Cybercrime Prevention Tips

While cybercrime is on the rise, it is no longer subtle and behind the scenes. It has become a business with organized crime taking it under its wing and using it in ways not unlike the organized crime of days gone by. It’s also being embraced by nation-states in the form of spying, placing malware on networks to create backdoor access, and releasing information that those it’s stolen from would rather keep private.

At the center of today’s cybercrime is malware. While there seems to be a decline in the well-known banking Trojans such as Zeus and Citadel, it has only become new and improved with Dridex and Dyre, GameoverZeus, and Confiker. These are all designed to take your money more stealthily. In addition, there is a rise Remote Access Trojans (RAT) which use user-requested programs (games, apps, attachments in email) to create backdoor administrator access to systems.

E-commerce is creating a new way to commit payment fraud for cybercriminals. Fraudulent payment card crimes using a copy of a card have decreased over the years, particularly with the transition to the EMV chip cards. However, the continued data breaches into merchant systems has allowed card-not-present (CNP) crime to increase as criminals use the data gained in those to continue committing payment fraud.

Phishing, spearphishing, and vishing remain at the top of the list of ways cybercriminals get malware disseminated. People are still the number one vulnerability for thwarting security measures. This is an attack that uses very specific information about the target to gain access to confidential information. Business email compromise (BEC) or email account compromise (EAC) are on the rise and the FBI continues to issue warnings to all industries on the current targets.

Individuals do have some recourse:

-Be diligent at monitoring payment card charges. If anything looks unfamiliar or suspicious, report it to the card-issuing organization without delay.
-Monitor credit reports annually and report anything that doesn’t belong on them to the credit bureaus.
-Use unique login credentials for each online account and change passwords at least quarterly.
-Create secure and complex passwords and phrases and vary where you put those special characters.
-Don’t open attachments or click links in email messages unless you are expecting them and are 100% certain they are safe.
-Keep computers and all internet-connected devices including smart TVs and game systems updated with the latest patches and software versions. Remember to immediately check for updates when installing new hardware on your network. Often, these devices sit on store shelves for a long time and most likely at least one update is available once you get it set up.
-Install and update anti-virus and anti-malware software on all devices used on the internet and turn on automatic updates to be sure you don’t miss one.

Fortunately, law enforcement activities have had some success over the years. The FBI along with several multinational organizations have managed to take down some of the biggest malware threats, such as GameOver Zeus and CryptoLocker, if only temporarily. Don’t expect that to stop the cybercriminals though. It’s merely a delay.

© Copyright 2017 Stickley on Security

New Cyber Weapon Will Eternally Rock Your World

In the middle of the month of May, researchers found an instance of malware that may be far more dangerous that the recent WannaCry ransomware. It too arose from stolen NSA tools, but it isn’t ransomware. It can be stealthy. It can hang around on an infected device and just wait for commands from its master to make it into the next cyber weapon. It was found by a Croatian security researcher and reported by Bleeping Computer just recently. It’s being called EternalRocks.

This one takes advantage of the same Windows vulnerability as WannaCry. What does that mean? It means that if WannaCry didn’t scare you enough, this one should. If you have any Windows machines that are not patched with the updates that Microsoft already released months ago for this, you should definitely get on it. Microsoft even released a special patch for Windows XP and other versions of its operating system that it no longer supports.

However, if you are still using an unsupported operating system, consider upgrading to one that is. There is no guarantee that special considerations will be given the next time something like this happens. And this newest discovery only demonstrates that the exploitation of the cyber tools stolen from the NSA is not complete. Likely more malware will be headed our way soon.

EternalRocks is different from WannaCry in many ways:

-There is no “kill switch” allowing it to be shut down quickly.
-It is not ransomware.
-It can lurk in the background and wait for remote commands without being detected.
-It uses six tools from the NSA stolen cyber weapons stash including EternalChampion, EternalRomance, and one that was used in WannaCry as well, DoublePulsar.

So far there is no indication that it has spread very far, but that’s no reason it should not be taken seriously.

© Copyright 2017 Stickley on Security

Negotiate Your Way to Cheaper Rent: Four Tips to Try

Rent has a reputation of being inflexible. That is, unlike the price of a home, many people assume that rent can’t be negotiated. However, when it comes to setting the monthly cost of an apartment, tenants may have more power than they think. Here are four ways to lower the cost of rent:

The direct way (aka, asking)

Let’s be honest—your landlord probably isn’t going to offer to lower your rent out of the kindness of his heart. Don’t be afraid to ask. When you’re filling out the application, politely inquire if the property manager is open to negotiations. Just asking likely won’t hurt your chances of getting the apartment or condo.

