The Dangers of Thinking You’re Prepared… If You’re Not

Keith Fitz-Gerald Jul 27, 2016
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[Japan] – Most investors don’t give a second thought about protecting their personal financial data. But they should for one simple reason – it can be used against you.

Especially when you’re travelling like I am.

If you carry…

…a smart phone… you’re a target.

…a laptop… you’re a target.

…a tablet… you’re a target.

Here’s the thing.

Grabbing your purse, your wallet, or even your smart phone is secondary to getting the data on it when it comes to criminal activity.

Today I’m going to give you five simple things you can do to protect yourself, your family, and your money when you’re on the road. And, as usual, I’ve also got a recommendation that can help you profit even as you do so.

Here’s what you need to know.

I’m writing to you from our home in Kyoto, where I’m enjoying some much-needed down time with my family. The weather is hot and humid, the sights are fabulous, and the food is simply tremendous.

As usual, though, my mind is working overtime when it comes to one of the most profitable of all Unstoppable Trends we follow: War, Terrorism and Ugliness.

I’m struck as I watch the TV tonight by just how many threats exist around the world – political instability, economic decline and, unfortunately, terrorism in places like Nice, Normandy, Brussels, and Miami that we previously considered safe. What I’d give to return to the days when nothing was more serious than an occasional pickpocket or a lost wallet to worry about.

But that’s wishful thinking on my part.

You see, the really valuable data to a criminal these days isn’t part of the massive data breaches that we’ve all read about at retailers, social media, and health care companies like Target, LinkedIn, and Anthem. That’s what most people think about when they envision cybercrime.

Rather, it’s the personal information you carry with you because of what it reveals about you when you’re travelling that’s really dangerous.

For example:

  • Your calendar can be used to identify dates and times when you are most vulnerable – to theft, to being mugged, or God forbid, something far worse.
  • Your credit cards can be used to fraudulently buy goods and services, often within minutes of being stolen… from your cell phone’s browser or your wallet.
  • Your email can be used to reverse engineer your personal network of friends and business contacts. It sounds crass but a kidnapper or extortionist can use this to make a determination as to how “valuable” you are as a hostage. Or not.
  • Your phone’s microphone can be turned on without your knowledge to eavesdrop on conversations, as can your camera.
  • Your tablet’s location can be used to track you, also without your knowledge.

People think it’ll never happen to them, but kidnapping, ransom, and extortion are increasing to the tune of 50% or more a year as the world’s geopolitical situation destabilizes. Simple theft is rising dramatically.

What’s more, it’s happening in areas that most investors aren’t thinking about – including Asia, Europe, and the Americas – areas we previously regarded as safe, and places where we’re likely to let our guard down.

Criminals count on this false sense of security when you’re travelling, just the way Wall Street’s traders count on your complacency. They know you’re preoccupied with seeing the sights or simply finding your way around a strange city.

You may think you’re safe in your hotel, but your data almost guarantees you and your money are not – especially if you’re in an area of the world where there are sophisticated foreign intelligence services or security.

These days you have to assume that your information will be compromised – often times in ways you least expect. ATMs, for example, are especially vulnerable in Europe.

Just last month, security professional Benjamin Tedesco spotted a credit card skimmer on an ATM directly outside St. Stephen’s Cathedral in Vienna’s Stefansplatz, an area I’ve visited frequently over the years. The video he posted of himself ripping off the dodgy device made international headlines and has been viewed more than 100,000 times on Youtube.com.

Hotel security varies widely. It is not uncommon in certain parts of the world for maids, hotel staff, or even tour guides to act as inside help, then sell what the information they have to the highest bidder, which is why you don’t want to leave anything important lying around in your room.

The Street Value of Your Identity

Most of the time whatever’s stolen is going to be by a lower-level criminal who just wants to pass it to the dark net for a fee. According to CNBC citing data from Avast, credit cards without a balance guarantee are worth about $8 a card. Social security numbers go for $1.25. A driver’s license scan, though, is worth about $20.

What you don’t want is for it to go to a professional. That’s because pros are interested in using your information far more nefariously. They’re hunting for access to secure accounts, entertainment applications, and file transfer services.

To give you an idea, a Western Union account that you may use to wire funds is worth about $6 while credit card credentials are worth anywhere from $15 to $30 per. A CDC.gov account, though, jumps to $340 with the big daddy of them all, a U.S. Postal Service account, reaching $680 – again, according to CNBC and Avast.

Professionals are so dangerous because they use access to launch so-called secondary attacks on your money, or on you personally. It’s not uncommon, for example, for cyber criminals to work closely with street level gangs to seek out high-value targets and hold them until bank accounts are drained or a ransom is paid.

