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Crooks Taking Advantage of US Gov't Shutdown, Obamacare

By - Source: Symantec | B 17 comments
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The government shutdown and Obamacare is the perfect opportunity for cybercrooks to strike.

While the government seems to think it's OK to take a vacation at the taxpayer's expense, cybercriminals are taking this silly holiday as a means to reel distraught Americans into forking over their personal information. Two separate methods have been uncovered by Symantec and Trend Micro, one that focuses on related clearance sales of vehicles, and another that focuses on the Health Insurance Exchange websites.

For starters, Symantec reports that the Symantec Probe Network has detected a large number of email scams using the government shutdown theme, most of which center around clearance sales of cars and trucks. By clicking on the included URL, unsuspecting shoppers looking for a good deal are directed to a website providing the bogus offer.

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Symantec reports that these email messages are using random headers in order to evade spam filters. That means cybercrooks are able to slip into the main inbox folder to present their bogus deals. Web surfers are advised to keep an eye out for the following subjects: "Half-off our autos for each day the US Govt is shut down" and "Get half off MSRP on new autos for each day of govt. shut down". Sender addresses include shut.down, short.term, and limited.event.

Trend Micro paints a scarier picture. However for starters, we need to set the stage first. President Obama's Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) began on Monday, and includes Health Insurance Exchange websites for Americans to sign up for healthcare coverage themselves rather than through their employer. This batch of portals includes one provided by the federal government, and one provided within each state. Then within each state, there can also be legitimate third-party sites that provide assistance and even broker coverage.

Therein lies the problem. At this time, all of these sites supposedly have no official markings certifying them as government-backed websites. Even more, the state and third-party sites aren't even required to provide the ability to verify the site using SSL: many don't even use SSL for verification at all save for the Federal portal. That said, insurance shoppers will be faced with thousands of sites claiming to be legit Affordable Act Care portals.

The trouble doesn't stop there. Typically most of us refrain from dishing out social security numbers. Technically you have the right to refrain from providing this information to anyone except for the government. However the healthcare system still relies on social security numbers, so customers are accustomed to handing over the number to doctors, dentists and so forth. Now imagine entering those numbers into a fake Affordable Care Act website.

Trend Micro suggests that insurance shoppers interested in the government's new program refrain from using search engines. Head to the Federal Government or state government websites and follow the links from there. And of course, having the proper security software installed helps reduce the chance of visiting a bogus website as well.

Stu Sjouwerman, CEO of KnowBe4, provides even more insight into how cybercrooks are taking advantage of the government shutdown and new healthcare initiative. These include scams to that use a social engineering tactic that coerces an employee to give out personal information or even send money without foreseen consequences. Subjects include "You are going to get in trouble if you don't sign up", or "You will get fined by the Federal Government if you don't comply". There are even scams that use the guise of a (non-existent) 'New Health ID Card' or 'Discount Cards'.

"An example is a scammer who will claim to be calling or sending a phishing email on behalf of Medicare and will ask for your Social Security number, driver’s license number, bank account number or credit card information for your new National Insurance Card," Sjouwerman states. "Employees need to delete any email related to this, and hang up the phone if they get a live cold call or a robo-call promoting a toll-free hotline promising they can be signed up right now. Especially if scammers ask for a wire transfer over the phone, hang up. Those are all Red Flags and these new marketplaces and exchanges are a hotbed for scams."

As Sjouwerman suggests, web surfers investigating the new healthcare coverage need to stop, look and think before clicking. And as previously indicated, keep an eye out for suspicious emails slipping past the spam filter, and don't use search engines. If employees fall victim and their information is stolen, businesses need to assume that their network has already been compromised, and focus on incident response skills like detection and remediation.

"The same is true of employees," Sjouwerman states. "They really are the weak link and that link has been substantially weakened with news that came out this week. The major data brokers like Lexis-Nexis, Dun & Bradstreet and Kroll have been owned by the bad guys for a (very) long time."

