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Posts filed under 'Electronic Data Destruction'

Good News: Fewer Canadians Affected In Equifax Breach

Back in September, Equifax reported a breach that affected over 143 million of its customers. As one of the premier document destruction services in Toronto, here at Absolute Destruction, our primary concern was how this attack would affect Canadian customers. Now, several weeks after we first posted about the breach, we have our answer.

An Ongoing Investigation Offers More Info

Since the initial report, Equifax hired Mandiant, a cybersecurity firm to reveal details about the attack. The investigation is far from over, but Mandiant has revealed the number of Canadians affected by the breach is much lower than originally thought. It reports that 8,000 Canadian customers’ information was compromised, a number far off from the preliminary figure of 100,000 first reported.

While Mandiant’s investigation confirmed the Canadian impact was much smaller, it has revealed an additional 2.5 million US customers were involved in the breach, bringing the total number of those affected to 145.5 million.

Former Equifax CEO, Richard Smith, is currently under investigation as he testifies before Congress about his involvement in the breach. He’s to explain how long he and other executives knew about the attack before they did anything to rectify the issue.

Americans Have More Recourse Than Canadian Customers

He’s replaced by interim CEO, Paulino do Rego Barros Jr., who apologizes on behalf of Equifax for its slow and inadequate response to the breach. On September 27, he penned a letter published by The Wall Street Journal. In it he acknowledges the company compounded the problem by offering “insufficient support”. As a result, he promises free credit locking for any American who had their personal information stolen.

Freezing a credit report is the most effective defence against identity theft in these circumstances, but it’s not yet a service available in Canada. Equifax Canada is offering free credit and identity theft monitoring for a year for any Canadian compromised in the breach. These services, in addition to fraud alerts, are the only tools available so far.

How Do You Know If Your Information Is Compromised?

Like we reported in our post, US Equifax Website Hacked, Canadians Amongst Millions Affected, you can head to Equifax’s special website to see if you were impacted by the breach. Equifax is also cooperating with MasterCard and Visa to alert any affected customers. If one of your credit cards was involved in the breach, you’ll be contacted by your financial institution.

What’s Next For Canadians?

Even if you aren’t one of the 8,000 customers affected by the breach, the attack provides a reminder about the importance of security. Security breaches are becoming more and more common these days, so you need to be vigilant about how you store and share your personal information.

As a consumer, you can watch your credit carefully by watching for any suspicious activity in any of your accounts. If you suspect you’re a victim of fraud, set a fraud alert on your credit report. This signals to credit companies that you account may be compromises, so they’ll treat any changes to your file carefully in case someone is attempting to open new accounts in your name.

As a business owner, you must ensure your security strategies are thorough. Your plan should involve comprehensive online security measures, physical security for storage, and staff education. You also need document shredded at your office to make sure your company is doing everything within its power to protect its intellectual property and its customers’ personal information. If you don’t, you risk exposing confidential information.

There are laws in Canada that make these security steps mandatory, so don’t get caught with an deficient security plan. If you do, you can face expensive fines and irreparable damage to your reputation. As one of the fastest growing municipalities in the GTA, we know a lot of our corporate customers are located in Vaughan. Businesses have been trusting us as their number one shredding company in Vaughan for over a decade, so please give us a call if you need help boosting your security plan this fall.

Whether you suspect you’re one of the many victims involved in Equifax’s security breach or not, we welcome your call about secure document shredding. If you’re ready to talk about paper shredding, electronic data destruction, or recycling, then pick up the phone!

Add comment October 23rd, 2017

In The News: Avro Arrow Found In Lake Ontario

In the next installment of our semi-regular feature, In The News, the team at Absolute Destruction considers the recently recovered Avro Arrow. Found at the bottom of Lake Ontario near Point Petre, the remains of the iconic fighter jet provide an unlikely lesson for our readers.