Ironically, most victims don’t think of themselves as being “worth it” until after their information has been compromised and their information stolen… or worse.

I know I didn’t… once.

Years ago I was in London on a business trip and found myself with a few hours to kill on a Saturday afternoon. So I moseyed over to the Tower of London with a few thousand of my closest friends to enjoy the afternoon. I purchased a quick pint and a sandwich from one of the hawkers on the way using my credit card, not thinking twice about it.

Ninety minutes later, my wife, Noriko, called wondering why we’d made a rather large charity donation to a British organization she’d never heard of and was I enjoying the cigars I’d picked up? (I don’t smoke).

Thankfully, our credit card companies were on the ball, so they’d called her within minutes and we were able to put the kibosh on further “donations,” not to mention the smoking habit I didn’t have.

Still, the damage was done.

Five Ways to Protect Your Data, One Way to Profit

To this day, I do everything I can to make myself and my money a much harder target every time I travel as a result.

You can, too:

  • Don’t take any device you don’t absolute have to have on a trip. Better yet, rent a phone or tablet while you’re travelling. Completely reset it to factory standards before you turn it on and again when you’re done using an overwrite routine or application.
  • Create temporary email accounts that you will abandon after your trip and change the passwords you use several times as you’re travelling.
  • Resist the temptation to log on to free Wi-Fi in places like coffee shops, hotels, Internet cafes and airports and keep online time to a minimum. The longer you’re “on,” the more exposed you are. Consider using a VPN service that will allow you to “tunnel” through otherwise open networks by establishing a truly private connection. I’m partial to Hideman, which allows me complete anonymity and data encryption and Authentic8 which runs a secure, remote browser that keeps secure data on their servers, not the equipment you’re using.
  • Keep your passport in RFID protection sleeves and your wallet in something similar to avoid wireless sniffers that can steal your information without your wallet ever leaving your pocket.
  • Switch to chip-secured credit cards as quickly as you can and try to avoid using any mobile device like a smart phone for payments directly if possible.

Am I being paranoid?

Perhaps… but there’s also an opportunity here.

Most of the data you carry with you has to transit to the “cloud” – meaning it’s Internet-based computing – to work. Something as simple as sending an email, for example, requires identifying who you are, screening contents, storage, and transmission. Include a few links and you’re talking about a very complicated proposition.

cloud computing

Figure 1 – Source – Wiki

And that’s your entry.

Worldwide spending on public cloud services is expected to grow by more than 19.4% a year to more than $141 billion annually within the next three years. But the cost of protecting that data may hit $1 trillion.

That’s where Barracuda Networks Inc. (NYSE:CUDA) comes in.

The company designs and delivers cloud-enabled solutions that give customers the ability to address security threats, improve network performance, and protect and store their data. Its security solutions are designed to protect and optimize a customer’s IT infrastructures, including email servers, web applications, data centers, and core networks.

The company sells its appliances, services, and software products to pretty much everybody you’d do business with from education, government, financial services, healthcare, professional services and telecommunications, to retail and manufacturing industries.

Since its inception in 2003, CUDA has sold its solutions to more than 150,000 customers located in more than 100 countries.

The company recently reported fiscal Q1/2017 billings and revenue of $98 million and $87 million, which represent year-over-year increases of 4% and 11%, respectively.

Its balance sheet looks solid with $166.71 million in cash versus just $4.32 million in debt as of May 2016.

Most importantly, though, the company has experienced 42 upward EPS revisions in the last 30 days, which tells me that analysts are waking up to the potential.

We, on the other hand, are ahead of it.

Again.

Until next time,

Keith

4 Responses to The Dangers of Thinking You’re Prepared… If You’re Not

  1. R. J. says:

    Two-factor identification should be used as well.

    Consider a free service that creates masked (alias) email addresses and passwords. For a reasonable annual fee, one can create a masked credit card and phone number. Accounts are destructible; that is, you can use them once, or set and forget until no longer needed. The information is automatically populated (no typing), bypassing keyboard sniffers.

    For passwords, however, store nothing on a device. Your smartphone or tablet, regrettably, will store your Google account information. Actually, your smartphone isn’t that smart: it’s a insecure computer married to a radio. While the technology and deployment is certainly smart, in my opinion, it has dumbed us down.

    But that’s a conversation for another time.

    There is another good free service, cloud-based, encrypted, that one can use for password/user name, as well as keeping secure notes. and more.

  2. Milton Bailey says:

    Wow, is that ever a mouthful. You just put a lot on my plate.

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