"Stealing a few hundred million records when you have pwned the network is not all that hard," he adds. "So here is the bad news. It is highly likely that all employees' identities have been compromised, but the bad guys just have not gotten around to them yet."

Scary stuff.

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  • 0 Hide
    drwho1 , October 3, 2013 8:45 AM
    opportunity and crooks working together.... so what's new about it?
  • 3 Hide
    the1kingbob , October 3, 2013 9:12 AM
    Sadly, pretty much all the advice here should be common knowledge. It is pretty sad and disgraceful that SSL is not being used on all sites.
  • 2 Hide
    wopr11 , October 3, 2013 9:14 AM
    Quite possible that a lot of the furloughed employees from some infamous agencies are creating those fake websites like they do at their regular jobs - cybercriminals cannot take a day off even when furloughed
  • Display all 17 comments.
  • 0 Hide
    house70 , October 3, 2013 9:18 AM
    I must be a personality on the other side of the world, because my Spam folder gets messages about how I won/inherited large amounts of money, usually from African princesses. LOL
  • -2 Hide
    bemused_fred , October 3, 2013 9:34 AM
    Don't worry, guys! The free market will fix it!
  • 1 Hide
    realibrad , October 3, 2013 9:40 AM
    I had a girl at work who fell for the email scam where if you sent in your SSN, address, name, phone number, place of employment and bank account number, Obama would pay one of your electric bills. She was so excited that she didnt have to pay one of her bills. She has still not changed her SSN or bank account info.

    I'm pretty sure that someone is building a new ID with that info...
  • 0 Hide
    kinggraves , October 3, 2013 3:00 PM
    Yeah, there's a lot of crooks taking advantage of Obamacare and the shutdown. They're called the US government.
  • -2 Hide
    eodeo , October 3, 2013 5:16 PM
    Obama thinks it's ok to spy on the entire world and republicans think its ok to act as they were born yesterday at taxpayers expense because affordable medical care for every citizen is preposterous.

    Either way, sad day for democracy.

    On the flipside, it does produce some drama, unlike in some other countries>
  • -1 Hide
    acadia11 , October 3, 2013 5:50 PM
    What does the scam have to do with government being shut down or obamacare??? The scams could be executed irrespective of either?
  • -1 Hide
    acadia11 , October 3, 2013 5:50 PM
    What does the scam have to do with government being shut down or obamacare??? The scams could be executed irrespective of either?
  • 0 Hide
    f-14 , October 3, 2013 6:42 PM
    good, it is my sincerest hope that enough people fall for the obamacare scam that it collapses the entire social security program and destroys all credibility in social security and it's ID system.

    i hate socialism and the socialist who implemented it and modified it.
  • 0 Hide
    somebodyspecial , October 3, 2013 8:25 PM
    @eodeo Affordable medical for every citizen IS preposterous...LOL. Why should I pay for your medical? Get a better job! I can't afford 20million free-loading mexicans who can't even speak english either :)  Come through the door LEGALLY or get out. PERIOD. Speak ENGLISH fluently BEFORE entering or GET OUT (without english you're USELESS). PERIOD. I hate spread the wealth people. All people like you do is lower my quality of life! I don't OWE you anything!
  • 0 Hide
    belardo , October 4, 2013 12:03 AM
    @F14 = How patriotic of you, wishing failure on Americans. Always keep this truth in mind, the GOP/TeabagTerrorist have campaigned on Govt. Shutdown. If you drive on our streets, used our libraries, our schools, called the police, expect the Fire dept. to show up if your home catches on fire. Support our Military... all of that is part of our SOCIALISM. Move to Somalia if you want 0% govt. operations.

    We already PAY in taxes for people who don't have medical. ACA reduces that. Get a better job? Guess what numb-nuts, if there is NO JOB available - then YOU're NOT going to get hired. ACA is for Americans. Its not for illegals. If it were me, any illegal Mexican who has a baby in the USA should be sent back with their new baby with NO US status. It would reduce the traffic, which is currently very low.

