Cyber “Hoot” Wednesday: Capital One Breach Affects Over 100M

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On July 29, Capital One announced it experienced a data breach affecting over 100 million customers. While that is an enormous number it represents only 1.4% of nearly 8 billion publicly disclosed account compromises. Considering there are 10 – 20x as many unreported breaches and compromised accounts, 100 Million Capital One breached accounts is only 1/10th of 1% of all breaches. Given this sorry state of Cybersecurity, how can we put this breach into perspective? More importantly, what should we be doing in light of this “financial data” breach at Capital One?

What Was Compromised?

Capital One released a statement saying, “no credit card account numbers or log in credentials were compromised and over 99 percent of Social Security Numbers were not compromised”. What is currently public as compromised data are 140,000 customers Social Security Numbers (Social Insurance for Canadians) and 80,000 linked bank account numbers. That leaves 99.8% of the breached accounts as undisclosed by Capital One. It is still very early in the investigation so expect these numbers to change and be adjusted. We just don’t know the extent of what was stolen or breached and how it will affect us. Yet, even without that information, we can make recommendations to you for what you should do to protect you and your loved ones.

What Can I Do?

Freeze your Credit at all Four (4) Credit Reporting Agencies

This LifeLock article walks you through how to freeze your credit at three major credit agencies. However, know that there are actually four credit agencies you need to freeze your credit at. Hackers know this and will attempt to retrieve your credit from the smaller credit agency known as Innovis.  CyberHoot advises consumers put a full Credit Freeze on your financial accounts using these links: TransunionEquifaxExperion, and Innovis.  Some of the credit monitoring agencies offer additional notification services such as texting you whenever your credit is pinged.  Enable text alerts if possible to keep track of anyone actively touching your credit data.

Besides the Credit Freezes, is there anything else I should do?

Yes.  Following the Anthem and Equifax breaches a few years ago hackers have been submitting fraudulent tax returns before legitimate tax payers could do so using our stolen personal data.  Consumers have lost time and money regaining access to their own tax accounts. Unfortunately, this could happen all over again with this Capital One breach because hackers likely have the data they need to submit fraudulent tax returns from this breach.  The IRS has acknowledged this problem and will provide anyone who has had a false return filed in their name to get a PIN number that is required to submit their taxes. Unfortunately, unless your taxes have been hacked, you can’t get that PIN to protect yourself. Consequently, CyberHoot also suggests that you get your tax documents in order and submit your taxes as early as possible next January to pre-empt any hacker attempt to submit a false return in your name!

If you would like more tips on what you or your business can do to prevent something like this happening to you; read our article on the Quest Diagnostics Breach.


Anytime static data that cannot be recreated is breached there are long-term consequences which is the case with the above mentioned breaches (Anthem, Equifax, and now Capital One).  Putting a credit freeze on your account will protect you from hackers taking credit terms out in your name, but doesn’t prevent them from submitting fraudulent tax returns.  Freeze your Credit, submit your taxes early, and continue to educate yourself on Cybersecurity topics.

Author, Craig, Co-Founder – CyberHoot

Author, Ty Mezquita, Blogger/Social Media – CyberHoot

Cyber “Hoot” Wednesday: Fight Password Fatigue with a Password Manager

Fight Password Fatigue with a Password Manager
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Remember the last time you had to recover access to an account by resetting your password. Maybe it was last month, week, or maybe it was today.  Now remember what you had to do: use uppercase, lowercase, and special characters. Don’t reuse your favorite root password, don’t use a real word because it is easily guessed. Make sure it’s at least 9 characters in length.  Are you experiencing password fatigue yet?

People have been experiencing password fatigue for years.  When your employees give up on good password hygiene, they give up on best practices and fall back on common bad habits.  This article outlines a free for personal use tool that will improve your security and reduce your password stress. It might even free up enough time to setup two-factor authentication on your most critical online accounts! Let’s start by looking at why passwords matter so much and the problems we all face with them.

Billions of Breached Passwords exist online reports more than 8 billion compromised email accounts (often including compromised passwords). In the past, Yahoo lost more than 500 million user accounts and passwords;  DropBox and Linked-In lost millions more. What makes these millions of breaches so damaging, is that so many people re-use their passwords. Alternatively, people re-use predictable password roots, appending a prefix or suffix to that root password. Both practices put you at risky. Hackers exploit the fact that most people re-use passwords or have predictable prefixes and suffixes on common root passwords!

Why are Passwords so Important?

