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No-Fail Identity Theft – Live and In Person 214

Posted by timothy
from the ma'am-I'm-going-to-need-to-ask-you-to-remove-that dept.
ancientribe writes "A researcher performing social-engineering exploits on behalf of several US banks and other firms in the past year has 'stolen' thousands of identities with a 100 percent success rate. He and his team have posed as investigators for the FDIC (among other things), and numerous times have literally been able to walk out the door with pilfered identities. The reason: organizations are typically so focused on online ID theft that they've forgotten how easy it is for a criminal to socially engineer his way into a bank branch or office and physically hack it."
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No-Fail Identity Theft – Live and In Person

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  • by NovaHorizon (1300173) on Tuesday July 01, 2008 @12:24PM (#24017285)
    The human element.
    • by arose (644256) on Tuesday July 01, 2008 @12:31PM (#24017399)
      s/any system/any otherwise safe system/
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      My favourite is the security guard who breaks all the rules for a big chested woman. Banks also have lots of bussiness cards with employees first and last names for the taking. Plus any bank employee who invites you into their office has business cards for sure and they always leave the room for some reason not that taking business cards on display wasn't their intended purpose but the employee isn't even there to observe. Banks often request people to speak their passwords/pin codes as a form of checkin

    • by jellomizer (103300) on Tuesday July 01, 2008 @12:58PM (#24017793)

      Missmatch of values.
      We as customers don't like to be treated criminals as most of us arn't. However good security requires to treat everyone like they are.
      A bank or store with strict security will not last long as their customer service would be horrable. IDing people you know every single time. Not cashing checks with simple spelling mistakes in the names. Insuring the candy isn't in reflective wrap as they could use it to see what could possible be on the screen, by picking a grape lollypop (OK I am streaching here a bit)

      We want friendly customer service this is in direct conflect with security.

      • However good security requires to treat everyone like they are...We want friendly customer service this is in direct conflect with security

        false dichotomy...your 'either...or' is invalid. First, providing security IS good customer service...

        More importantly, your ideas about what 'good security' requires are based on a flawed theory and definition of what it means to be 'secure.' Your operating definition implies that '100% secure' is an attainable goal. It's not. There is no golden procedure that will bring you out of Oz like Dorothy clicking her heels together three times.

        Ham fisted, dumb tactics like making a teller ID some old lady that has been banking there for 30 years is the height of stupidity.

        The best way to provide a secure environment is to first have educated, savvy personnel at all levels. Second, have smart, targeted policies that capitalize on your educated employees using higher brain functions.

        A Counter-example: Instead of your "ID everyone all the time even if it's your grandma" approach...have a policy that says "ID everyone they have a 10 year + history and relationship with the bank, and you recognize them immediately"

        Why? No teller is going to comply with your example because it is unworkable. Have targeted, specific policies and employees that can think analytically instead.

        ps...for those of you with Asperberger's or OCD just itching to point out flaws in my example, remember, it's just an example. If you're so interested in what I'm saying, then look at my ideas instead of nitmpicking an admittedly imperfect example.

    • by Walt Dismal (534799) on Tuesday July 01, 2008 @01:11PM (#24017965)
      Your mission, Mr. Phelps, is to find a pointy-hair boss too stupid to know better, and con him. Failing that, any sheeplike underling is okay too. If you or any or your Slashdot Impossible Mission Force (SIMF) is caught or killed, the secretary will disavow your actions. Oh, and before the mission, would you fill out this little insurance card? In case of your death, I get a new house.
    • by kalirion (728907) on Tuesday July 01, 2008 @01:27PM (#24018341)

      The solutions is simple then - remove the human element.

    • by johneee (626549) on Tuesday July 01, 2008 @01:30PM (#24018415)

      Hm, I actually just had the idea when reading this that you could probably get a good haul by grabbing a bunch of credit card applications, getting a folding table, dressing nicely and setting yourself up in a mall. Plus you'd have the advantage of not necessarily having as many cameras pointed at you. Not as many ids of course, but the info would be good and very little chance of being caught.

      • by SydShamino (547793) on Tuesday July 01, 2008 @02:28PM (#24019519)

        Better than that, I think any good university should take your (correctly modded) interesting suggestion and employ it for their own use.

        1. On a weekend or another "off" time, the university hires someone to set up a table outside the UC, where credit card vendors often wallow.

        2. The person sits at the table and offer credit card applications to students. He gives them lollipops or something equally stupid as reward, or just promises them a T-shirt in the mail once their application has been approved.

        3. He packs up and leaves in 30-45 minutes.

        About a week later, the university contacts anyone who filled out an application, explains to them that the person was posing as a ID theft criminal posing as a credit card salesman, and that, had it been an actual criminal, their credit would already be trashed.

        That could be a sober lesson for many naive young college kids. I bet the local police would be happy to orchestrate something like this.

        • A local county fair always has booths with people giving away tshirts for signing up to services. Sometimes for as little as giving an email addresses and signing that you want to receive email from them.

          Whomever bob@bob.com is, thanks for all the free tshirts your address has given me

    • by Gilmoure (18428)

      So... Skynet is the answer.

      Cool!

  • Lifelock Ad (Score:4, Funny)

    by oahazmatt (868057) on Tuesday July 01, 2008 @12:25PM (#24017291) Journal
    I love the ad for LifeLock at the top of the page. Didn't the CEO just fall victim to identity theft?
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      Didn't the CEO just fall victim to identity theft?

