16 Aug

When simple isn’t the key …

According to Business Week, a simple six character password – all lowercase – can be cracked by a hacker in just 10 minutes, while a nine character password using letters, uppercase, numbers and symbols will take 44,530 years to breach.  With increasing news of hackers invading large corporate operations, government offices, bank records, and numerous individual email, Twitter and Facebook accounts, it's shocking to learn that 50 percent of computer users today still only employ a one word password, such as "password" or "12345678" to protect their online assets because they (we) believe "this will never happen to me."

 

 

Recently, EPIQ attended an investment industry seminar that covered many important topics, including the real risk of wire fraud by means of identity theft.  We by no means intend to be alarmists and have not experienced any incident which triggered this writing, but as an ally in the management and stewardship of our clients' assets, we believe raising awareness in the proper protection and safekeeping of your information important.

According to Commontouch's Internet Threats Trend Report for the first quarter of 2013, an average of 97.4 billion spam e-mails and 973 malware e-mails were sent each day in Q1 2013.

In the old days of email, hackers only mildly irritated us by snatching our email addresses (only the address) and adding it to a list of spam advertisements. And while many of us continue to be inundated with spam emails on a regular basis, today's email hacker wants more. In addition to your email address, this cyber thief also gains access to your password which leads to confidential personal information and private correspondence you always deemed off-limits to others.  At the seminar, we were given many examples whereby a client e-mail account was compromised, the e-mail history was mined for financial data, and an attempt – often times successful – was made to direct assets via wire to the account of a fraudster.

The conveniences of e-mail provide an ideal cover to sophisticated criminals and the responsibility for vigilance lies with the owner of the account, their advisors and their custodians.  Following are a few tips to protect your accounts and provide better sleep at night:

  • Protect your e-mail accounts with strong passwords consisting of upper and lower case letters, numbers and symbols.  The table below may help you in choosing length and composition:

Length Lowercase + Uppercase + Nos. & Symbols
6 characters 10 minutes 10 hours 18 days
7 characters 4 hours 23 days 4 years
8 characters 4 days 3 years 463 years
9 characters 4 months 178 years 44,530 years

  • Change your passwords regularly.
  • Don't use the same password for all your accounts.
  • Never put critical personal data (i.e. account numbers, social security numbers, etc.) in e-mail and realize that even encrypted e-mails can be hacked.
  • Notify your advisors and custodians immediately if you feel your e-mail account has been compromised.
  • Contact your advisors in advance of irregular transfers and cash needs.
  • Consider additional authorization methods for account access (token key access).
  • Allow your advisors to confirm all wire requests verbally in addition to proper forms and signatures.

Thank you for taking the time to read this and please share with others.  No one should have to deal with the loss and frustration of identity theft and wire fraud. Taking an "it can't happen to me" attitude offers a welcome mat for today's modern day muggers.

Follow these useful links for industry communiques on the topic:

Sources used in this blog:

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