Once a hacker sees your username and password in plain text, can they then log into your online email or Virtual Private Networks (VPN) account? They can if you have a predictable or re-used password on either one.  Once inside your email account, hackers have breached one of the most critical accounts you have.

Your online email account can be used to reset passwords at many other online accounts. It’s simply a password recovery request away from the hacker!  Additionally, email accounts are a treasure trove of social engineering material to attack your friends and family!  Finally, as reported in CyberHoot’s Domino Attack Article, hackers are now crafting exceptional powerful phishing campaigns by targeting users they find inside your email account.  Hackers send phishing attacks directly from your email account or from a look-alike domain name they create. If successful, they then break into your friends, family, and business partner’s email!

Does this all sound hopeless to you? Fortunately, it truly is not hopeless if you learn to use a Password Manager.  Let’s take a look at what a Password Manager is and does.  CyberHoot views this skill as important as knowing how to type!

Learn a Password Manager to Ease Password Fatigue

Every cybersecurity professional will tell you to use strong unique passwords at every online account you own. Unfortunately, most people cannot remember more than 3 to 4 strong passwords. Creating more simply leads to password fatigue. There is a simple solution. This seemingly impossible task becomes easy when using one of the many free (for personal use) password managers.  Many password manager options exist but CyberHoot recommends one of the following as we’ve used and reviewed their features in detail: LastPass, 1Password, and Dashlane.

The Power of Synchronization

Password Managers automatically synchronize all your accounts between smartphones, laptops, and tablet’s.  A web browser plugin monitors your login activity and prompts you to save your credentials whenever you authenticate into a new website. Your username and password for the Domain (or URL such as is stored in an encrypted password vault.  Each tool mentioned includes a random Password Generator you can use to create new, strong, and unique passwords. Over time, you will begin replacing your re-used passwords with randomly generated ones.  Doing so will make you more secure, effective, confident, and efficient.

Call to action: Download and start learning and using a free password manager today.  This skill is as important as learning to type is! Regardless of your technical skill, if you put in even minimal effort, within 3 to 4 months, you will become proficient, secure and much more productive.

Author, Craig, Co-Founder – CyberHoot

Cyber “Hoot” Wednesday: Avoiding Phishing Attacks

CyberHoot Wednesday: Avoiding Phishing Attacks

How Phishing Attacks Work

An easy example of how phishing attacks work is to take a look at a case that has already happened; a phishing attack utilizing Google Docs hit numerous Gmail accounts about a year ago. The phishing email was sent from compromised Google accounts to other Google accounts for approximately three hours, after which Google intervened directly and stopped all such emails. The email contained an invitation to a Google Doc, and if clicked, the link took users to a fake App that asked for permission to access the user’s Gmail account. The phishing email was convincing enough to have fooled some Google users into giving permission.

What Damage may have Occurred?

The primary damage could be significant or benign depending whether your Gmail account was logged into by the attackers.  The main attack then automatically resent the same attack to all your Gmail contacts (secondary damage being social embarrassment from being phished). However, there was a small potential that the attackers may have logged you’re your compromised Gmail account to study your emails, reset other online account passwords, or change account recovery options on your Gmail account!  There was no known malware in this attack, which infected recipient computers.

What to do if you were (or think you may have been) compromised in this attack?

Google acted very quickly to reports of this phishing attack, stopping all related emails within 3 hours of the outset of the attack.  If you think you may have been compromised here are six steps to take as soon as possible (Google recommendations):

  1. Go to your Google account management page.
  2. If you see an app called Google Docs, click on it to opt to revoke permission for the app to access your account.
  3. Then change your password [to something unique], just to be safe.
  4. Enable two-factor authentication on your account as an extra precaution. Two-factor authentication is the option to text a code to a phone number on file for your account so only a person with both your password and your cellphone can access your account. If you are unfamiliar with topic, check out our article on Two-Factor Authentication.

CyberHoot’s Additional Recommendations:

  1. Check your account recovery options to validate hackers did not change those to re-access your account once you changed your password.
  2. Immediately change passwords at sites using the same username/password as used on your Gmail account.

CyberHoot knows that in the absence of a password manager, people reuse passwords throughout their online accounts!  If your Gmail account was compromised by this attack, hackers might be trying to log into other accounts you have even after you removed the hackers access to your Gmail account.  One of our favorite password managers – LastPass – once populated up with your online accounts, will tell you which accounts reuse your Gmail credentials.  Change those to unique passwords to eliminate this cybersecurity risk now and in the future. If you would like more information on this topic, check out our article on Passwords, Passphrases, and Password Managers.

