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National News Roundup – April 25, 2022

Monday, April 25, 2022

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Broadband Rollout Runs Into Speed Bumps

Rural expansion slow due to material, labor shortages and other factors.

Congress has appropriated tens of billions of dollars for a variety of programs to help rural America connect to the globe-spanning high-speed network for internet access, but there are serious bottlenecks in the supply chain. As a result, rural broadband is rolling out slowly.

In terms of the wired world, there are two Americas: one is mostly urban, connected through fiber optic cables carrying so-called 5G high speed connections, while many rural areas still operate with painfully slow telephone dial-up connections. Some people in remote locations use satellite internet services, but others have no internet options whatsoever.

The disparity puts parts of rural America at a disadvantage in terms of e-commerce and online education choices. This, in turn, makes it difficult to attract young, educated professionals who may like rural life but cannot function professionally without high-speed internet access.

Michael Bell of Corning Optical Communications, a supplier of fiber optic cable, said the issue lies with supply of the protective jacket that surrounds the hair-thin strands of glass that carry information on beams of light. Some who are working to expand broadband are experiencing year-long-plus delays in getting the fiber optic cable they need.

Meanwhile, there’s also a labor shortage for installing the cable. Many in the industry are setting up educational programs to train people to work with the fiber, said Jim Hayes of the California-based Fiber Optic Association. “It needs to be done now,” Hayes said. “We’re going to need to train probably ten techs for every tech that we’ve got who’s competent to lead them.”

Christa Shute, executive director of NEK Broadband, which is providing fiber optic service to rural Vermont, said her company’s business plan calls for offering services to all potential customers within five years, but given current supply constraints and the shortage of trained technicians, she’s beginning to think that goal isn’t achievable, with or without federal money.

“I think our build will take seven to 10 years,” she said.

(Source: Associated Press)

Phishing Scam Targets Local Election Officials

FBI says the email attacks include links or attachments about bogus invoices. 

The FBI has issued a warning to state and local election officials to be on the lookout for invoice-themed phishing attacks with attachments that redirected to credential harvesting sites.

Officials in at least nine states received emails containing links or attachments to purported invoices, but which harvested login credentials, a tactic that gives attackers sustained access to IT systems.

Many of the emails had similar attachments. The emails were sent from compromised email addresses and were delivered in the same time frame, “suggesting a concerted effort to target U.S. election officials,” the FBI said.

The phishing attacks included emails to election officials with an attachment titled INVOICE INQUIRY.PDF. Clicking on the attachment redirected users to a credential harvesting website.

The FBI urges IT security teams to ensure employees know how to identify social engineering and spoofing attempts and have been cautioned against providing login credentials without obtaining confirmation via a second channel, opening attachments from senders they don’t recognize.

IT staff can help mitigate the risk of compromise by requiring strong, unique passphrases, multifactor authentication and keeping software up to date. The use of a banner indicating email originating from an external source and strong spam filters will also help cut down on phishing attempts.

Please go here to view or download the FBI notification.

(Source: GCN (Government Computer News))

Synthetic Identity Fraud Activity on the Rise

Thieves create false identities using real people’s social security numbers.

A criminal scheme known as “synthetic identity fraud” is gaining popularity among thieves. Individuals may have trouble paying their bills for municipal services if their credit cards are compromised in the scams. Internet and computer-savvy criminals combine real Social Security numbers with mismatched or phony names to create new identities they use to obtain millions in fraud schemes.

Synthetic identity fraud has proliferated in the past few years, becoming the largest form of identity theft in the nation, according to the financial company FiVerity, which in a report last year put the losses at an estimated $20 billion in 2020. About five years ago, the Federal Reserve estimated the losses from synthetic identity fraud at $6 billion.

Some of the most successful synthetic ID schemes are long-term operations. The criminal will build a “person” with a real Social Security number and a fake name, address, and other identifying information. The crook sometimes lets those fake accounts simmer for years before “busting out,” the term law enforcement officials use for pulling the trigger on the fake person’s account and charging up to the limit on a credit card, for example, and then defaulting.

The thieves go for what is called the “long con.” An account is dormant and inactive until the thief decides to activate it, stealing thousands of dollars by maxing out credit cards obtained using the synthetic identification.

(Source: Stateline)

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The above news items are provided for informational purposes and are not intended to reflect MMRMA opinions, coverage, or risk management recommendations. Please contact Membership Services if you have specific risk control questions or concerns.