      There has been one confirmed case of a $500 loan via ID-theft of their CEO. There are 25 other disputed cases. According to the company, as of last month 105 of Lifelock's customers have been victims of identity theft. Which is 0.01% of their customers.

  • A Wise Man (Score:3, Interesting)

    by TheSubAtomic (1305939) on Tuesday July 01, 2008 @12:25PM (#24017303)
    A wise man once told me, "There is no security patch for human stupidity." I guess he was right...
    • by clone53421 (1310749) on Tuesday July 01, 2008 @12:58PM (#24017791) Journal
      Duck tape?
    • Re:A Wise Man (Score:5, Insightful)

      by DaedalusHKX (660194) on Tuesday July 01, 2008 @01:03PM (#24017865) Journal

      At risk of dating myself here, I will mention that during the whole Mitnick thing, (big press about social engineering "dark side hacker" back then) I wrote a paper in a sociology class, and proved it beyond my wildest dreams. (Granted the presentation was done to a batch of people with glazed eyes.) The topic? That despite all the hullabaloo, the vast majority of "the masses (tm)" are still just as brick/rock stupid or at least very ignorant, just as they were before social engineering was brought to the newsfront by over eager media people looking for someone to demonize.

      Do not be upset. Stupid people are there so that intelligent or smart people are given a reason to shine. If everyone was smart, you'd be another drop in the bucket, but if you are, and they are not, then be happy you're stronger, smarter or better off, enjoy the advantage, help others if you want, or avoid helping them, all up to you.

      All in all (back to my paper in question) I think I only had a few people turn me down for providing private info. It was then that I realized that "security" auditing was a joke for any company that is not so small that the employees and employer know and care about each other. Tall order in today's societal tendency for a lack of responsibility. Until people are held accountable for their actions by other people, regardless of the piece of paper they hide behind (be it a corporate charter or some other set of excuses for bringing harm to others), until people are held accountable by those whom they harm, nothing will change. Therefore, I wager nothing will EVER change, since the vast majority are cowards. The upside, is that this has created a veritable "garden of eden" for those of us that do not suffer from lack of courage or lack of vision.

      If there truly is a God, he must be one sarcastic dude, because, as far as I can tell, he despises stupid, weak people, and does everything possible to give them a shock to wake them up. And, despite my dislike for Churchill, this quote is a classic "sometimes a man may trip over the truth, but sadly, very often he just picks himself up and goes on." So don't feel pissed that most employees don't care. Their entire social structure is built on irresponsibility, rudeness, and triviality. Why do you expect them to behave as exemplars of honor, honesty and integrity, when the very system they seek to be rewarded by, is not based on such ideas? (No, paying lip service to "honesty" does not make one honest, same thing with honor or integrity or a hundred or more other ideas one can name.)

      • by D Ninja (825055)

        Stupid people are there so that intelligent or smart people are given a reason to shine. If everyone was smart, you'd be another drop in the bucket, but if you are, and they are not, then be happy you're stronger, smarter or better off, enjoy the advantage, help others if you want, or avoid helping them, all up to you.

        Except social engineering has only partly to do with stupidity. It also has to do with trust. A smart person can easily be exploited if he trusts someone. It may take longer to gain that trust, but, arguably, if a smart person is exploited, the consequences could be that much worse.

        And then, of course, there's the argument that even a smart person has a bad day every once in awhile. You could easily be caught off guard. Why do you think *true* high security places always have more than one guard in pla

      • by snowgirl (978879) *

        I agree with just about everything you say. Actually, I'd say that the majority of people are average intelligence, if everyone were as smart as Einstein, well, then that would be the average intelligence.

        You're right though, when I worked for a big company that wanted to protect its assets and required people to use key-cards to enter, almost no one actually followed the rule, "if they don't have a badge, don't let them in." Once, there was a guy who wanted to follow me in, and I kept telling him, "no, y

      • Re:A Wise Man (Score:5, Interesting)

        by dwye (1127395) on Tuesday July 01, 2008 @04:15PM (#24021393)

        Do not be upset. Stupid people are there so that intelligent or smart people are given a reason to shine. If everyone was smart, you'd be another drop in the bucket, but if you are, and they are not, then be happy you're stronger, smarter or better off, enjoy the advantage, help others if you want, or avoid helping them, all up to you.

        Yeah. Once there was this high security project, and one of the people got a pass to go to the nearest city to see his wife, who was dying of cancer at the time. He used his pass to let another man at about his level drive him there, since person one didn't have access to his own car. Unknowingly, this let man two give away secrets from the project to a competitor, which used the info to jump-start their competing product.

        Of course, the project was the Manhattan Engineering District, the man with the car was Klaus Fuchs, the competitor was the Soviet Union, the product was nuclear weapons, and the dupe was Richard Feynman. It doesn't take stupidity to be fooled, or genius to do the fooling, and it isn't because of a lack of responsibility. That's why the CIA could operate in the Soviet Union despite the KGB, and vice versa.

    • There is no security patch for human stupidity

      Education and knowledge are the patch for human stupidity. The whole point of the article was that because people are so focused on online security threats, they are becoming lax with old-school threats.