    Spread the wealth? I hate he SUPER RICH stealing the wealth from the working poor, keeping min. wage super low, not offering Health benefits, etc. I strong lower and middle class makes a stronger country. The rich will still be rich, if not richer.
  • 0 Hide
    back_by_demand , October 4, 2013 12:52 AM
    Eodeo, way to pick on Obama when every President has been spying on you electronic info since the 1950's
  • 1 Hide
    shin0bi272 , October 4, 2013 8:27 AM
    @belardo: you misunderstand the difference between limited government and too much government. You also misunderstand the difference between state governments (which have more power to tax) and the federal government which has 17 powers (one of which is declare war). Its the federal government that's abused its power to "regulate trade between the states" into the ability to force you to purchase a product or pay a fine.

    Also we dont pay for people who dont have medical through taxes we pay for them through higher prices at the doctors office. That leads into the whole secure the borders and deport the illegals argument so we'll try to keep it simple... if someone goes to the doctor they get treatment even if they cant pay, and regardless of their country of origin. If they dont pay the doctors attempt to get them to pay as best they can by sending the info they gave at the reception desk to a collection agency and if they cant collect then the hospital has to eat that cost... and they do so by raising prices. The only people who are getting tax money for health care are those on medicare and medicaid... so the poor and the elderly.

    On obamacare, did you know that there are 20 new taxes in obamacare? 16 of them hit everyone not just the rich. One of them is a new tax on purchasing gold... what does that have to do with your health insurance? My health insurance has more than doubled since january. It was 100/mo back in jan now its 246/mo... so I got rid of it. I can pay the fine and pay out of pocket for what I need at the doctors office (cause im only 35 and Im in good health) which means at the end of the year i'll pay much less than I would have just buying the minimum coverage plan! Obamacare has not only raised prices but businesses like home depot, time warner cable, securitas, sears, and ups (who dropped spousal coverage) to name a few have dumped all their employees onto the exchanges because the fine that obamacare charges is LESS than the cost of the insurance! Then you have the small businesses that arent hiring because they have 49 employees. So rather than grow the economy by having them hire people these businesses that supply 70% of the jobs in the country are choosing ... actively choosing to not hire and to remain small. Because of obamacare. Hows that hope and change working for you?

    Though you are spot on when it comes to the anchor babies (the 14th amendment was meant for the freed slaves in the 1800's not mexicans and LOTM in the 21st century).

    The problem with redistributing the wealth is it always ends up hurting the economy and going right back to the same people who you took it from (after the government takes their cut of course). Thats because if you tax or fine or confiscate money from a rich person and redistribute it to the poor that rich person (who's probably a business owner) just raises prices to compensate for the loss of wealth from the government taking their money. So taxes on the rich end up sticking it to the poor by proxy.

    Minimum wage is low because the only people who work for it (or at least should be) are the teenagers. Teenagers dont need to be paid $15/hr to wash dishes or work at mcdonalds. So if you dont like the minimum wage dont work at a place that only pays minimum wage. If you cant find any other job then work 2 minimum wage jobs for a few months then use that experience and hard work to get a better job. Its not the business' job to provide you with an income you find suitable... that's your job. The only purpose a business has in hiring anyone is to increase its profits.
  • 0 Hide
    back_by_demand , October 4, 2013 10:38 AM
    Wow, how did a cybercrook story turn into the civil war?
  • 0 Hide
    belardo , October 6, 2013 8:03 PM
    Because the cyber-crooks are busy during the shut-down and the teabaggers will make a fart into a political battle.

    States have the option to come up with their own Health Care plan. If they don't, then they have to use the ACA.

    The GOP has done NOTHING to come up with something else. Still, the ACA *IS* the GOP plan. When Obama was pushing for single-payer, the GOP had their plan... when Obama went with that one, then the GOP didn't want it.

    Truth is, it doesn't matter what the black man does in the white house, they will bitch about it. When the sun goes down, teabaggers blame Obama.