Event Summary:

This was a simple but highly convincing phishing campaign designed to steal Gmail account credentials.  Before clicking or opening anything always be sure to answer these questions affirmatively:

1)      Was I expecting this email?

2)       Was this email…

  • Addressed to me directly by name?
  • From someone I know?
  • Is the sending email address 100% correct?  (watch for slight variants like

3)       Is the grammar, spelling, email construction correct?

4)       Does my gut tell me there is absolutely nothing wrong with the email.

If you answer NO to any of those, pick up the phone and call the sender to confirm they sent the message to you on purpose; otherwise, delete the message.

Stay safe online!

Editors Note: There is an article we wrote, Domino Breaches: Get Ahead of this Breach ASAP to stop the Falling Dominos. This article on phishing details another variant of attack similar to the Domino attack article published just over a month ago. Similar attacks have been made against Microsoft’s O365 users. No-one is truly safe online today without adopting the technical protections outlined in this article. Be safe online and remember, “Knowledge is Power!”.

Author, Craig, Co-Founder – CyberHoot

Editor, Ty Mezquita, Blogger/Social Media – Cyberhoot

Microsoft Bug “BlueKeep” May Affect Millions

Microsoft Bug "BlueKeep" May Affect Millions


On May 14, Microsoft issued a software update patch for its Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP). These patches fixed RDP vulnerabilities in older Windows operating systems including Windows Server 2008, Windows Server 2003, Windows 7, Windows XP, and Windows Vista. A few weeks ago, the National Security Administration (NSA) put some heat on system admins to patch stating: “Microsoft Windows administrators and users [must] ensure they are using a patched and updated system in the face of growing threats”. The NSA revealed that there are around one million internet-facing machines still vulnerable to this threat, which is now being called “BlueKeep”. If the vulnerability were to be exploited, it would allow the hacker to launch a malware attack that would have the potential to spread through the network to all other vulnerable computers. This vulnerability is expected by many security experts to be wormable and weaponized quickly and in a similar vein to what happened with WannaCry in 2017, which lead to as much as 4 Billion dollars in losses.

Why is it Important?

It is very important to be aware of what systems in your business need to be updated or replaced. It is important to regularly run scans to determine where vulnerabilities are, however, the underlying issue here is that many businesses have old equipment that they believe works perfectly fine. The problem with these systems is that once they reach their End of Life (EOL) or End of Support (EOS), the vendor no longer puts out updates to support the product, resulting in critical unpatchable security vulnerabilities. In the case of the “BlueKeep” RDP vulnerability, Microsoft deemed it so bad, that they took the extra step of releasing patches for EOL and EOS operating systems.

Importance of Patch Management

It is critical for your business to maintain a strong patch management program. But patching may not be enough. The businesses that consults with gain access to a Vulnerability Alert Management Process (aka: VAMP) that outlines response priorities to critical patches and vulnerabilities like BlueKeep. Over half of attackers take advantage of the software vulnerabilities as a gateway to the information systems of companies. VAMP allows organizations to take a look at their vulnerabilities, weaknesses, and potential threats and mitigate them on a timetable that everyone has agreed to previously. It’s forced controls on timelines for plans and remediation and lines of responsibilities all codified prior to the pressure situation of a rampant worm or weaponized vulnerability like Wannacry attacking businesses all over the world.

Call to Action

CyberHoot helps businesses like yours build and enhance cybersecurity programs to include critical processes like VAMP and Patch Management, while also automating governing and training employees with robust cybersecurity policies and awareness programs.

As employers and resellers, we need to be perfect at protecting our critical accounts and critical data; hackers only have to succeed once for a costly cyber incident or breach. Improve your odds of success by visiting and signing up for a free 30-day trial to begin closing the Cybersecurity skills gap by training your employees. Our 5-min Cyber “Hoots” teach your staff about Passwords, Passphrases, Password Managers, Two-factor Authentication, WiFi Insecurities, and dozens of other important cybersecurity topics. Are you doing everything you can to reduce your risks?

Head over to our CyberHoot Website and sign up for a free 30 day trial.

Author, Ty Mezquita, Blogger/Social Media – CyberHoot

Editor, Craig, Co-Founder – CyberHoot

Cyber “Hoot” Wednesday: Cybersecurity Training is a School Curriculum Necessity

Cyber "Hoot" Wednesday: Cybersecurity Training is a School Curriculum Necessity

Editors Note:

This is a reprint of an article I wrote for New Hampshire Business Review in June 2017 outlining the need to make cybersecurity education part of our school curriculum.

