Wednesday, January 25, 2017

It's tax fraud season!

Tax season means tax fraud season. Here are a few common schemes to watch out for, along with tips to protect yourself from fraud.
1040 Individual Tax Return, by 401kcalculator. Used under license CC BY-SA 2.0

It's tax season. That means it is also tax fraud season. 

Early in the year is prime time for tax-related scams targeting both consumers and businesses. I see these start to appear around late December, but tax-related scams tend to peak in March. It makes sense that consumer scams would peak as the April 15 filing deadline approaches - but it's rather illogical that this is also true for business compromise. Employers, charities, and financial institutions are generally required to provide tax documents to consumers by January 31, so a successful business-oriented scam in March is a bit of a head-scratcher. Nonetheless, that's what the data show. 

What follow are explanations of some common tax-related threats this time of year, along with tips to protect yourself.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

How to be your daughter's hero, DFIR edition

Not only is digital forensics useful in cybersecurity, it can make you a hero in your daughter's eyes!

Every now and then, my day job pays dividends at home. Shortly before Christmas was one such occasion.

My daughter (a foreign exchange student my family is hosting, but she quickly became a daughter to us) had just spent a weekend with a friend. The friend too was a foreign exchange student from the same country as my daughter, but was near the end of her exchange, and was soon to return to her their home country. My daughter had taken many pictures of their weekend together, and had uploaded them to the friend's computer.

As is commonly the default, uploading the photos to the computer also deleted them from her camera.

By the time she discovered that, the friend had already begun her trek home. Several gigabytes of photos are not hard to transfer over WiFi or with a flash drive ... it's a different story when all you have is a cellphone hotspot with a limited data plan, or a costly and rate-limited airport wireless service.

Much to my wife's chagrin I am a sucker for my daughters' pleas for help. That holds true whether from the daughters born to my family or the daughter we are hosting. Just about any dad would say the same. Fortunately, one doesn't spend twenty years in technology and digital forensics without learning a few tricks.

Whois David?

My photo

I have spent the better part of two decades in information technology and security, with roots in application developer support, system administration, and network security. My specialty is cyber threat intelligence - software vulnerabilities and patching, malware, social networking risks, etc. In particular, I strive to write about complex cyber topics in a way that can be understood by those outside the infosec industry.

Why do I do this? A common comment I get from friends and family is that complex security topics give them headaches. They want to know in simple terms how to stay safe in a connected world. Folks like me and my peers have chosen to make a profession out of hacking and defending. I've been doing this for the better part of two decades, and so have a high degree of knowledge in the field. Others have chosen different paths - paths where I would be lost. This is my effort to share my knowledge with those that are experts in something else.

When not in front of a digital screen, I spend my time raising five rambunctious teens and pre-teens - including two sets of twins. Our family enjoys archery, raising show and meat rabbits, and simply enjoying life in the Texas hill country.

For a decade I served as either Commander or a division leader for the Awana Club in Dripping Springs, Texas; while I have retired from that role I continue to have a passion for children's ministry. At the moment I teach 1st through 3rd grade Sunday School. Follow FBC Dripping Springs Kids to see what is going on in our children's ministries.