    Lets see, what was Health Care before ACA?
    - Many companies were already NOT providing health to employees and already keeping hours low.
    - Having a pre-exisiting condition means NO insurance... you go broke, or die. Wow... I think we can easily call that a "Death Panel".
    - Insurance rates were rising far more before than they are now.
    - Choose another Insurance plan. Plans do change. Like my Cellular bill... I go in... find out that if I update my plan, I get a newer one which is cheaper and offers more features.
    - Again... in the OLD days: Like when a 22yr old woman got shot at her gym by a crazyed gunman (All gun owners are perfect law-biding citizens until they go crazy)... her medical bills were around $28,000. She had no insurance... wow, its her fault she got shot.
    - Built into your insurance is paying for the uninsured (in some way).
    - In most states, if not all - its the LAW to buy auto insurance. ($50~200 a month)... are you bitching about that too?

    - Yeah, always some companies NOT wanting to have healthier employees... its always bullshit when some multi-millionaire creep says "if I have to pay more in taxes, I can't afford to stay in business" - okay, so a guy who makes $2m a year is going to shut down his business ($0 a year) rather than make $1.8m a year? That is stupid.

    Your insurance went up $250? Perhaps there is something wrong with your insurance company? If it went up before Oct1, it sure had nothing to do with the ACA. Okay, shop around.

    Keep in mind: THIS IS THE GOP Health care plan!

    The Mexican thing: The ACA is not available for illegal Mexicans or other non-citizens of the USA.

    "The problem with redistributing the wealth is it always ends up hurting the economy and going right back to the same people who you took it from " - until around 1980/late 70s... Taxes for super rich were much higher... the country wasn't IN DEBT and we were building the national highway system, building THINGS that allowed the USA to grow.

    Then you have people like the Koch brothers (billionaires who took over their daddy's oil biz) who can't get enough. They operate think-tanks and other groups to convenience people like YOU that "Trickle down economics" works. It does NOT WORK! So, you and others do what the super rich cannot not...
    Which is vote.

    They PAY to change tax laws that suit them. Hence.... explain how the OIL companies or ANY company should pay $0 taxes? So you guy Koch, 6 years ago, they had $45Billion... today its $66Billion. They pay little in taxes, fight the Govt. when they BREAK laws on pollution and improper business practices (morals doesn't matter to these guys).

    The people working in McDonalds are doing work... and they are doing more sweat and those old farts who cannot die fast enough, they are in their 70s.

    The job market is piss-poor... Most fast-food jobs are using adults as their main labor force. If there ARE NO better jobs, no time to TRAIN for a better job... they should suffer because?? You are better than them?

    The min. Wage hasn't kept up with inflation. The money I made in the 80s goes further than my money today. For those making min. wage its even worse. So a person working two jobs (60~70hrs a week) who gets no health care deserves it? Well hell... how white of you. Perhaps you never step into a store than pays only min wage? Most people do.

    Sorry.. I DO NOT support welfare for the rich... They don't and cannot spend the money they have... I mean, if you have $10 billion in the bank, you own every car and house you could possibly want... why keep pushing for laws to take more money OUT of the working poor?

    Do you KNOW what happens if people make more money? The economy gets better. More taxes are paid. People are Happier... it creates JOBS. Instead of working 2 jobs, a person can work 1 job and actually enjoy living. And you know what that does? It means another job opening for someone else. NOBODY WANTS TO WORK TWO FRACKING JOBS to make ENDS MEET! N O B O D Y !

    By all means... I'm not against people / companies making profit... but people need to eat.

    This creates a cycle... either people are paid well, economy goes up, debt goes down... or people get paid less, more people are sharing homes, crime goes up (which costs US more money) and the economy goes down.

    Look it up... The rich are getting richer, the poor are getting poor. Sharing the wealth doesn't mean communism.

    PS: some years ago, Bush gave US Corporations TAX HOLIDAYS. It was to for those companies to HIRE people. They got extra tax breaks that YOU said would create jobs.

    Guess what? The Tax Holidays did NOT CREATE ANY JOBS!!
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