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Wednesday, July 30, 2014

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One Step Ahead: Almanac Security Tips - 2014

In each issue, Penn's Journal of Record, The Almanac publishes helpful tips and hints for dealing with information security and privacy matters. This page is a collection of all those published thus far.
New! You can now receive new One-Step-Ahead Security and Privacy Tips automatically!
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Table of Contents (view all)

Heartbleed OpenSSL Vulnerability
Security and Privacy Tips for World Travelers
Filing Taxes Online This Year? Take Steps to Protect Your Information!
If your computer runs Windows XP, you must update it now!
Why Should You Report Security Incidents? And How Do You Report One?
Photo and Video Privacy Issues
The Password is Dead, Long Live the Password!
Data Privacy Month: NSA Surveillance Panel at the National Constitution Center
Protecting Your Finances During This Year’s Holiday Shopping Season
Beware of Phishing E-mails in the Wake of Typhoon Haiyan
No E-mail from Penn Will Ask For Your Username/Password or SSN
The Children's Online Privacy Protection Act: Does It Apply to Your Website?
October: National Cyber Security Awareness Month; Free Secure Disposal of Paper and Electronics
What Basic Rules Protect Student Information at Penn? (September 2013)
Protecting Privacy and Security on Penn + Box

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Tuesday, March 15, 2011 - Almanac Vol. 57, No. 25

These Readers Are Not Fortune Tellers, They Are Fortune Stealers

We've dealt in previous tips with the ongoing problem of "skimmers" and other devices attached to automated teller machines (ATMs). These devices collect not only the information on the magnetic stripes of cards inserted into the machine, but also the PIN numbers entered by the user. The technology has evolved to the point where the thieves often retrieve the stolen data remotely via wireless network, or even text messages sent to their cell phones. A full discussion is beyond the space available here, but an excellent recap by renowned security expert Brian Krebs can be found at

There are a couple of recent developments that are worth highlighting:

  • While it's still a good general practice to use ATM machines located at bank branches, there have been instances where the machines are located in small rooms or vestibules where - especially outside of normal business hours - access is granted via a card reader on the door; the reader requires the same card as the ATM, and "skimming" devices have been found on the door devices instead of the ATMs. In the case of a bank branch in Sherman Oaks, California, this was found to have occurred nine times in 2009 alone. So keep in mind that any device that requires reading your card carries a "skimming" risk.
  • Also, surreptitious card readers are being found with increasing frequency on gas pumps, and these are even harder to spot due to the fact that the thieves have often managed to open the pump and "hard-wire" the devices. Then, as happened in the Denver area in 2010, the thieves sometimes try to "pump up" their take by calling people at random, posing as businesses and offering gift cards for filling up at the stations they've infiltrated.
Be vigilant, but the key piece of advice in coping with "skimming" remains always check your account statements as soon as they arrive, particularly those for debit cards. There are different liability standards imposed for debit cards than for credit cards, and if you delay reporting theft from a debit account, you risk losing the entire amount stolen.


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