With so many Cities and Towns across the US paying hefty ransoms this year and more than 1900 breaches reported as of May 31st, 2019 for this year alone, preparing our students with some rudimentary Cybersecurity skillsets has never been more critical and provided the potential for a strategic advantage. Historians will look back at the 21st century as a transitional period where traditional Brick and Morter businesses redefined themselves with eCommerce, online goods and services or they went the way of the buggy. Will the US be known for the quality of employees it produced prepared for the 21st century challenges we all face or will we be left behind as nothing more than a footnote to some other country that does better?

Finally, be sure to tune into the Enterprise Security Weekly podcast today when CyberHoot Co-Founder Craig Taylor is interviewed by Matt Alderman on the topic of Cybersecurity Awareness Training.

Students Must Learn How to Protect Themselves Online

Do you think about cybersecurity training in your son or daughter’s K-12 school? If not, you should be.

Take it from a cybersecurity veteran, we are not preparing our kids to spot and defend against online attacks, nor are we educating them on the best protective measures either.

Schools do a decent job teaching children about some cybersecurity topics including:

— The harm of cyber bullying

— Why you should never sext (send nude photos by text)

— Understanding important privacy issues on Facebook and other social media platforms

It is important to learn about these topics, but schools mostly fail to educate students on the fundamentals of 21st century online cybersecurity risks. Passwords, password management and password tools are rarely, if ever, discussed. Learning the fundamentals of a phishing or social engineering attack are woefully absent from our basic computer curriculum.

Why is it Important?

Why is it important to educate young students about these threats and to teach them necessary habits of online protection? Learning online protective habits early matters a great deal. From a cybersecurity perspective, the internet is the great equalizer for all nations, peoples and groups. It is cheaper and easier than ever before in the history of the world for an anonymous attacker to target anyone, any business, located anywhere in the world.

Whether you’re a cybersecurity expert like myself, youngster playing online games or parent checking their bank account, the risks we all face come in many shapes and sizes. For all its conveniences and efficiencies, the internet has no borders or boundaries. For criminals it has become a revival of the Wild West – a frontier where policing and the law are usually one or two steps behind emboldened and very smart hackers.

A Pew Center study on cybersecurity in 2017 highlighted a troubling dichotomy among adults. The study found that while most Americans have directly experienced some form of data theft or fraud, many admit they “are failing to follow digital security best practices in their own personal lives, and a substantial majority expects that major cyberattacks will be a fact of life in the future.”

While teaching our children as early as possible is imperative, the good news is we’re not talking rocket science. The rules of cybersecurity are as easy to learn as it is to drive a car, and just as safe driving is tied to defensive driving, so too is the need to defensively operate our computers today.

Fortunately, schools and students are beginning to recognize this need. A series of investigative stories on the IT website highlighted the challenges and opportunities of integrating cybersecurity literacy into school technology curriculum as early as possible. “Using technology is one of the three ‘Rs’ of the 21st century,” said Michael Kaiser, executive director of the National Cyber Security Alliance, referring to the traditional subjects of reading, writing and arithmetic. “If you don’t graduate from high school knowing how to use technology, it’s going to be a hindrance in the same way if you don’t know how to read.”

Making basic cybersecurity literacy a new ‘R’ in school curriculum will expose students to lessons that can last a lifetime and teach them critical steps to protect themselves. The time to create good cybersecurity habits is when children first begin operating a computer. Rather than trying to “unlearn” bad habits (as identified in the Pew study) we should build a strong foundation of cybersecurity literacy skills in our students as early as possible.

We can do a better job of preparing our students to enter the workforce with a strong set of cybersecurity literacy skills. We can begin with a focus on the topics mentioned earlier: passwords, their management and tools, as well as understanding social engineering and phishing attacks. Engaged and enlightened students with a modicum of cybersecurity literacy will make a huge difference in creating a workforce prepared to defend against the daily cyberattacks in our homes and businesses of today and tomorrow.

Craig, Co-Founder – CyberHoot

Editor’s Call to Action: two years on from my original article, the state of Cybersecurity in our Cities, Towns, and Business is no better; in fact it’s gotten much worse. If you’re a City, Town or Business Manager/Owner and you want a simple solution to attack this problem proactively, putting the odds in your favor instead of the hackers out there, sign-up for free training for 30 days at Or, contact if you have questions or want a reseller to setup and run your training program for you. We have both options available.