      If people just understood the "online" part of "online security threats" this would not be an issue. I am genuinely disappointed that your everyday American is so ignorant about what the internet actually DOES.

      Make technology classes mandatory as part of litera

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by niiler (716140)

        The problem with this is two-fold:

        First, the folks in control of implementing such technology classes would do the usual (let's memorize IE8 and Office 2008) in order to make people more "productive" instead of teaching people the overall context of DRM, net neutrality, black-box voting, and the like.

        Second, even if you could get reasonable content in the class, most students wouldn't give a damn. "But I can use my iPhone (see: I'm using it now!)- therefore, I am tech saavy and this class is stupid."

    • by Wildclaw (15718)

      I don't like using the word stupidity, because it has such a wide range of meanings. You can have an IQ of 160 and still be stupid in many context.

      For this specific type of stupidty, early education in skepticism, critical thinking and seeing through scams should help alot. Unfortunally, there are no such classes anywhere. Not that strange really considering how a large part of society relies on access to easily fooled people, and parts of that larger part has some nice political clout. Ok, that sounded a

  • by goombah99 (560566) on Tuesday July 01, 2008 @12:26PM (#24017319)

    Internet theft: Wholesale
    in-person theft: Retail

    We make up the difference in volume!

    I'm not worried about Retail level theft. It's the wholesale one that is more worrisome.

    if internet theft has a success rate of 1 in a thousand but puts millions of people at risk it's more worrisome.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Pvt_Ryan (1102363)
      True.. but if you have physical access you can "bug" the system thereby getting true wholesale with greater effect, and less chance of detection.
      • by goombah99 (560566) on Tuesday July 01, 2008 @12:45PM (#24017589)

        True.. but if you have physical access you can "bug" the system thereby getting true wholesale with greater effect, and less chance of detection.

        Yes but the list of suspects it too small to be comfortable. With the internet you can sit on your Nigerian internet cafe all day long and have no fear of prosecution.

    • by Kingston (1256054) on Tuesday July 01, 2008 @12:40PM (#24017531)
      Yes, unless the "in-person" thief can pocket a couple of CDs [bbc.co.uk] with the personal details of almost all the families in the UK on it.
    • by Amouth (879122)

      while Wholesale does efffect more people.

      i would personaly be more worried if i was hit bythe reatail version.. as that has more chance to screw me over

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by MozeeToby (1163751)

      My wife works for a small investment advisor firm, they probably have 1500-2000 clients with all their information on file. If a criminal went for their backup tapes rather than whatever loose paperwork happened to be floating around they could have every single one of them. Their security basically consists of the Admin Assistants asking people who they are there to see, I doubt they even have a lock on the server room door.

    • by Builder (103701)

      You might want to rethink that... non-internet related loss recently led to the potential release of quarter of the UK population's details into the wild. That's names, national insurance numbers, addresses and banking details - all on a couple of DVDs.

      I don't know of a single internet heist that could net me all of that data in one go!

    • by mea37 (1201159)

      I think you're playing a little loose with the numbers.

      You're also not factoring in that in "retail theft" of personal information, every compromised account will probably be used in an act of fraud. In "wholesale theft", a small percentage of the stolen accounts will actually be used. The pool of potential victims may be much larger, but the number of actual, converted victims may not be.

      More to the point -- an obsessive focus on the Threat of the Day is never a good idea. Make that one link as strong a

  • This just in... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by jockeys (753885) on Tuesday July 01, 2008 @12:26PM (#24017329) Journal
    people are the weakest link in any security system. Film at 11.
    • Re:This just in... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by caluml (551744) <slashdotNO@SPAMspamgoeshere.calum.org> on Tuesday July 01, 2008 @01:26PM (#24018329) Homepage
      What annoys me are banks/companies in the UK who do this:

      Me: Hello?
      Them: Hello, this is LloydsTSB/BT/some other company. Is this <My Name>?
      Me: Yes
      Them: OK, for security, I have to ask you some questions. What is your date of birth?
      Me: I'm not giving that sort of information out to some random on the phone - how do I know you're who you say you are?
      Them: I'm ringing on behalf of LloydsTSB/BT/some other company.
      Me: Sure, you said that. Tell me what my account number is then
      Them: I can't do that until you've identified yourself.
      Me: Bit of an impasse then, isn't it?

      Sure, they know my name and number. I'm guessing it's not that hard to find that out though.
      • Re:This just in... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Duncan Blackthorne (1095849) on Tuesday July 01, 2008 @01:47PM (#24018793)
        Actually.. clue #1 is that someone called YOU and asked for personal information. My counter to that (assuming I ever am confronted by it)? Get their name and tell them I must call them back, then call back to that company's main number. Chances are that once I ask this scammer his name, he hangs up on me.
        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          by R2.0 (532027)

          Hey, here's a simple policy - just don't give out personal info on yourself unless you are sure it's required.

          I made a doctor's appointment today, and the receptionist was taking my info - name, address, etc. Then she said "Social Security Number?" I simply said "I'd rather not give that out over the phone." She didn't skip a beat, and went to the next question.

          Why didn't I give it to her? Because I'm not really sure she needed it to set up the appointment, and I'm trying to get into the habit of limiti

        • Re:This just in... (Score:4, Interesting)

          by ignavus (213578) on Tuesday July 01, 2008 @08:36PM (#24024361)

          I have done that. A bank employee rang me and asked me for identifying information before trying to sell me some investment package.