Check rents in your area

One way to strengthen your negotiating power is to show that your rent is high compared to similar apartments in your neighborhood. A little online searching can provide you with facts and figures for your community that you can use to bargain.

Leverage your good payment history

As with credit card companies, paying your rent on time every month will put you in good standing with your landlord. If you have a solid payment history, it might help your case for lowering the rent when it’s time to renew your lease.

Offer to take an extended lease

Negotiations are based on give and take. Your landlord may be willing to give you a break on rent if you offer something in return, such as an extended lease. Agreeing to stay put longer means management won’t have to stress about re-starting the tenant search for a while, which gives you leverage.

BALANCE 2017

Food Waste is Money Down the Drain

How many times have you gone to pour milk in your coffee, only to see that the date on the carton was yesterday? Some people will instinctively throw it away, but chances are that’s not what the label is intended to convey. It’s likely a marker for when the food might taste its best, not if it’s safe to eat.

By some estimates, as many as 91 percent of consumers may misinterpret food date labels. It’s no surprise as there are dozens of different labels in use, but the misunderstanding and lack of meal planning are contributing to a larger problem. Between 30 and 40 percent of the U.S.’s food supply winds up in the trash or a compost container.

The benefits of reducing food waste are numerous. You’ll save money, which may be reason enough. You could also be lowering your carbon footprint by keeping spoiled food out of landfills and cutting down on the growing and transportation of food that doesn’t get eaten.

Cutting back on this waste could start with understanding what food labels actually mean.

Don’t misinterpret food dates as expiration dates. According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), aside from on infant formula, food label dates aren’t an indication of whether or not the food is safe to eat. For example, “best by” may mean the food will taste, look and feel its best if its eaten by that date. It could still be good for days, weeks or even months (for non-perishables) after that date.

Some states do require expiration dates on milk or meat and food labeling could become less confusing across the country. But for now, you may need to rely on your judgment. The USDA writes that if foods don’t show signs of spoilage, such as changing colors or giving off an unpleasant smell, they could still be safe and wholesome.

Quick tips for keeping fruit and vegetables fresh for longer. Regardless of the date, proper food storage can impact a food’s longevity.

Wait to wash food until you’re about to cook or eat. Otherwise, the moisture could spur bacterial growth.
Strategically store items in your refrigerator. Your food will typically last longer if you put the least perishable items on the door, meat near the bottom back (unless there’s a meat drawer), veggies in the crisper and dairy or drinks near the top.
Generally, you want to keep fruits and vegetables away from each other because many fruits produce ethylene gas and exposure to the gas could cause vegetables to spoil more quickly. There are also vegetables that produce the gas and fruits that are sensitive to it.
If you’re storing a fruit or vegetable that gives off and is susceptible to ethylene gas, wrap it in aluminum foil or store it in a paper bag rather than using less-breathable plastic wrap or bags.
You can look for more tips about particular foods online. There are also apps that can automatically connect to your supermarket loyalty programs to track what you buy (or you can upload a picture of your receipt), warn you when something may be going bad and recommend recipes that incorporate those foods.

Find creative uses for foods that are on their way out. Whether you use an app to sync shopping lists and schedule meals or use a paper list, meal planning can help cut down on waste as well. But even with great intentions sometimes things get forgotten, or meals get pushed off until it’s almost too late.

You can save vegetables from the trash by roasting them, making soup or turning them into a casserole. Carrots, potatoes and other root veggies (plus zucchinis) can be grated and fried to make fritters. You could bake fruits into breads, throw them into smoothies or freeze them for later. In the end, the goal is to use everything you buy.

Bottom line: Food waste could be draining your wallet, hurting the environment and in some cases, may be completely unnecessary. Learning to correctly interpret food labels and performing a sight and smell test before throwing something away could help. Taking the time to prepare before you shop, having a plan for how you’re going to use the food you buy and being okay with a last-minute backup plan can help even more. In the end, taking the extra time to evaluate the true condition of your food can save you money.

by Nathaniel Sillin

NASA Federal Credit Union Awards Scholarships to Area Students

At the conclusion of its 2017 Mitchell-Beall-Rosen Memorial Scholarship Contest, NASA Federal Credit Union awarded scholarships—ranging from $2,000 to the top prize of $8,000—to five high school seniors. The annual program rewards the writing talents of young Credit Union members who are working toward four-year or two-year undergraduate degrees or vocational studies. Students submit 1,000-word essays that focus on their educational goals and financial literacy as it applies to the cost of a college education and their plans for paying it.

