Key Lesson All Business Leaders Can Learn From the Anthem Data Breach Case

The 2015 Anthem data breach affected 79 million people and was the largest health-care data breach in U.S. history. The affected consumers sued Anthem in a case that settled for a record $115 million. Now the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services’ Office of Civil Rights has reached a settlement with Anthem for a record $16 million — an amount that is almost three times the next-largest OCR data breach settlement of $5.55 million.

While these numbers are interesting, what is the takeaway for business leaders?

It all started with an employee opening and responding to a phishing email:


Anthem discovered cyber-attackers had infiltrated their system through spear phishing emails sent to an Anthem subsidiary after at least one employee responded to the malicious email and opened the door to further attacks. (HHS Press Release)

While this may be shocking, it is neither new nor unexpected. Most cyber incidents are a result of failures of basic cyber hygiene, not super sophisticated James Bond-like attacks. Read more about this in 1 Step to Improve Your Company’s Cybersecurity Today.

Did hackers record you watching porn? New scam using key elements of phishing and shame hacking

Cybercriminals are using yet another new twist on the old email phishing attack: they email people claiming to have infected porn sites with malware that allowed them to take over the recipient’s webcam and record them sitting at their computer watching porn and if they don’t pay up, the video is going public. I discuss this new method of attack in the video above and you can learn more details about how they do it in this article: Don’t Fall for This Scam Claiming You Were Recorded Watching Porn

For people who know they have never watched porn on their computers, this probably isn’t too effective. For everyone else, this threat of public shaming can be a powerful motivation to comply with the extortion demand.

This is another example of what I have often described as shame hacking, the use, or threatened use, of purportedly hacked data for embarrassing or extorting people by threatening to expose such compromising data if they do not comply with the demands made of them.

Shame hacking is one more way that cybercriminals have learned to monetize the fruits of their criminal actions and represents an increasing trend for how hacked information can and will be used in many ways. I have blogged about other cases where hackers have relied on shame hacking for profit.

Dallas / Fort Worth CBS News station in Dallas / Fort Worth did a story about this latest attack and invited Shawn Tuma on to explain more about it. See story here.

If you are the victim of shame hacking or any other type of cybercrime, you can easily report it online at the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3).

Marine corp data breach lesson: human error is often the cause and is preventable

There has been a data breach emanating from the U.S. Marine Corps Forces Reserve that impacted 21,426 individuals. The breach exposed their sensitive personal information such as truncated social security numbers, bank electronic funds transfer and bank routing numbers, truncated credit card information, mailing address, residential address and emergency contact information.

Calm down and press the pause button on the hysteria hype machine — it was not the Russians behind it! It was something far more treacherous when it comes to the real world of data breaches: it was human error.

In this case, it happened when an individual sent an email to the wrong email distribution list and the email was unencrypted and included an attachment that contained the personal information described above. You can read more about the breach here: Major data breach at Marine Forces Reserve impacts thousands

THE TAKEAWAY:  The important lesson to take away is that scenarios such as this are far more common than all of the super-sophisticated “hacking” type over-politicised stuff that we usually hear about through the media. This is the real world of data breach that most companies face far more often than they face state-sponsored espionage. In fact, research into actual data breaches reveals that 90% of all claims made on cyber insurance stemmed from some type of human error and, as reported by the highly reputable Online Trust Alliance, “in 2017, 93 percent of all breaches could have been avoided had simple steps been taken such as regularly updating software, blocking fake email messages using email authentication and training people to recognize phishing attacks.” The good news is this type of problem is preventable with some effort.

Below is a checklist of good cyber hygiene that, in reality, all companies should be doing these days. How do you make sure you’re doing it? You develop and implement a cyber risk management program that is tailor-made for your company and is continuously maturing to address the risks your company face — such as my CyberGard™ program.


Shawn Tuma (@shawnetuma) is an attorney with an internationally recognized reputation in cybersecurity, computer fraud, and data privacy law. He is a Cybersecurity & Data Privacy Attorney at Scheef & Stone, LLP, a full-service commercial law firm in Texas that represents businesses of all sizes throughout the United States and, through its Mackrell International network, around the world.

House panel to DHS, FBI: help small biz with cybersecurity – start with good cyber hygiene

The following testimony excerpts are very similar to what the #CyberAvengers have been preaching, and for good reason, it is the truth. Checkout the #CyberAvengers Tools for where to begin.

Richard Driggers, DHS deputy assistant secretary for the cybersecurity and communications, said that basic computer hygiene, such as regular software updates, could keep small businesses safer.

“It doesn’t take sophistication to exploit a vulnerability in a small business. And I think all small businesses need to assume that they have some type of vulnerability that exists within their networks or devices that they’re using,” Driggers said. “A lot of small businesses don’t have the resources to really put in place very sophisticated cyber defense mechanisms. But they do have the resources to do the low-cost things … and that should be the focus.”

* * *

“The best thing small businesses can do is elevate the need for cybersecurity within their organizations. Hire capable, competent people to help protect data, create a culture within the organization that promotes security. It’s gotta be something you do every day; it can’t be after the fact,” Marshall said.

Full article:


Shawn Tuma (@shawnetuma) is an attorney with an internationally recognized reputation in cybersecurity, computer fraud, and data privacy law. He is a Cybersecurity & Data Privacy Attorney at Scheef & Stone, LLP, a full-service commercial law firm in Texas that represents businesses of all sizes throughout the United States and, through its Mackrell International network, around the world.

Lost Unencrypted USB of Heathrow Airport Security Files Exemplifies Poor Cyber Hygiene

Basic cyber hygiene has been a hot topic in cybersecurity, and for good reason. Most of the incidents that impact companies start with failures of basic cyber hygiene, not the super-sophisticated stuff of the movies. See Start with Cybersecurity Basics: Confirmed by Verizon’s 2016 Data Breach Report.

One of the most fundamental rules of cyber hygiene is to encrypt sensitive data–especially when such data is going to be stored on a portable device such as a USB drive! See Checklist for Good Cyber Hygiene.

Now we have learned that a USB memory stick containing the highest level of security secrets for the UK’s Heathrow airport was found lying in the street, unencrypted. The sensitive nature of the information contained on the USB is alarming, as revealed in Heathrow Probe After ‘Security Files Found on USB Stick’.

We do not know if this was sloppiness by those at Heathrow or if someone was stealing this information and placed it on the USB and then lost it. Consider each scenario:

  1. Assuming it was the former, because portable USB devices are so easily lost, if such devices are used in your organization you must ensure that the devices or the data stored on them are adequately encrypted.
  2. Assuming it was the latter, because USB devices are such an effective tool for data theft, many organizations are blocking the use of USB devices on their computer systems altogether.