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Big Time Identity Theft Hackers Indicted: Tips to Avoid Being a Victim

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ABC news and a bazillion other outlets report that a former informant for the Secret Service was one of three men charged with stealing credit and debit card information from 170 million accounts in the largest data breach in history. The former informant, Albert Gonzalez of Florida, A.K.A "Segvec", "SoupNazi," and "j4guar17," whose motto was ''Get Rich or Die Tryin'" was alleged to have been the ringleader of the criminal hacking operation of a prolific network that spans over five years of serious criminal activity. Once a criminal, always a criminal.

Gonzalez and two other unidentified hackers believed to be from Russia have been charged with hacking into Heartland Payment Systems, 7-11 and Hannaford Brothers Company, Dave and Busters and TJX Corporation, which involved up to 45 million credit card numbers.

Gonzalez was originally arrested in 2003 by the U.S. Secret Service and began working with the agency as an informant. Federal investigators say they later learned that the hacker had been tipping off other hackers on how to evade detection of security and law enforcement worldwide.

Gonzalez provided "sniffer" software used to intercept the credit and debit card numbers for the Russian hackers. Sniffer software or "malware" malicious software, acts like a virus attaching itself to a network and often spreading. The software allows the criminal hacker backdoor access to all the data in the server and provides remote control functionality.

The NY Times reports according to the indictment, Gonzalez and his conspirators reviewed lists of Fortune 500 companies to decide which corporations to take aim at and visited their stores and used a technique called "wardriving" to monitor wireless networks. The online attacks took advantage of flaws in the SQL programming language, which is commonly used for databases.

Threat Level, by Wired magazine, reported that Gonzalez had lived a lavish lifestyle in Miami, once spending $75,000 on a birthday party for himself and complaining to friends that he had to manually count thousands of $20 bills when his counting machine broke.

Protect Yourself

1. You can't prevent this type of credit card fraud from happening to you when the retailer isn't protecting your data. Eventually credit card protection solutions will be available. For now, protecting yourself from account takeover is relatively easy. Simply pay attention to your statements every month and refute unauthorized charges immediately. I check my charges online once every two weeks. If I'm traveling extensively, especially out of the country, I let the credit card company know ahead of time, so they won't shut down my card while I'm on the road.

2. Prevent new account fraud. Get a credit freeze. Go to ConsumersUnion.org and follow the steps for your particular state. This is an absolutely necessary tool to secure your credit. In most cases, it prevents new accounts from being opened in your name. This makes your Social Security number useless to a potential identity thief.

3. Invest in Intelius Identity Theft Protection and Prevention. While not all forms of identity theft can be prevented, you can effectively manage your personal identifying information by knowing what's buzzing out there in regards to YOU.

Robert Siciliano Identity Theft Speaker discussing credit card data breaches and the sad state of cyber security on Fox News