TurboTax Resumes Filing After Fraudulent Returns

Late last week, TurboTax, the online tax return filing software, turned off its state filing feature for all states after the discovery that fraudulent returns had been filed, according to USA Today. Stolen personal data had been used to file fake state returns allowing criminals to claim tax refunds.

TurboTax’s state filing feature has resumed after an investigation found that the fake returns were not a result of TurboTax’s systems, but a result of data stolen elsewhere.

“We are taking this issue very seriously and from the moment it emerged it has been all-hands-on-deck,” says Brad Smith, CEO of TurboTax parent company Intuit. “I am more than pleased we were able to resume transmission for our customers within about 24 hours.”

According to USA Today, two customers from Minnesota logged onto TurboTax to find their state returns already filed, prompting the state of Minnesota to no longer accept electronically submitted filings using TurboTax. In addition, the state of Utah discovered 28 fraud attempts.

The fear of personal data breaches is heightened after last week’s Anthem Health Insurance hack, where the names, addresses, email addresses, social security numbers, and income levels of 80 million people were stolen. According to MarketWatch, this kind of data makes it easy for a criminal to file a fake tax return. Much of this data is sold on the black market in bulk. Criminals will set up in a hotel room and file return after return.

Fraudulent tax returns are all too common. In 2013, the IRS paid $5.2 billion in refunds to fraudulent identities.

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Healthcare.gov Shares Your Personal Information

An individual’s age, zip code, income level, whether or not they smoke or are pregnant, and more information is now the knowledge of third party websites that will use the information to serve consumers ads online. The Associated Press reports that the website can obtain a computer’s IP address, which, when mixed with other information can locate a person’s address or name. Researchers at the Electronic Frontier Foundation have confirmed that sites such as Google, Yahoo, Twitter, YouTube, and many more have received this personal data. The site Doubleclick, which has obtained information, has the ability to match this data up with an already vast collection of online reading and buying habits, thus creating a detailed account of an individual. Healthcare.gov is sending this data even if a user has turned on Do Not Track, according to Gigaom.com. The third party sites are prohibited from using the data for their own use but the Obama Administration did not explain how they would monitor and control the use of the data. Instead, Administration spokesman Aaron Albright said that the government is only using the personal information to create “a simpler, more streamlined and intuitive experience” on Healthcare.gov. (AP) This all comes in the wake of President Obama’s new plans to protect personal data online and make corporations responsible for the data they store. The dangers go deeper than information used to serve advertisements. If one of the third party sites was breached by a hacker, millions of individuals’ private data would be exposed and as the world has seen in recent events, the possibility of this happening is extremely high. “You don’t need all of that data to do customer service,” said Theresa Payton to AP, former White House chief information officer. “We know hackers are just waiting at the door, salivating to get at this data.” The Electronic Frontier Foundation recommends installing Privacy Badger, which will block these third party connections.

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Don’t Let The NSA Spy On You

2013 brought us the revelation that the government is all over our personal information, snooping through phone records and internet activity. To combat this, 2014 brought us new tools and methods to stop this (unfortunately legal) invasion of privacy.Though it is impossible to completely block out the National Security Agency from your life, there are a few steps you can take to make it slightly more difficult to be spied on.

On the internet:

If you are going to store data online, use Google services. Google has spent a lot of money this year working to make themselves the safest place on the internet, according to IT World.

Google chairman Eric Schmidt said. “We massively encrypted our internal systems,” he said. “It’s generally viewed that this level of encryption is unbreakable in our lifetime by any sets of human beings in any way. We’ll see if that’s really true.”

When surfing the internet, you may have noticed your recent searches spawning advertisements on unrelated sites. If it bothers you that your searches are being tracked, you can browse in private mode in most browsers. For the extreme individual, there is also the Tor Project, which allows you to browse privately over encrypted channels, according to the The Blaze.

On your phone:

Make sure you buy an encrypted phone. Apple and Google phones have the highest level of security and their newest phones will lock down messages, contacts, and photos stored on the phone, keeping them away from anyone (including the NSA) who might want your data. However, many phones automatically store data in the cloud, which is not safe from government spying. Turning off automatic cloud storage is simple to do but you risk losing all data if your phone is lost or broken, according to The Hill.

Android users should use encrypted apps such as TextSecure or WhatsApp to send and receive messages and iPhone users should use Apple’s iMessage serve. To protect yourself when making phone calls, use Whisper System’s apps RedPhone for Android users and Signal for iPhone users.