          I immediately refused to divulge identifying information to someone who calls me. The bank employee then gave me her identifying information, and I rang the bank to confirm the identity, which checked out as far as that went. When you ring the bank, they put you through to an enquiry person, you don't get a switchboard operator who can connect you to a specific employee. The enquiry person confirmed that the employee who rang me worked for the bank, but IIRC they were in another state where the investment branch of the bank was located.

          But now *I* have her identifying information. I could get a female friend to ring up strangers posing as the real bank employee ("You can check with the bank that I work there if you want, and I will ring back tomorrow after you have checked").
          So how do I know that the person who rang me really was a bank employee?

          Fortunately she never called back and I had moved all my investment money somewhere else - I was no longer an interesting prospect for them.

          Moral: if they give you their identifying information to check them out ... then there is a still a hole.

      • by legirons (809082)

        Yet these same banks never publish a PGP key, and never ask you for yours.

        Then they refuse to use email for anything because "it's insecure" (wouldn't be if you learnt how to use it) but still *love* SSL which relies on your browser being trustworthy

        yet they're perfectly happy to exchange the most confidential of information over a standard phone line with no encryption whatsoever

  • by SatanicPuppy (611928) * <Satanicpuppy@[ ]il.com ['gma' in gap]> on Tuesday July 01, 2008 @12:28PM (#24017365) Journal

    I don't know if you can say it's related to online identity theft though; this sort of social engineering predated that by decades, and its always worked well.

    So much of it is about knowing the right number to call, or the right person to approach.

    People just need to be suspicious, but suspicious is massively unhelpful to people who legitimately need help. No one ever calls me for security credentials because I am the documentation gestapo; instead they approach one of the other people who can set them up, because they know that those people won't ask as many questions.

    On the one hand, I know I don't need to be as thorough as I am, on the other hand I know that the one time I'm not, I'll give access to the wrong person.

    • by Jason Levine (196982) on Tuesday July 01, 2008 @12:37PM (#24017475)

      The scary thing is that you can be as suspicious and careful as possible and still have your identity stolen because someone in another city whom you've never met wasn't suspicious and careful or because some company that you've dealt with directly or indirectly has a security breach of some sort. And when that happens the company responsible for your identity being stolen isn't out any significant (to them) money, but you need to spend a lot of your time and energy to restore your good credit.

      Yes, I'm speaking from experience. I was lucky enough to find out about it early when the unrequested credit card was "accidentally" sent to me instead of to the ID thieves. So I got an "easier" time than I could have had. I still have to look over my credit report constantly, though, as my information is out there now.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by lena_10326 (1100441)

        I'm speaking from experience. I was lucky enough to find out about it early when the unrequested credit card was "accidentally" sent to me instead of to the ID thieves. So I got an "easier" time than I could have had. I still have to look over my credit report constantly, though, as my information is out there now.

        If you're in USA, you can now apply for a credit freeze. It will be annoying, but if you're not planning on opening new accounts for a while it would help you sleep better.

        Not available in al

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by nine-times (778537)

      I've read stories (here on Slashdot) where black hats have admitted that social engineering is one of their most successful methods of "hacking". Why bother with a brute force or even a dictionary attack? You can just ask the user for their password and they'll give it to you.

      When you think about it, phishing is just another form of social engineering.

      There may be technological protection to try to prevent these things, but the best protection will always be procedural. Unfortunately, no one wants to fol

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by SatanicPuppy (611928) *

        Yea. The best defense is limiting the harm that can be done on the network, defining everyones permissions, prohibiting full network access from unsecured rooms, etc.

        But there is no good way to take people out of the loop.

  • by apathy maybe (922212) on Tuesday July 01, 2008 @12:32PM (#24017417) Homepage Journal

    Step one, find a birth certificate for a person of the same gender as you, and around the same ago.

    Register at your local university and obtain student card in the name of the person on the birth certificate, withdraw before you have to pay anything (this step may vary with your university, I know it is possible at the Uni that I attended).

    Obtain utility bills in the name of the person on the birth certificate.

    There you go, 100 points of ID!

    Use to obtain other forms of ID etc. (If you're in the USA finding the social security number would probably be useful too.)

    If the person isn't dead (to create a "new" id, make sure that the birth certificate is for a person who died quite young), then you can have a field day getting access to whatever.

    Enjoy.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      I think this story is a fake. The FDIC does not audit or insure credit unions, the NCUA does. So either the author of the article got the initials wrong or the whole story is social engineering.

      • by corsec67 (627446) on Tuesday July 01, 2008 @01:02PM (#24017857) Homepage Journal

        Or maybe that is another thing that should make the people work at the credit union say "WTF is the FDIC doing at a credit union?"

        • by caluml (551744)
          If you're one of the approx 50% of people that read this site that aren't from the US, you might not know what the FDIC [wikipedia.org] is.
          • by ArsonSmith (13997)

            The FDIC is there as a trade off. It takes responsibility away from you researching if a back is a safe bet and puts that onto the Federal Government. Of course it has the side effect of making banks that run as crappy as possible because if something does happen they don't have to pay for it.

            • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

              by dankrabach (793426)
              The point is that under our divided, duplicative, wasteful banking "regulatory" system, the FDIC does not even insure or regulate credit unions....that is done by the NCUA. That would make the report to whoever ordered the security check even more embarassing. Their own employees didn't know that 1) FDIC has no visitorial powers, and 2) didnt know or don't have a procedure to have all regulatory inquiries go through a specific person/department. Pathetic.
  • by The Crooked Elf (1042996) <peppe@ c s . u s m . m a i ne.edu> on Tuesday July 01, 2008 @12:34PM (#24017437) Homepage
    People are much too obsessed with the image of a diabolical Cheetos-eating hacker without any social skills. The most effective criminals in the world are friendly, well-dressed, and outgoing. And usually only technologically-competent enough to get the job done.

    Ever heard of mustard squirters? They squirt your back with mustard, then inform you of the fact you have mustard on your back. They proceed—presumably generously—to wash it off for you: In doing so, they take your wallet. No technology. Tremendous success rate.

    Come on. Some people out there need to read the works of Frank Abagnale, or at least Kevin Mitnick.
    • Re: (Score:2, Flamebait)

      by pilgrim23 (716938)

      This has happened before. in 64 AD the Great Fire in Rome melted roof tiles of lead which flowed into the treasury reducing the gold content of any coin with Nero's face on it to about 1/2 that of his predecessor...that was Nero's stoyy and he is sticking to it!

      Identity theft is making peopel mistrust the banking system. Given what a shady thing it really is, this is a bad thing?

    • by dkleinsc (563838)

      The most effective criminals in the world are friendly, well-dressed, and outgoing.

      I thought we called those people "politicians".

    • The most effective criminals in the world are friendly, well-dressed, and outgoing. And usually only technologically-competent enough to get the job done.

      Such individuals are commonly known as "politicians".

  • by mpapet (761907) on Tuesday July 01, 2008 @12:36PM (#24017467) Homepage

    When someone from some esteemed institution of higher learning discovers this, then maybe the "identity theft" groupthink will end.

    #1. Banks make money when your identity is stolen The profit comes in the form of transaction penalties when you start reversing the charges and possibly the bank's "identity theft services."

    #2. No one seems to have any interest at all in shedding some light on the credit process. Why isn't it quite transparent to all consumers?

    The entire "identity theft" scheme works is overwhelmingly favors the banking industry and it's no one's fault but ours.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Shados (741919)

      Banks make money from it? Could have fooled me. Last time I got my cards stolen, the bank reimbursed EVERY LAST TIME i lost because of it. They took the entire blame and responsability, I lost -nothing-....

      • by FLEB (312391)

        Are you sure it wasn't the merchant getting hit with those charges, though?

        • by Shados (741919)

          Very, since there was no merchant involved. They had taken money straight from the account, and made purchases using debits, not credit.

          • Correction (Score:2, Informative)

            by mpapet (761907)

            made purchases using debits

            And the merchant is on the hook for those transactions. They paid penalties for taking the bad card, plus the balance, plus the lost merchandise.

            Debit/credit is pretty much the same from the average retailer's perspective, just another cost of doing business.

    • by intx13 (808988) on Tuesday July 01, 2008 @01:10PM (#24017957) Homepage

      Banks make money by borrowing your money (at a low interest rate) and loaning it out to someone else (at a higher interest rate). If your identity is stolen in a big way, then any fees you pay to reverse bad transactions or identity-protection services you take part in are going to be outweighed by the fact that your money is quickly dissapearing (and thus no longer available to be loaned out by the bank).

      It's in the best interest of the bank to keep your money in their vault; identity theft typically results in the exact opposite.

      Identity theft (at the scale we see it now) is relatively young, and so it's understandable that banks and credit unions don't really have a developed, effective strategy to protect the customer... but as the parent says, given the shroud of secrecy that surrounds much of the banking and credit industries, a little transparency might go a long way to illuminate danger areas, so we don't have to rely on proof-by-egg-on-face as in TFA.

      • by Wildclaw (15718) on Tuesday July 01, 2008 @02:20PM (#24019365)

        Banks make money by borrowing your money (at a low interest rate) and loaning it out to someone else (at a higher interest rate). I

        Not quite true. That is the school level illusion that most people live under. The current money system in most countries today is far more insidious than that, allowing banks to lawfully lend out money(debt) created from nothing. Yes, they need some money deposited, but it is far less than what is lent out.

        You should really see the documentary "Money as debt" (just search on youtube). While it may be slightly preachy and biased at some moments, a large part of it is a good description of how the money system really works.

        Still, your basis assumption and discussion point regarding them wanting your money is correct, because the bank do need it to be able to lend out these even larger amounts of money. Actually, it is even more important for them to get your money as they can lend out a multiple of it.

    • You seriously think banks make money on identity theft? You're either deluded or confused, or perhaps, both.

      #1. Banks make money when your identity is stolen The profit comes in the form of transaction penalties when you start reversing the charges and possibly the bank's "identity theft services."

      I haven't seen a major bank EVER charge for "transaction penalties" when it comes to cleaning up after fraud. And I only say "major" banks because I havent personally dealt with every little bank across the country. Even 10 years ago, before identity theft was even close to the problem it is today, the only cost incurred by consumers was typically the time to make the phone calls (and somet

  • Pretend to be a researcher. Approach bank president. "Hi, I'm Bob Researcher from State U. I'd like to test your bank's security for you." [insert fear mongering as necessary]

    If successful, yay! Free identities!

