the USPTO at TMFeedback@USPTO.gov.

Prince Law Offices, P.C. clients that have completed trademark registrations with us often contact us when they receive such suspicious documents.  Desire more specific assistance regarding your business formation, agreements, intellectual property, trademarks, copyright, zoning, real estate law, cyber security, insurance, etc., contact attorney Jeffrey A. Franklin at Prince Law Offices, P.C.

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Someone Stole your Phone?

Identity theft can happen to anyone. Last week the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) published an article based on a true story from one if its fraud investigators who had her phone stolen.

She provided tips you can take to protect your digital identity:

Smart Phone:

  • Lock your phone. Use at least a 6-digit passcode on your device, or use the pattern lock or fingerprint scanner. Set the device to lock when not in use. This is especially important if you use a mobile wallet or money transfer apps.
  • Update it and back it up. Back up your device regularly and make sure automatic updates are turned on. Backing up your phone regularly and automatically makes sure that you’ll still have your stuff – if it disappears.
  • Get help finding your phone. Install and turn on Find My iPhone (iOS) or Find My Device (Android). These apps could help you locate your device if you lose it. If your phone is stolen, these apps also let you remotely issue a command to erase your device .
  • Alert your wireless provider if your phone is missing. Make the call as soon as you know your device is missing after you have used the Find My Phone/Device feature. They can permanently or temporarily disable the SIM card to stop someone from using the device on the cell network.

Accounts:

  • Turn on two-factor authentication. That means you’ll give your password and a second way to prove that you’re you. This extra layer of security makes it much harder for thieves to get into your accounts and lock you out. Many providers give several options to authenticate your identity, so be sure you have a backup method (like one-time use codes or a backup email address) in case you don’t have access to your device to receive texts or phone calls.
  • Know which devices have access to your accounts. Many social media sites and email providers, and some phone operating systems, let you view the logins for your devices from the settings menu. You can remove devices from the account, and log out of the site remotely using a computer or another device. That’s handy if ever you lose your phone, tablet, or laptop.
  • Check your log-in and account notifications. Many email and social media accounts can notify you if a new device connects to your account, or if someone tried to change your passwords.
  • When in doubt, change your passwords. If you’ve lost your device, change your passwords. Many of us set our devices to remember passwords – which could mean that someone who gets your phone could get access to your accounts and personal information. So: if you lose your phone, change your email, social media, online banking, shopping, and other passwords right away.

For more tips on what to do to protect yourself from identity thieves, check out ftc.gov/idtheft.

Need further help?  If you or your business have questions or concerns regarding fraud, computer law, privacy, or cybersecurity law matters, contact attorney Jeffrey A. Franklin at Prince Law Offices.

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Is Computer Tech Support Really Calling to Help You?

Does the thought of losing everything on your computer leave you queasy? That’s the anxiety fraudsters attempt to exploit with tech support scams – and it’s conduct the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and law enforcement partners are challenging through 16 civil and criminal (yes, criminal) actions announced as part of Operation Tech Trap.

Tech support scammers’ modus operandi is to run ads that resemble pop-up security alerts from Microsoft, Apple, or other companies. Consumers are warned that their computers are infected with viruses or are under hack attack. Some pop-ups even feature a countdown clock, supposedly showing the time remaining before the hard drive will be fried – unless the consumer calls a toll-free number supposedly affiliated with one of those big-name companies.

Once operators have consumers on the phone, the real theatrics begin. Operators claim to need remote access to consumers’ computers so they can run “diagnostic tests.” Those tests purport to reveal grave problems that can only be solved by one of their “certified technicians” – for a hefty fee, of course. Companies use high-pressure tactics to strong-arm consumers into paying hundreds of dollars for unnecessary repairs, anti-virus protection or software, and other products and services. (Here’s an example of a pitch in action from the FTC.)

 

In settling a case against Click4Support LLC and others, the FTC and AGs from Connecticut and Pennsylvania announced that the defendants are banned from marketing technical support services, will pay a total of more than $554,000, and will forfeit an additional $1.3 million held by the court-appointed receiver. A federal judge in Philadelphia also entered a $27 million default judgment against a related party.

But that’s not all. There have been several other similar cases brought by the FTC.

How does this boil down for you or your business?

  • Consumers get caught in tech support scammers’ web, but so do small businesses and people who work from home. The FTC has updated its advice on what you can do to protect yourself. Also, the FTC will be hosting a roundtable this summer for law enforcement agencies leading the charge against this kind of fraud and for businesses affected by tech support scams, including companies whose names have been misused by con artists. Looking for tips on spotting other B2B scams? The FTC’s new Protecting Small Businesses site is designed with you in mind.
  • People who participate in tech support scams aren’t just risking their assets and future livelihoods. They could face criminal prosecution.

If you or your business have questions or concerns regarding fraud, computer law, privacy, or cybersecurity law matters, including assistance with policies, prevention or recovery from a ransomware attack and cybersecurity insurance or insurance claims, contact attorney Jeffrey A. Franklin at Prince Law Offices.

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