Completely shutting yourself off from the government is impossible while using devices. Your phone is, at its core, a tracking device that allows anyone with the technical skills to locate your exact location.

“Spying on the content of cell phone communications is trivially easy,” said Eva Galperin, who works for digital rights advocate Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), according to The Hill.

However, these tips can allow for a small amount of privacy in an age where nothing is private.

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NSA Has Planted Bugging Hardware & Software Into 100,000 Computers Tracking Users Offline

Photo Via – YouTube Screenshot

It has now been released that the NSA has planted bugging hardware and software into 100,000 computers worldwide, not the 50,000 originally claimed. Offline or “air-gapped” computers can now be tracked and surveillance can be gathered according to leaker Edward Snowden.

Tiny radio receivers are planted inside the computer before it is shipped or during a covert operation called “a black bag job.” The devices look just like a normal USB port and infiltrate/exfiltrate data to an NSA relay station (about the size of a suitcase) up to eight miles from the location of the receiver.

“Air-gapping” a computer (unplugging it from any internet network connection) was thought to be a safe way for people to utilize their computers with no worry of someone monitoring their activity. But, the NSA uses radio waves, which can access computers when they are completely offline. No longer is disconnecting a computer from the internet a foolproof way to keep the agency from gathering surveillance.

Code named “Quantum”, the NSA has used this technology ot spy on Chinese hackers, Russian military, South American drug cartels, Middle East interests, and even the European Union. “Quantam” was even used in recent cyber attacks against Iranian nuclear facilities. This would be the first documented report of the NSA participating in cyber attacks. This attack crippled Iranian centrifuges causing them to spin out of control. This is not the first time that details of the “Quantam” project have been exposed.

A leaked powerpoint slide showed that receivers had been inserted into 50,000 computers worldwide and that report has now been increased to 100,000. Jacob Applebaum, known security researcher also mentioned the “Quantam” receivers in the hacking conference Chaos Communication Congress.

https://youtu.be/vILAlhwUgIU

 

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Scam Artists Are Setting Up Fake Obamacare Websites To Steal Identities & Empty Bank Accounts

As of Thursday, October 24th, more than 700 fake or misleading sites that are claiming to be associated with the healthcare.gov website have been popping up all over the internet. These sites are being used to steal information that people enter in hopes of getting health coverage.

According to the Washington Examiner, many of the sites are “considered” legal even though they are not related to or have nothing to do with the government Obamacare program.

An example is one site that has actually branded itself as “The Obamacare Enrollment Team”. It then prompts people to enter their name, social security number, address, and more on an enrollment form. You can imagine what all someone can do with all of that information. There is a site called: www.obama-care.us which someone registered through Godaddy that doesn’t enroll anyone in anything and just takes their information. It is owned by a Georgia company that also owns 167 squatter sites.

While squatter sites are nothing new, they are definitely exposing a very large problem. They have been used in the past by companies to either draw traffic from competitors or to gather information and sell that information to marketers and in some cases people who would use that information to do financial harm. You can read more about this in this article.

Unsuspecting users can be prompted to answer any number of very personal and private information through these sites. Information regarding mental and physical health, family health, personal account information, and social security information, just to name a few.

To prevent this kind of activity, many sites purchase any domain that might possibly be associated with their domain and then point that to the official website. It has experts stumped why the healthcare.gov site had not picked up all of the very obvious domains that are now being used by “cyber squatters”. There are currently more than 222 websites trying to take advantage of the healthcare.gov name and another 500 squatting on state exchange websites.

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John McAfee Says That Healthcare.gov Is A Hacker’s Dream

Founder of McAfee security software, John McAfee, states that the new healthcare.gov site is a hacker’s dream. Computer hackers can steal your identity through the site.

There is nothing to stop a hacker from creating a website that pretends to be an agent that is a broker for the new healthcare program. From there they can gather all of the extremely personal data that can easily allow them access to a person’s bank account.

“This is going to happen and it’s going to happen very soon”, said McAfee.

“The hacker aspect is only one of the problems,” McAfee said. “Most people can’t even log onto the system because it’s so complex and error-ridden.”

He also stated that the site’s architecture is simply “outrageous” and was not designed to handle the volume of users that would be accessing the site.

We are just reporting what the security mogul stated in recent interviews and are in no way trying to discourage people from utilizing the site or the affordable healthcare act. We just want to make sure that our readers and clients are safe. Please do a little research on any site on which you are entering sensitive data to make sure that your identity and finances are safe.

 

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