    If unsuccessful, meh. You're legit!

    • Actually, that's not as good as telling them you're selling photocopiers. Don't remind people about security when you're trying to steal stuff; sometimes it jogs their memory to the boring security lectures they sat through during their first week of work.

      The absolute best way to go about it is to be in a semi-authority position where you need information, and you have a right to information. If you need it, and you are perceived to have a right to it, then people will go out of their way to find it for you.

      The "carrying a box of junk" thing works pretty well too; it's considered rude as hell to block someone when they're struggling under a heavy weight. Grab a big ass server and lug it into the building, and everyone will hold doors for you, then take it into a conference room, plug it in, and start looking for stuff. Bring a projector as well, and you can sit there all day, and people will assume you're there for a reason, or that someone else must know why you're there.

      It's a oddity of human nature that, the more people there are around, the more likely that people are to dismiss your presence because "someone must know them, and know what they're doing" otherwise someone would be acting, right?

      • by thermian (1267986) on Tuesday July 01, 2008 @01:09PM (#24017945)

        actually I used to use this trick to take a break when I was a student nurse in the nineties.

        I'd pick up an xray or some notes that I knew wouldn't be needed, and go off walking around the hospital. No-one on my ward would question why I was gone, because I was just the student, I got sent places all the time. I found I could go round any department without being challenged, people just assumed I was meant to be there.

        Incidentally, student nurse uniforms are easy to buy.

        It worked for two years, then I got busy, what with exams and all, so I stopped doing it. I never got caught though.

      • by Free the Cowards (1280296) on Tuesday July 01, 2008 @01:18PM (#24018137)

        It's a oddity of human nature that, the more people there are around, the more likely that people are to dismiss your presence because "someone must know them, and know what they're doing" otherwise someone would be acting, right?

        And let's remember that this applies to emergencies as well. If you see someone in a crowd who needs medical help, go help him, and call for assistance if he needs it. Don't assume somebody else will do it; everybody else is going to assume that too! If you're the one who needs medical assistance, or you're with that person, don't shout out "call 911." Pick a person out of the crowd, point to him, and say, "You, call 911."

      • by ptbarnett (159784) on Tuesday July 01, 2008 @01:21PM (#24018205)

        The "carrying a box of junk" thing works pretty well too; it's considered rude as hell to block someone when they're struggling under a heavy weight. Grab a big ass server and lug it into the building, and everyone will hold doors for you, then take it into a conference room, plug it in, and start looking for stuff. Bring a projector as well, and you can sit there all day, and people will assume you're there for a reason, or that someone else must know why you're there.

        Sad but true: someone dressed up like a technician, walked into my company's office and started puttering around with a desktop computer. After a while, he disconnected the computer and walked out with it.

        Everyone assumed that someone else had called him to come in and fix the "malfunctioning" computer, and when he left with it, presumed that he was taking it elsewhere for a more serious repair effort.

      • by BenEnglishAtHome (449670) on Tuesday July 01, 2008 @01:39PM (#24018629)

        None of that crap would pan out where I work. [irs.gov]

        Need help getting through a door? Sure, people will let you through a door if you're lugging a load. Then they'll see you don't have your badge on, offer to help you find the office and person you're looking for, and if you don't know what name or location to give, they'll stick right with you until you figure it out or security comes along to help.

        Selling copiers? "Oh, man, dude, nobody on this floor has the authority to buy anything! Lemme walk you over to the facilities guy that you *must* have an appointment with. He'll get you a temp badge or an escort if you need to look around."

        New hire? "Gee, ya know, I hate to be a pain about this but you really do have to keep your badge on in the building. Lemme hold your box while you find it."

        Lost your badge? "Gee, ya know, you're gonna get hassled a bunch without it. Do you know where Kathy's office is? Let me show you; she can issue you a temp badge for the day."

        Lugging in a server or anything that looks remotely computer-like? The security guard will have you sign in and call down someone from IT to escort you.

        Visiting executive? Unless you're the commish, in which case you'll be covered by a phalanx of security, even the lowliest of the low in this place will give you a friendly wave, say hi, and offer you a lanyard for your badge while you're in the building. "Oh, that's OK, I can wait till you find your badge. Do you want me to show you where you're going/where to get a temp badge/to security?" In fact, this is one of the few times a data input operator can pull rank on the highest executive in the organization and you'd better believe that no office lacks for people who would relish the opportunity.

        Bluff your way past security and take an elevator ride to an upper floor, looking for something? Big deal. All the doors are on card keys and if you knock, the person who answers is going to lead you right back through the "Gee, I hate to be a pain about this but you really have to wear your badge in the building" routine.

        Walking around in the hall looking semi-lost because you got in but realize you can't get through any of the doors? You'll be directly challenged by someone who will walk you directly to your manager (if you can provide a name and location) or directly to security.

