Dark Reading is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them.Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

Endpoint

1/11/2017
02:00 PM
Lysa Myers
Lysa Myers
Commentary
Connect Directly
Facebook
Twitter
LinkedIn
RSS
E-Mail vvv
50%
50%

Credit Freeze: The New Normal In Data Breach Protection?

In era of rampant identity theft, consumers should be offered the protection of a credit freeze by default, instead of a nuisance fee each time a freeze is placed or removed.

Another day, another computer security breach; it’s time for the experts to roll out the inevitable article about how to protect yourself now that your data are in the hands of criminals The advice is always the same: “change your password,” “maybe get a fraud alert or credit freeze,” and the ever comforting “watch and wait.” Why is it that this never changes?

What Could Go Wrong?
If a breach is “just” exposure of login credentials, the main thing to watch out for is thieves using those credentials to log into your account. Promptly changing the stolen password might keep unauthorized people out. And enabling a second factor of authentication is enough to thwart the average adversary.

If a breach reveals payment card information, banks will generally revoke the affected cards and reissue new ones. While this is not ideal because it’s quite costly and problematic for both banks and consumers, that problem is usually solved as soon as the new card is activated.

For breaches that reveal social security numbers or medical IDs, things get significantly more difficult. Revoking and reissuing these credentials would create many more logistical hassles, and have the added potential for causing life-threatening errors. Worse, there is typically little to no authentication tied to use of ID numbers that would prevent their misuse, unless a credit freeze is already in place. We’re now at a point where most of us have been affected by a breach where these “permanent” credentials have been lost, and many of us have either had to correct frauds due to identity theft, or live in a state of perpetual vigilance waiting for frauds to occur. 

The main threats caused by loss of medical IDs or Social Security Numbers are allowing criminals to open new financial or utility accounts in our names, acquiring medical goods and services, or stealing our income tax refunds. There is no password to change, no authorization or authentication techniques that are currently used to prevent these things from happening. There are only the fraud detection capabilities of insurance companies and banks between us and such problems, plus our own watchfulness to catch the things that slip through that net.

Why Has Nothing Changed?
When I first started writing post-breach advice columns, credit freezes were considered too much of a hassle to recommend to the average user. Having to call the credit bureaus each and every time we wanted to apply for a store credit card or adjust our insurance, and (in most US states) pay for the privilege of the protection it offers was considered too much to ask. But as a growing number of people are already shelling out money for credit monitoring services, or dealing with expenses incurred from identity theft, the cost argument is losing its weight. And the hassle of having to thaw your credit each time you want someone to be able to view your credit report pales in comparison to the hassle of having to correct fraud on your record.

As of this year, every state in the US has some law detailing who is allowed to freeze their credit (or that of a dependent minor), and how much they may be charged for freezing or thawing their reports. Several states do not allow credit reporting agencies to charge fees for freezing or thawing credit reports, even for those who do not yet have proof that their identities have been stolen. In states that do allow charging fees for freezes, it would seem that officials are trying to dissuade the average person from taking these measures “unnecessarily.” I wonder at what point placing a credit freeze will be treated as something that is not only desirable for those who have already had their identity stolen, and instead be actively encouraged to improve the average person’s protection or, better still, be treated as the default behavior.

Does it make sense that we have better standards of authentication for accessing our email accounts and phones than for making insurance claims, or creating new bank accounts? As we rapidly approaching the point where everyone in the US will have had their “permanent” details released to the black market, it remains to be seen whether dealing with identity theft will simply become background noise like spam in email, or if its increase will bring about meaningful change. 

Related Content:

 

 

Lysa Myers began her tenure in malware research labs in the weeks before the Melissa virus outbreak in 1999. She has watched both the malware landscape and the security technologies used to prevent threats from growing and changing dramatically. Because keeping up with all ... View Full Bio
Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
geriatric
50%
50%
geriatric,
User Rank: Moderator
1/11/2017 | 3:11:13 PM
Hear, Hear!!
I agree. Roadblocks to consumer protection need to be removed. How about a whitelist option where access to your credit is frozen by default, and the consumer explicitly authorizes new credit.

For free.
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Video
Cartoon Contest
Write a Caption, Win a Starbucks Card! Click Here
Latest Comment: Our Endpoint Protection system is a little outdated... 
Current Issue
The Year in Security: 2019
This Tech Digest provides a wrap up and overview of the year's top cybersecurity news stories. It was a year of new twists on old threats, with fears of another WannaCry-type worm and of a possible botnet army of Wi-Fi routers. But 2019 also underscored the risk of firmware and trusted security tools harboring dangerous holes that cybercriminals and nation-state hackers could readily abuse. Read more.
Flash Poll
Rethinking Enterprise Data Defense
Rethinking Enterprise Data Defense
Frustrated with recurring intrusions and breaches, cybersecurity professionals are questioning some of the industrys conventional wisdom. Heres a look at what theyre thinking about.
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2019-19729
PUBLISHED: 2019-12-11
An issue was discovered in the BSON ObjectID (aka bson-objectid) package 1.3.0 for Node.js. ObjectID() allows an attacker to generate a malformed objectid by inserting an additional property to the user-input, because bson-objectid will return early if it detects _bsontype==ObjectID in the user-inpu...
CVE-2019-19373
PUBLISHED: 2019-12-11
An issue was discovered in Squiz Matrix CMS 5.5.0 prior to 5.5.0.3, 5.5.1 prior to 5.5.1.8, 5.5.2 prior to 5.5.2.4, and 5.5.3 prior to 5.5.3.3 where a user can trigger arbitrary unserialization of a PHP object from a packages/cms/page_templates/page_remote_content/page_remote_content.inc POST parame...
CVE-2019-19374
PUBLISHED: 2019-12-11
An issue was discovered in core/assets/form/form_question_types/form_question_type_file_upload/form_question_type_file_upload.inc in Squiz Matrix CMS 5.5.0 prior to 5.5.0.3, 5.5.1 prior to 5.5.1.8, 5.5.2 prior to 5.5.2.4, and 5.5.3 prior to 5.5.3.3 where a user can delete arbitrary files from the se...
CVE-2014-7257
PUBLISHED: 2019-12-11
SQL injection vulnerability in DBD::PgPP 0.05 and earlier
CVE-2013-4303
PUBLISHED: 2019-12-11
includes/libs/IEUrlExtension.php in the MediaWiki API in MediaWiki 1.19.x before 1.19.8, 1.20.x before 1.20.7, and 1.21.x before 1.21.2 does not properly detect extensions when there are an even number of "." (period) characters in a string, which allows remote attackers to conduct cross-s...