Follow us:
  1. Home
  2. News
  3. Privacy

The Weekly Hack: Beware of Equifax and aliens

Identity thieves can use the Equifax breach to steal social security benefits and leave victims with the bill, but does it even matter if the entire planet is under attack?

Photo via Twitter
Sure, you never technically asked Equifax to monitor your personal data, but credit checks are a necessary step to securing a home, a loan, or a job. But now that half the country’s data has been stolen, you may be tempted to purchase credit protection elsewhere as a precaution.

There’s just one problem. That other, competing credit protection service may “very well be using Equifax to do the back office part,” Sen. Elizabeth Warren told Marketplace in a recent interview. In other words, Equifax could be profiting off the scare it created from its own breach.

The senator’s allegations, made public in an interview this week with Marketplace, came one day before Equifax announced that it will notify an additional 2.4 million consumers that their data was breached.

The customers were among the 145.5 million people whose identities were already confirmed stolen. But Equifax said it could not confirm the specific of identity of those 2.4 million people until Thursday because only partial driver’s license information was taken.

Now that Equifax has identified who the additional victims are, the corporation promises to offer them free identity protection and credit monitoring services.

Social Security benefits

People filing for their taxes are reportedly getting billed by the IRS for Social Security benefits that they never collected. Even people in the business of filing taxes are affected.

Retired accountant Jim Shambo writes on the American Institute of CPAs website that he received an SSA-1099 for $19,236 in Social Security. But Shambo hadn’t even applied to collect the benefits, he writes, let alone receive the money.

And before he had a chance to alert the Social Security office to the fraud, he says received a letter “congratulating me on initiating my Social Security benefits.”

Experts say the problem isn’t unique. In fact, hackers made off with with $6 million in social security benefits stolen directly from recipients’ bank accounts, a report last year found.

Shambo says that people between the ages of 62 and 70 are vulnerable to the Social Security hack. Victims have little recourse, as one man who was billed for benefits in a similar theft told the Detroit Free Press that it took repeated calls and visits to local Social Security offices to get revised tax forms.

Shambo points to two likely culprits for the breach: the Social Security office website itself and Equifax.

Hacking aliens 

Astrophysicists Michael Hippke and John Learned recently published a paper arguing that any attempt to contact “extraterrestrial intelligence” could place our species at the risk of a widespread hack.

They say that sophisticated telescopes could, in theory, pick up a malicious virus that would affect the world’s computers. In another hypothetical scenario, extraterrestrials could use human communication to mess with the world’s collective minds, perhaps by telling everyone that “we will make your sun go supernova tomorrow.”

“True or not, it could cause widespread panic,” Hippke and Learned write.

In the long run, they argue that attempting to contact extraterrestrial intelligence comes with more benefits than drawbacks, but they say being aware of the negative possibilities is important.

If aliens do exists, “there will be a plurality of good and bad civilizations,” the physicists write, and the bad ones may be all too eager to take advantage of the fragility of humans. Even a threatening text could have what the physicists describe as a “demoralizing cultural influence.”

The paper comes after the New York Times released a bombshell report last year about mysterious sightings reported by army pilots and a resulting, unsuccessful UFO research program funded by the Pentagon to look for answers.

But even if aliens do exist, other experts say they may have bigger fish to fry than our computers or our heads. Retired Army Col. John Alexander, a founder of the Advanced Theoretical Physics Group and the author of a book about UFO sightings and theories, told the New York Daily News that the likelihood if an alien-led computer hack “is so remote as to not be worth any concern, let alone time and effort in countering it."

German Government

The German press is quoting anonymous security officials who claim that Russian hackers placed malware in government networks. The hackers infiltrated the network used specifically by the German parliament and other federal offices, the officials said. The Russian group Fancy Bear was reportedly behind the attack.

Germany's government responded that they are investigating the attack but adds that it “was isolated and brought under control within the federal administration.”

Texas was not hacked

Texas officials are pushing back on an NBC report claiming that state computers were compromised by Russian hackers during the 2016 presidential election. The report did not allege that results were changed, only that the state’s voter registration system was “compromised.”

"We have absolutely no evidence that there was any penetration or any compromise of any of Texas' voting or voting registration systems,” the Texas Secretary of State responded to the station.

Take an Identity Theft Quiz

Get matched with an Accredited Partner

    Share your comments