The Avro Arrow — a supersonic, delta-winged, twin-engined interceptor aircraft designed and prototyped during the Cold War — was supposed to be the crowning achievement of Canada’s aviation industry, but it’s abrupt cancellation in 1959 grounded the jet before it could ever leave the ground. Since then, it’s reached a near mythic reputation as the nation mulls over what once could have been.

In offering document destruction Toronto calls its own, the team at Absolute Destruction isn’t indifferent to the mythos surrounding the Avro. Even nearly 60 years later, the question of ‘what if’ hangs heavy in the air, with some experts suggesting it could have made way for a entirely different Canada — a technologically advanced nation that may have sent a man to the moon.

After 9 models were tested, the Diefenbaker government pulled the plug on the jet, citing mounting costs as their reason for cancellation. With the advantage of time, we can understand a changing political atmosphere was another motive, as cost-effective interceptor missiles superseded expensive fighter jets in the Cold War.

At the time of its cancellation, Ottawa ordered the company to destroy everything related to the Avro project, including any completed jets, but the remains found in Lake Ontario suggest engineers skirted these commands.

OEX Recovery Group, the expedition company responsible for the find, posted a picture capturing the sunken Avro found through its Raise the Arrow project. At the time of this article, only photographs of the free-flight model are available, but there are plans to recover the target so it can be displayed at the Canada Aviation and Space Museum.

But what does this all have to do with the document shredding experts in Markham? As a prominent shredding service in the GTA, Absolute understands the Avro Arrow represents the potential of Canadian engineers and scientists; however, its recovery acts as a reminder of a completely different sort.

What was supposed to be destroyed was merely dumped, and in the near future, OEX will be able to recover its remains. Though its water-logged hull will never fly, it will reveal key details we thought lost about the Avro.

Without complete destruction, classified information is always retrievable. It takes a lot to sink a model fighter jet. In comparison, dumping paper documents or old gadgets in the garbage is incredibly simple. So easy, in fact, that you may think it a better alternative than hiring a professional shredding service to demolish the evidence.

Unfortunately, when you throw out full sheets of paper containing important personal information or toss computers with financial data saved to their hard drives, the easier route can end up hurting you.

In 2017, the secrets recovered from the Avro will help us see the advances the aviation industry made in the 50s. But any recovery of your PI now will result in identity theft, tanked credit scores, and potential legal troubles for businesses.

As a GTA business owner, you’re responsible by law to properly dispose of any paper or electronic data containing client information. Don’t do what the personnel tasked with “destroying” the Avro Arrow did. Commit to absolute destruction by hiring our mobile shredders in Oakville, Markham, Toronto, or anywhere else in the GTA. We’re only a phone call away, and we’ll make sure what you need destroyed stays that way.

Add comment October 2nd, 2017

In The News: Bell Exposes Millions in Large Scale Breach

Last month, we explored the story of a local woman who realized she was a victim of identity theft after receiving an unusual ETR bill. The Absolute Destruction headquarters, located in Aurora, is only a stone’s throw away from Vaughan where the crime took place. It’s the first time we examined an incident that was so close to home.

We think it’s important that we investigate local cases of identity theft, to show that it isn’t just a subject of Hollywood films. Identity theft is a real danger to anyone who doesn’t protect their personal information properly.

That’s why we’re starting our second installment of our semi-regular feature, In the News, in which we look at a Canadian telecomm company that failed to shield its customers from a cyberattack — many of whom live in the GTA. Last month, Bell was the victim of an online hack that exposed the personal emails of roughly 1.9 million people and the contact information of 1,700 individuals.

The anonymous hackers posted a note that promised to leak more information should Bell fail to give into their demands. What those demands were are still protected by the ungoing investigation, but it’s likely the criminals were asking for a ransom. Remember, from our post on Ransomware back in May of 2016, that paying these demands rarely works to the victim’s advantage.

Though millions of people were affected in the attack, Bell maintains there was “minimal risk involved” with the breach, and they are still working with law enforcement and the government to ensure the safety of their customers.

