hherget@aol.com    870-243-5599  

Word count: 639



Time is running out.

Sooner, rather than later, the world will suffer a digital Armageddon the likes of which have never been seen or expected and will be very difficult to overcome.

The evidence has been building for years – hackers have broken into non-public, customer files at banks, retailers, investment houses, medical practitioners, and the list just keeps expanding; moreover, the breaches are occurring at increasing rates.  Lately they’ve addedhigh profile public agencies and offices to their “success” list of data breaches:  The IRS, White House, the Joint Chiefs of Staff at the Pentagon and the US Office of Personnel Management.  Among the list of data stolen are Social Security Numbers and finger prints.

Phishing attacks on financial organizations have become so sophisticated they are mandating an extra level of “authentication”.  This translates into more time.  More labor.  More cost.  Faux financial documents in the form of LOI’s, LOA’s, Loan Papers, etc., bearing electronic signatures appear so authentic they can easily be mistaken for original documents.  To be safe, two party transactions have to befollowed up with a phone call to “verify” the “other” party to the transaction is the true party.  Electronic funds transfers are followed up immediately with a printed and mailed Notice of Transaction from the payer to the payee to confirm the transaction.

Cost. Cost. Cost.

The same people who write data encryption software – white hats – are sometimes the one’s hacking into it – black hats.  The rewards are great, too great to ignore.  How can you combat this when the good and bad guys are oftentimes the same people?  To make matters worse, organized and state-sponsored cyber criminals are proliferating the planet at record rates.

The recent uproar over former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s personal email server are tied directly to the threat of hackers breaching her computer and accessing her data.  Ignorance on her part is no defense for recklessness, especially when National Security could be at risk. 

When I consider how much of my personal financial information is embedded in apps and regularly used in eCommerce over my smart phone, tablet and laptop, I’m not comfortable. 

On a recent trip to NYC, my wife’s new, chip-enabled credit card was subject to “digital pick-pocketing” by a criminal equipped with an RFID scanner.  One can purchase such a device on amazon for less than $100 and it has the ability to read encoded data on a credit card from a distance of 25 feet.  The attack was non-invasive. My wife never knew she had been hacked until it was too late and a series of unauthorized purchases had been charged to her card. 

Cyber criminals are eating away at the house that digits built.  Like termites.  At some time certain, the house will fall and all of us will suffer.  Confirming statistics are everywhere.  The intensity and enormity of attacks today and the breaches of highly secured, sophisticated data repositories signal the inevitable.

What can we do? 

I have neither the time nor expertise to advise anyone on matters of data security.  I know that in our business we use IT data security consultants to constantly test our digital systems and advise us on how best to protect the data we manage.  On a personal level, I’d advise those who use credit cards to go to amazon and buy an RFID Blocking Signal Vault to protect your cards from digital pick-pocketers.

Also, I expect a resurgence in the use of non-digital transaction items. We don’t live in a Brave New World, just a New World.  One that bears watching. 

In the meantime, be mindful of the risks of electronic transactions.  Be vigilant and put forth your best efforts to protect yourself, your data and your money.