I encourage anyone who will listen to deal with this problem head-on – train your employees and take control of your destiny by improving your employee odds of recognizing an attack and avoiding it.

For the Month of July 2019, anyone who signs up for free training will get 2 months free. We’re so confident you’ll love our solution we’re willing to give it away free for 60 days to convince you! Try it to be certain. You’ll be glad you did.

Cyber “Hoot” Wednesday: Two-Factor Authentication

Cyber “Hoot” Wednesday: Two-Factor Authentication

We’re all familiar with using passwords and some are experienced with password managers, but they aren’t always the best way to secure your critical accounts. If you’re using a password manager you may be surprised that sometimes these unique, complex, randomly generated passwords are still not enough to secure your critical accounts. To protect your critical information and accounts you need something even stronger and more secure, something the technologists and IT professionals calls two-factor authentication, often abbreviated as 2FA.

What is Two-Factor Authentication?

Two-factor authentication is simply combining and using two of the following three identification factors:

Something you know – a password or passphrase on your account;

Something you have – your cell phone‘s ability to provide a random 6-digit code or to receive a code from a text message;

Something you are – your physical characteristics such as a fingerprint, facial recognition, voice recognition, or even an iris scan.

If you use two of these three identification factors, you are using 2FA to authenticate yourself, and your critical accounts and data will be properly secured. This is the gold standard of authentication and protection.

Why is 2FA Important on Critical Accounts?

According to this Symantec Info-graphic “80% of data breaches could be eliminated by the use of two-factor authentication.” Hackers know most people have never been trained on creating strong passphrases, using password managers, or setting up two-factor authentication to protect their critical accounts and data. Consequently, hackers send millions of sophisticated Phishing Attacks trying to steal our usernames and passwords.  Once someone clicks on one of these phishing campaigns and attempts to log in to a real looking but fake website, the hacker has your credentials. If the hacker has hacked into one of your critical accounts such as your email, bank, or Virtual Private Networking (VPN) they can do some serious damage to you and your reputation or your company’s reputation.

Domino Attack Risk

In my Blog article on Domino Attacks, hackers target every single person you’ve corresponded with in that compromised email account with a sophisticated phishing attacks. The dominoes begin to fall as hackers break into your contact’s critical accounts person by person and company by company.

Account Reset Risk

If hackers breach your email account, this is also where all your other account resets emails go for approval. If your email account is compromised, besides the Domino Attack and the personal information hackers can sift through, this account breach can allows allow hackers to reset your other account passwords to grant them access to more of your digital life. However, if you’re using two-factor authentication on your email account, you can prevent this victimization.

“If I don’t click phishing links, do I need two-factor authentication?”

Yes. Hackers now find your credentials in several ways besides successful phishing attacks. Hackers can acquire your credentials from underground forums that trade stolen credentials from breaches websites. Other hackers use viruses like Trickbot or Emotet to steal credentials from infected machines you may be using. Using a second factor on your critical accounts is something hackers cannot get around, because to compromise your 2FA protected account, a hacker would need access to your cell phone and be able to unlock it to gain access to the randomly rotating unlock codes in your 2FA application.

“How hard is it to setup 2FA?”

Not hard at all. Setting up 2FA on all your critical accounts (you’re probably already doing this for your bank accounts) is easier than you may think. Most 2FA is already available, free to set up, and easily found within your online account’s “Password” or “Security” settings. Look for “Advanced Security”, “Advanced Settings” or search for “two-factor authentication” in the website’s help menus. Calling the website support line is another option to walk you through the set up quickly and easily. There’s even a website dedicated to listing websites that support 2FA or not.


Don’t let hackers get the upper hand on your critical accounts. Protect yourself personally and professionally by setting up two-factor authentication today on all of your critical accounts. It’s the perfect example of “an ounce of prevention being worth a pound of cure”. You’ll be happy you did.

Call to Action:

As employers and resellers, we need to be perfect at protecting our critical accounts and critical data; hackers only have to succeed once for a costly cyber incident or breach. Improve your odds of success by visiting and signing up for a free 30-day trial to begin closing the Cybersecurity skills gap by training your employees. Our 5-min Cyber “Hoots” teach your staff about Passwords, Passphrases, Password Managers, Two-factor Authentication, WiFi Insecurities and dozens of other important cybersecurity topics. Are you doing everything you can to reduce your risks?

Craig, Co-Founder – CyberHoot