We’ll be hearing about breaches more often in the future because of the way companies must now handle these leaks — not because we suspect the threat of hackers has multiplied in any way. Under the guidance of the Canadian Securities Administrators, the federal government is making changes to the country’s privacy laws.

In the past, some cyberattacks were never reported, as there were no legal regulations requiring companies to share this information. The latest changes require companies to disclose more information about every single data breach that results in exposing Canadians’ personal information. These modifications dictate companies also divulge any risk they think may result in another cyberattack sometime in the future.

As a result, more Canadians than ever before will be notified their personal information has been leaked. While these reports will be alarming to those affected, those responsible for these privacy laws hope their work will ultimately lead to greater transparency regarding security.

It only makes sense in terms of marketing. If a company is forced to share every data breach and internal weakness that could lead to more in the future, they’ll want to demonstrate to their customers the way they use their information and how they hope to protect it.

In addition to firewalls, network antivirus, and server security, hiring our commercial shredding services is an essential way to eliminate the threat of identity theft. While firewalls and server securities will protect current information your business needs to store, our document destruction and electronic data destruction ensures obsolete paper and digital files can no longer expose customer information or company intellectual property.

If you’re one of the many business owners that call the GTA home, get in touch with our team. We’ll arrange a convenient shredding schedule customized to your needs, so you can protect your company from local threats of identity theft.

Add comment June 26th, 2017

Click Before You Think: A Look At The Latest Google Phishing Scam

Blog post after blog post, we always come back to the same piece of advice: only click on an attachment if it’s from a trusted source. Usually it’s a good rule of thumb that can protect you from the majority of phishing scams, but the crew at Absolute Destruction is prepared to eat our words. Sometimes, even seemingly trusted sources can send you bogus attachments.

Last month Google was at the heart of an insidious phishing scam that was aimed at its Google Doc users. It sent out an alarmingly realistic email to users asking permission to manage their email and contacts. If you clicked allow, it would have access to everything within your email accounts and your contact list, which it would then use to send out similar emails to your friends and family.

It worked so well because it sent you a Google-hosted page that listed all of your Google accounts, making it seem like a legit request from the tech company. The scam also bought the rights to a third-party app called Google Docs, further legitimizing the scam. Most people didn’t realize there is no such thing as Google Docs app. The real application is built-in to your Google account and has access to your email by default.

Though Google was quick to neutralize this threat, the scam managed to work on roughly 1 million users. Despite the large number, it seems like the tech giant dodged a bullet. Their investigations revealed the scam managed to access only contact information and no other personal data was exposed.

It was a near miss, but it provides a great lesson to all of us. While it’s easy to dismiss emails from unusual sources, with suspect titles and strange attachments, it’s not as simple to identify sophisticated scams that copy the look and writing style of trusted accounts.

Just as phishing scams are evolving, our approach to these cons needs to change along with them. In this latest case, critical thinking was the key to avoiding becoming a victim. Google Docs already has permission to see your emails and the documents you send through it, so it would never need to send this email in the first place.

This method is certainly a lot harder to lock down, and it will take practice.

It’s certainly much more difficult than scheduling our secure electronic data destruction services. Though easier to arrange, our data destruction is an essential step towards digital security, as it eliminates the physical theft of your data once you throw away obsolete devices. Once your computers, phones, or hard drives pass through the teeth of our mobile shredding truck’s blade, there’s no way to retrieve financial files or personal information stored on their chips.

To protect yourself even further, check out the top guides outlining how you can avoid phishing. Experts like WIRED and Norton Anti-Virus provide are a good place to start, so you can protect yourself against sophisticated phishing scam.

We’ll wait as you study up. Once you’re ready, give us a call to schedule your first pick up, and you’ll be one step ahead of the game.

Add comment June 22nd, 2017

In The News: A Local Case of Identity Theft

It isn’t often that Highway 407 plays a vital role in uncovering a severe case of identity theft, but here we are. On April 28, Tara Douglas, a teacher from Bradford, received an invoice for travel on the tolled expressway for a trip she never took in a car that wasn’t hers.