        If by some total breakdown (say, you've got a decent fake badge and you piggyback on someone to get through a door) you get into the work area and plop down in a conference room, you're gonna get caught in short order. Plug in your laptop? If you haven't pre-reserved the room, you'll trip port security, that port on the router will shut down, the telecomm lady will get an automatic page and head up to that conference room to see who's screwing around by plugging in an unregistered MAC. Just turning on a laptop with wireless enabled chances setting off the scanner that's sometimes running in every building; in that case, you get a quick visit from scary men with badges and guns. You're a contractor on site and you plug in a wireless access point? See the sentences immediately previous, plus you get tossed out, fired if you're a sub, lose your individual security clearance, and the overall contract holder gets in seriously hot water. Just sit there and try to look important? The conference room reservations are controlled by the nearest secretary. As soon as s/he sees you in the room, you'll get asked to do a formal reservation. "If the room is free, you can have it, but I need your name and badge number for the log book. By the way, where's your badge?" In offices where the conference rooms aren't tightly controlled, people get used to dropping in so if you're sitting there without a badge, you're going to get questioned. If you don't know the right jargon, the right person to say you're working with, the right organizational attributes to assign to yourself, you're going to be questioned. Even the most tim

        • I would hope there aren't glaring security weaknesses at the IRS, but why steal from the IRS when you can hit the local tax assessors office and probably get information without being caught?

          It's all very well to say, "This is how we do it" but the reality is, most people don't do it that way, and for the most part, that level of security would be problematic for smaller organizations.

        • by ShooterNeo (555040) on Tuesday July 01, 2008 @02:06PM (#24019165)

          My gut feel, upon reading your description, is that no-one is that good. I would be very interested to know if any teams like the one in TFA have actually tried to break the security at the IRS.

          Possible holes : everyone seems fixated on those ID badges. Precisely what is the security on those? RFID, or is it a magnetic strip?

          Magnetic strips can be copied. RFID chips are more difficult and take serious hacking.

          Other simple tricks : are the PCs at the IRS running windows? Would a simple trick like the "drop a few USB dongles in the employee smoking area" work?

          Finally, there's insider information. Somehow, I doubt the IRS pays people very well. There must be all kind of employees with IT jobs who could physically copy from computers containing millions of tax records.

          Information is inherently far, far more difficult to secure than a physical item. I would be greatly surprised if the security were as airtight as you make it out to be.

          • by legirons (809082)

            "Possible holes : everyone seems fixated on those ID badges. Precisely what is the security on those? RFID, or is it a magnetic strip?"

            so you following groups of people from this IRS office around on their lunch break taking photos of any badges for use in forging them, querying their RFID chips as they walk past, and picking up any lost badges (or worse if you're not law-abiding ;) to clone them?

            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by ShooterNeo (555040)

              Umm, I'm sure there are ways. See numerous movies for a method. Or buy a badge from a fired employee. I mean, since EVERY employee has an ID badge, they probably follow the same template. It would be the work of a few days to create a near-perfect fake. The "look" of the badge itself secures nothing, there are numerous websites out there explaining in great detail how to replicate virtually any badge or ID card.

              The CODES on it are the only security : to pass those electronic locks, you would need a bad

          • No, definitely not airtight. I was only responding to the notion that you can bluff your way in, plop down in a conference room, hook up to the network, and do bad things. That's the scenario the GP was discussing and it can't happen here, or, if it can happen, it's unlikely to give anyone any better information than how poor is the quality of the carpet and furniture in our conference rooms.

            You bring up good points. Let me take a stab at them.

            ...everyone seems fixated on those ID badges. Precisely

        • Does anyone else find it ironic that the government organization responsible for collecting taxes is itself a perfect example of why the overhead for government "services" is so high? It's amazing they manage to get anything done at all with so much beaurocracy...

        • by Monty845 (739787)
          The ultimate test in an organization that prides itself on security like that is what happens when a person penetrates the primary layer of security. Say someone steals & alters a legit badge (which is then not reported promptly)... if the badge opens the doors, and looks legit will anyone question it? What about the person who has done thier research? Someone who has researched a paticular employee (who just left for vacation), ooops I forgot my badge, could you show me who is in charge of issuing the
        • by Animats (122034) on Tuesday July 01, 2008 @02:28PM (#24019515) Homepage

          There are places with tight security like that, and I've been to some of them. The overhead is high. For bidding purposes at a major aerospace company, we used to estimate that running a project at SECRET doubled the bid, and running at TOP SECRET ran the price up by 4x or more. At the higher levels, computers are in metal rooms with welded seams raised off the floor (so Security can check underneath) and with RF-tight airlocks. Signing documents in and out of files takes a big chunk of staff resources and time. There's a big bureaucracy associated with accountability.

          One of the serious side effects of running highly classified projects is that the people working on them become obsolete in place. They're so cut off from the outside world that they don't keep up, outside their very narrow area of expertise. That's why I left aerospace and went to the commercial world.

          • One of the serious side effects of running highly classified projects is that the people working on them become obsolete in place. They're so cut off from the outside world that they don't keep up, outside their very narrow area of expertise. That's why I left aerospace and went to the commercial world.

            Bingo. I have a set of truly amazing skills that I will take into retirement this year. In the private sector, those skills are worth approximately ... nothing.

            That doesn't bother me. I like my current j

        • Read as some wry humor:
          Thanks for the list of challenge I have to overcome... I probably would have been caught on my first try, photographed, and my identity established and put on a no-entry list. Now I'll be able to plan for each situation.

          Thanks to you I also know I have to copy a mac address - a crossover cable and a microcontroller with ethernet for an ARP request is all I need. Then I'll be able to collect the fractional pennies with the virus I upload.