“We are all in very good hands if these five students represent our future,” said Frank Peñaranda, Chairman of NASA Federal’s Scholarship Committee and Vice Chairman of the Board of Directors. “NASA Federal Credit Union is proud to contribute to their success through the Mitchell-Beall-Rosen Memorial Scholarship.”

The following outstanding seniors were recipients of this year’s scholarship awards:
– Ankush Joshi of Vienna, Virginia—Will study oceanography and law at the College of William & Mary.
– Jennifer Kelleher of Ellicott City, Maryland—Plans to study veterinary medicine and animal behavior at UMBC.
– Daniel Merkowitz-Bustos of Clarksville, Maryland—Will study digital media design at the University of Maryland.
– Henry Roberts of Annapolis, Maryland—Will pursue a degree in aerospace engineering at Virginia Tech College of Engineering.
– Weston Sirk of Silver Spring, Maryland—Looks forward to studying sports management, entrepreneurship and coastal environmental science at York College.

About the NASA Federal Credit Union Scholarship Program

The Scholarship Program was established in 1983 in memory of Wilfred Mitchell and then renamed in 1991 to also honor Donald Beall. Both men are former NASA Federal Credit Union officials who were strong advocates of the education of our youth. In 2010, the name of the scholarship program was again changed, to the Mitchell-Beall-Rosen Memorial Scholarship Program, in honor of Eugene D. Rosen, who was instrumental in launching the program and served as its Chairman for 27 years. Mitchell, Beall and Rosen are fondly remembered for their commitment to the Credit Union movement and especially for their efforts to help young people succeed.

 

Scholarship winners featured above: Henry Roberts, Jennifer Kelleher and Weston Sirk. Not shown: Ankush Joshi and Daniel Merkowitz-Bustos.

Personal Finance for Millennials

Many Millennials, who graduated during a time of job scarcity and enormous student debt, are more than a little skittish about financial matters. After all, in addition to their own challenges, many saw their parents’ generation struggle with layoffs, stock market losses, and the housing crisis. Still, there’s a lot that today’s 20-somethings can do to build a brighter financial future.

Commit to Saving
If you’re living paycheck to paycheck, saving may seem out of reach. But the first step is to make a budget, identifying where, exactly, all of your money’s going now and pinpointing the wallet sucks that are keeping you from saving. Make it a goal to save at least 10-15% of your income, and start by creating an emergency fund with 3-6 months of living expenses. If, after seriously scrutinizing your budget, you just don’t see room for saving, at least commit to saving any financial windfalls—like bonuses and tax refunds – and saving future salary increases.

Looking for Supplemental Income
For many young people who are just starting out, the best way to find money to save is to generate additional income with a side job. If your employer doesn’t prohibit it, you might take on a second job during your off-hours or earn extra cash Ubering or pet-sitting. Or, if you’re a crafty sort, you could try selling your wares on a site like Etsy.

Start Investing Early
Once you have a decent emergency fund, you should start thinking about retirement. Yes, retirement! If your employer offers a 401(k) plan, sign up as soon as you’re eligible, because even small amounts set aside while you’re young will add up to a significant nest egg decades from now. And, if your employer offers 401(k) matching funds, be sure to contribute enough of your earnings to max out the match. Otherwise, you’re leaving money on the table.

Manage Your Debt
No discussion of Millennials’ finances would be complete without a word or two about student debt. If you’re carrying a heavy burden in federal loans, you may have options for restructuring your debt to make it more manageable. If your loans are with private lenders, you’ll have less flexibility, but focus first on paying off the loans with the highest interest rates. The same goes for credit card debt. New grads are often bombarded with credit card offers, so it’s easy to get in over your head. If that’s where you are, rip up any new offers and commit to whittling down your debt by refraining from new charges and always paying more than the monthly minimum.

Shape Up Your Credit Score
Being late with payments or, worse yet, defaulting on your credit obligations has a huge and negative impact on your credit score. This may not seem like a big deal if you’re not looking to buy a house or car anytime soon, but it isn’t just lenders who make decisions about you based on your credit score. A poor credit score can cause you to pay higher rates for car insurance in some states. Most landlords and many employers also check credit scores when evaluating candidates.

BALANCE
July 2016