The express toll route, which runs eastwards across the GTA from Burlington to Whitby, is a major artery, here at Absolute Destruction know well. It offers a convenient way to skip over rush hour traffic found on the 403, QEW, and the Gardiner as long as you’re willing to pay a small fee.

If you’ve used it before, you know your licence plate is photographed when you merge and exit the highway. A couple of weeks after your trip, you receive an invoice billing the time you spent driving along the 407.

When Douglas opened up her bill, she noticed the licence plate didn’t match up to any of the cars she drives. She went to a Service Ontario to dispute the charges only to find out the car that was photographed was a black Range Rover that was registered under her licence. Unfortunately for Douglas, this was just the tip of the iceberg.

After removing the SUV from her licence, the Service Ontario representative directed Douglas to Barrie Police Services. In opening an investigation, the officers assigned to her case uncovered her identity was compromised. A woman had managed to steal her personal information, including Douglas’ social insurance number, in order to purchase multiple cars and cell phones as well as open credit card accounts and loans in her name. Her credit report revealed the thief had racked up between $1,000 and $5,000 in charges on each credit card, but it was the $60,000 loan that had Douglas’ heart rate soaring.

Thankfully, the 407 ETR invoice tipped her off, so Douglas can start repairing the damages done to her credit score. The credit bureaus as well as her banks have flagged her accounts and adjusted the way they manage her profile. Meanwhile Douglas has confirmed her mail isn’t being diverted, but there’s still a long way to go to recover her good name.

Though it’s possible to repair a credit rating, prevention is always the easier and more effective route. There’s no better way to prevent identity theft than to make sure your personal information is untouchable. Remember, all a thief needs to open fraudulent accounts is your name, date of birth, and SIN.

To make sure this information is never shared with the wrong person, use our residential shredding services to eliminate any financial record, tax return, or physical document that carries this data. Our NAID-certified practices and processes guarantee absolute destruction, just like our name. Once we feed your papers through the blades of our mobile trucks, there’s no way any thief can retrieve your personal information.

We also recommend you check your credit report regularly and read your financial statements carefully. This way, you can catch any unusual activity early and avoid having to rely on a shocking invoice to alert you of any criminal activity. Don’t be like Douglas. If you’re ready to protect your identity, give us a call.

Add comment May 24th, 2017

We Weigh In On The Top Antivirus Apps For Your Android

Mobile Antivirus Protection: Is It Worth It?

If you watched the last American election unfold, then you’re aware of the email scandal surrounding Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Amongst a variety of other reasons, she may have lost the election (but not the popular vote) because of her use of an unsecured mobile phone and private email server. It was one of the main issues Trump used to disparage Clinton during his campaign.

It’s funny how things have come full circle.

Not even a full month into his presidency, Trump is still using his personal Android when tweeting from his personal account, and recent reports have revealed he secured his @POTUS account with a Gmail address. Meanwhile, Sean Spicer, the White House Press Secretary and Communications Director, managed to tweet his Twitter password not once but twice.

In a world where some of the most powerful men risk security breaches, we can all appreciate the value of mobile security. We may not be the leader of the free nation, but the behaviours we indulge in on our own, less important iPhones and Androids can still result in severe consequences.

Back in November, we discussed Symantec’s Honey Stick Project, an experiment to see how quickly unsecured smartphones are found and breached. The results were staggering. Those mobiles that didn’t have any password were accessed within three-quarters of an hour, exposing personal information (like photos, banking, and social media apps) and corporate data.

But most of us understand the need for PINs on our cellphones in case we misplace them in public. It’s how we use our smartphones online that’s earning attention. As more and more malware are targeting these devices, your Android is susceptible to viruses that could expose your personal information. Google Play has seen an increase in the number of malware-affected apps on its servers. The question becomes whether or not mobile anti-virus protection services are worth it.

