Connectivity lost from severed sub-marine cables

India’s outsourcing industry has been struggling after January 30th’s Internet outage caused by the disconnect of two undersea cables. The effects span from Egypt to Bangladesh – India, Pakistan, Egypt, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, and Bahrain are all affected. Most notably, this has caused a slowdown in traffic on Dubai’s stock exchange. The outage was not noticed until Thursday the 31st when the workday began.

The Internet Service Providers’ Association of India claims this outage has caused a loss of half its bandwidth. .US companies have felt the impacts on its customer service outsourcing call centers such as Bank of America. Officials note the repairs could take up to one week. There is speculation that a ship’s anchor is to blame .

Travel Safety

Identity thieves are targetting travellers during the holidays. Staying home this holiday season can actually be beneficial. An identity thief an collecting boarding passes left on planes and determine a person isn’t home by conducting a simple web search of the name on the boarding pass. The web search will give the thieves your address. Congruently, it is suggested you always keep your gas receipts while traveling with a rental. This can also show your name when you’ve used a credit card to pay.

It is also highly suggested that too much information should not be put on luggage tags. A simple first initial and last name with phone number should be sufficient. If your luggage winds up missing, you can always coordinate with the responsible airline which delivery address you prefer.

Another tip is to alert your credit card company when you plan to be out of town. Not only will this help alert them that activity should cease in your hometown but also that you may be conducting activity in an unusual location. In some instances, debit transactions or credit card transactions may require pre-approval such as travel within Europe where there may be high rates of credit card fraud.

Terror Watch List piling up

The government’s terrorist watch list has grown to well over 755,000 names. The list is used to check land border crossings, airports and sea ports. It has been growing on average of over 200,000 names per year since 2004. The general concensus is that the list will be useless if it continues to grow at this pace.

According to the Government Accountability Office (GAO), the actual number of people on the list can’t be determined. That is because there are multiple spellings for the same individuals.

Senate Homeland Security Committee Chairman Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., says “serious hurdles remain if (the list) is to be as effective as we need it to be. Some of the concerns stem from its rapid growth, which could call into question the quality of the list itself.”
According to the GAO, approximately 53,000 of the names on the list have been examined since 2004. There are no quantifiable records of permitted and denied entries after questioning. It is assumed the majority were permitted.

Leonard Boyle, director of the FBI’s Terrorist Screening Center, which maintains the list, says in testimony to be given today that 269 foreigners were denied entry in fiscal 2006.

The GAO report also says:

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) could not specify how many people on its no-fly list, which is a small subset of the watch list, might have slipped through screening and been allowed on domestic flights.

TSA data show “a number of individuals” on the no-fly list passed undetected through screening and boarded international flights bound for the United States. Several planes have been diverted once officials realized that people named on the watch lists were on board.

Homeland Security has not done enough to use the list more broadly in the private sector, where workers applying for jobs in sensitive places such as chemical factories could do harm.

Boyle also urges that the list be used by for screening at businesses where workers could “carry out attacks on our critical infrastructure that could harm large numbers of persons or cause immense economic damage.”
The size of the watch list continues to heighten serious concern.

TSA contractor loses private data of 3,930

TSA, the department in charge of homeland security, has had two contractor’s laptop computers stolen which contained the names, addresses, birthdays, commercial driver’s license numbers and, in some cases, Social Security numbers of 3,930 commercial drivers across the country who transport hazardous materials.
The contractor, Integrated Biometric Technology, told TSA that the personal information was deleted from the computers before they were stolen. But after the second laptop was stolen, TSA investigators discovered that a person with data recovery skills could recover the information. Integrated Biometric Technology will provide one year of free credit-monitoring services to the 3,930 people affected.

TSA has since instructed the contractor to fully encrypt all laptop hard drives. The TSA program is called the Hazardous Materials Endorsement Threat Assessment. It collects information for security-clearance purposes for any driver who transports hazardous materials.

Also in 2007, TSA lost a computer with sensitive bank and payroll data for 100,000 employees. The hard drive contained historical payroll data, Social Security numbers, dates of birth, addresses, time and leave data, bank account and routing information, and details about financial allotments and deductions.

Check Cashing Scams Making a Comeback

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There are two popular types of fake check scams re-emerging: the big lottery or jackpot winnings and the work-from-home scam. Another is a scammer offering to write a check for an amount larger than you are selling something for.

In all situations, the victim receives a bogus check from the scammer. The victim then deposits the check.

On average, a fake check scheme ranges between $3,000 to $4,000, according to the National Consumer League, a nonprofit consumer group based in Washington, D.C.
Since federal law requires banks to make the funds for customer deposits available quickly, usually within one to five days, depending on the type of check, according to the National Consumers League; then the “Money” is put in the victim’s account by the bank.

THE CATCH: This does not mean that the check they deposited was legitimate.

The scammer then contacts the victim within a few days or sometimes even immediately with an excuse to get some of that money returned: “The check amount was accidentally too high, there is a processing fee, we have a gift to send you, etc..”
It can take weeks for the bogus check to be detected by the bank. By that time, the victim has already wired some money back to the scammer. The victim may have even spent the money the bank gave them. The scammer is long gone by then. The bank does not hesitate to get their money back from the victim one way or another.

Information Assurance & Cyber Security Research and Education, a 501(c)(3)