          You see sir, the human element is the weakness.

      • by caluml (551744)
        I think the effect you're looking for is diffusion of responsibility [wikipedia.org]. Has a similar effect in riots/mobs. If everyone punches the policeman only once, it can't be *you* that killed him, right?
      • by Koiu Lpoi (632570)
        This is absolutely 100% true. I have a friend who is a tech for AT&T. With him, we've been able to get into many "restricted" areas, simply because he's a tech and I look like one. People go "oh, something's wrong with the lines? No, but you still need to do tests? Better let 'em through." Never asked for ID, nothing. People seem to have this implicit trust that "tech people" are there to help, and do not want to be bothered. While it's true, this privilege can be abused.
      • Genovese Effect (Score:2, Interesting)

        by relguj9 (1313593)
        Learned about this is Psych 101, it's terrifying and good to be aware of.

        Bystander Effect (Genovese Effect) [wikipedia.org]

        "The bystander effect (also known as bystander apathy, Genovese syndrome, diffused responsibility or bystander intervention) is a psychological phenomenon in which someone is less likely to intervene in an emergency situation when other people are present and able to help than when he or she is alone."
  • Yeah, but ... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    While it may have a higher success rate, the fact of the matter is that "in-person" identity theft poses a much higher risk ratio for the would-be criminal.
    I'm sure if the researcher were really going to jail for his "crimes", he might not be so cavalier (and calm) when committing them, and this might affect the 100% success rate.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by FLEB (312391)

      OTOH, that "higher risk factor" helps the rationalization of "if they're in here, they must be legit", because anyone else would supposedly be stupid to try.

      As for the "calm" factor, you may have something, but OTOH, I would expect that a successful social engineer has worked their way through a fair amount of less-dangerous situations to build up their in-character cool. If you're smart, you don't start at the "These? Backup tapes? Whatever are you implying?" level. You start with "Sorry... where's the bat

  • Gone are the days when IT security testing firms are looking for Unix expertise. Now they're looking for actors.

  • But the pay sucks :(

  • by painehope (580569) on Tuesday July 01, 2008 @01:15PM (#24018067)
    This is how I used to get my furniture : put on a work uniform w/ a few friends doing the same, show up to a motel w/ a shipping/receiving invoice, get a desk clerk to sign it, and carry a couch or whatever out. Almost 100% success rate at chain motels.
  • Folks forget that "Hackers" include oh say Kevin Mitnick (not a code monkey but always up for a bit of SE)
    and in the right outfit you could walk into most any business, park yourself in the lobby with an EEE PC with the BackTrack logo on the lid and then hack the place blind. Chances of getting caught??? near nil

  • 1950's Chenoa,IL (Score:3, Interesting)

    by bigattichouse (527527) on Tuesday July 01, 2008 @02:06PM (#24019161) Homepage
    In the 1950s in the town I live (Chenoa, IL), 2 "inspectors" came in to audit the books of the local bank. They stayed for 4 hours pouring over the materials, and appeared knowledgable and professional. They stayed through lunch, when the manager and several other big wigs went out to get a bite - the "inspectors" walked out with the entire cash reserve (since the vault was unlocked to allow them access to the ledgers) Never caught.
  • by Animats (122034) on Tuesday July 01, 2008 @02:40PM (#24019753) Homepage

    Operations serious about security do a badge exchange when you enter the facility. You present your "outside" badge, which is validated at the security checkpoint, and exchange it for your "inside" badge, which never leaves the facility. This forces the security people to really check your outside badge, and makes the inside badges harder to copy, since they're not seen outside the facility. Information about what areas you're allowed to access appears only on inside badges. Outside badges won't open anything; inside badges may also be keys.

  • Maybe if we didn't have such a bloated Federal Government those bank employees would be more inclined to say, "I'm sorry, I didn't notice your search warrant."

    I know, private insurance could never work, so we have to be content with raids on our banks. Damn that Hamilton.

  • by Doc Ruby (173196) on Tuesday July 01, 2008 @03:52PM (#24020949) Homepage Journal

    The reason: organizations are typically so focused on online ID theft that they've forgotten how easy it is for a criminal to socially engineer his way into a bank branch or office and physically hack it.

    But orgs are not not so focused on online ID theft that they're stopping it. So really they're unfocused on online ID theft, and even more unfocused on in-person ID theft.

    Because they don't pay the costs. Any focus on ID theft is an extra cost that doesn't save them any money, because the theft doesn't cost them as much.

    Make the orgs liable for mishandling the IDs. Make them indemnify all costs, including the victim's labor to recover and even just monitor for exploitation for years later.

    And make them liable for copyright violations when they copy personal data without express permission for that transaction, and they won't be giving it away to risky people anymore, either.

    Then you'll see them "focused" like a laser.

  • by lbates_35476 (901961) on Tuesday July 01, 2008 @05:41PM (#24022557)
    I was watching a professional thief turned consultant on TV a few years ago describe his best and easiest scam. He would get a rent-a-cop uniform and stand outside a bank branch somewhere at the night depository. When people came to the bank to make their night deposits, he explained that it was broken and the bank had hired him to collect the bags. He claimed that most people actually gave him their night deposit bags!

If I had only known, I would have been a locksmith. -- Albert Einstein

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