According to Chris DiBona, Google’s Open Source Programs Manager, these anti-virus protection services are as predatory as those malicious apps. A virus operates differently from those corrupting our Macs or Windows computers. Online security issues with our phones tend to come from malicious apps that phish for personal data — apps that you have to choose to buy and install. Smart use of your smartphone is a far better form of prevention than any anti-virus program claiming to protect your data.

As our smartphones evolve, this may change. Our Android has replaced our wallets, contact books, and photo albums, making them a huge target for those looking to extort your personal information. Until their methods of snagging this info changes, your best bet would be to:

  • Investigate apps thoroughly before you download them
  • Only download apps from trusted sources
  • Lock your cell phone with a password
  • Equip your corporate phone with a remote wiping service in case of theft
  • Use our secure electronic data destruction services when you’re ready to upgrade

By following each step, you’re increasing your chances of keeping personal or corporate information safe on your mobile. Ultimately, it’s up to you how elaborate you want to go in order to protect yourself, but it’s safe to say you won’t need mobile anti-virus protection for the time being. Just take this advice into consideration and use your smartphone with discretion, and remember to call us the next time you decide to upgrade. 

Add comment February 21st, 2017

Synthetic Identity Theft & Its Very Real Consequences

We know how it sounds. How can synthetic identity theft pose a genuine concern for Canadian citizens if it isn’t real? Well, for one thing, it’s not as artificial as its name implies. Synthetic identity theft uses a mixture of authentic and fabricated information to create a completely new identity or — in some cases — even multiple identities.  Unfortunately, fraudsters using this technique typically target those who have a small credit footprint, like children and the deceased, pairing their Social Insurance Numbers (SIN) with fake names, addresses, and other details. This fusion of real and false information makes it difficult to track and even easier for criminals to get fake licences, passports, and credit card accounts — which is why we here at Absolute Destruction think it’s necessary to shine a spotlight on this emerging crime.

Children, the deceased, and anyone lacking an established credit history are at risk of becoming a victim. Synthetic fraudsters target these individuals on purpose. When the genuine identity associated with a SIN has little to no credit, it also means they likely have a thin or non-existent file in the financial world. As a result, it’s incredibly easy to open accounts with these numbers, as the owners are unlikely to check their credit reports and there aren’t any security checks put in place to safeguard against fraud.  They’re a blank slate waiting to be taken advantage of.

This tabula rasa creates the ideal opportunity for criminals. Using a real SIN and a fake name, they apply for a credit card. Though this initial application is more than likely denied, the process forces credit bureaus to acknowledge both the enquiry and the “person” behind the application. The fraudster has begun to create their own credit history that will make them more desirable by other organizations in the future.  Eventually, they’ll be able to open multiple accounts with various institutions and fabricate what looks like a strong borrowing history on paper. With that, they can visit Service Canada to create licences and passports under fake names. In the long term, a criminal will use this established identity to open and maintain accounts with higher borrowing limits before maxing them out.

Here in Toronto, it’s a growing concern for the police. In fact, Detective Constable Mike Kelly calls the fraud ‘infinite mischief’ since criminals will encounter very few limits to their scam when using a mixture of real and fabricated information. In 2013, Equifax, a consumer credit reporting agency, estimated there were no more than 200 investigations of synthetic identity theft each month. Now they estimate that number has skyrocketed into the thousands, potentially costing Canadians a billion dollars each year.

The solution to this scam, like so many other cons, is simple: keep personal information protected. Your SIN should never leave the house, nor should it ever be shared with anyone but a trusted employer, financial institution, or the government. The same goes for your children’s or a lost loved one’s information. When you’re ready to dispose of any document that records this number or any other piece of personal information — whether it’s your own or a loved one’s — make sure it’s disposed of properly with our mobile shredders. We’ll make sure it’s incinerated so no criminal can retrieve your confidential information.

Synthetic though it may be, this method of identity theft has very real consequences for its victims. Make sure you protect yourself with safe handling of your SIN and personal information. When in doubt, give us a call to dispose of your documents.

Add comment January 30th, 2017

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