Home > News > The Real JPMorgan Data Breach Danger Is Still on Its Way

Comments 0 Comments
Advertiser Disclosure


The olive branch after the deluge of news about the JPMorgan breach that exposed the personally identifiable information of 83 million customers was that no bank account information, or more sensitive personal information like Social Security numbers, had been compromised. What got lost in that torrent of stories was the fact that the information that did get exposed could unleash the mother of all phishing attacks.

All signs point to phishing. The hackers wormed their way into 90 servers. Their presence wasn’t discovered for weeks. Given the length of the infiltration and the fact that not one of the 83 million accounts affected got drained, it seems unlikely that theft of funds was the immediate goal of the breach. Large financial institutions are constantly on the lookout for that kind of frontal attack.

The more likely scenario is that we are watching a multi-layered crime unfold in real time.

Step One Is Over. What’s Step Two?

Much of the media coverage of the breach focused on the kind of information exposed—names, addresses, emails, phone numbers—as if that were good news, but in reality, it’s a disaster waiting to happen.

Increasingly, the most expeditious way to drain money from a bank account is to get permission from the person whose name is on it. An expert forgery of a bank email, text message, website or courtesy phone call to elicit account details can effectively make the victim an unwitting aider and abettor in the theft of his or her own savings or identity. And this will be accomplished through phishing attacks, which are increasingly nuanced, making discernment from legitimate bank correspondence no easy matter. That, my friends, is Step Two.

Testing the Water

In August, JPMorgan reported a spate of phishing emails. What seemed like “just another attack” this summer may or may not have been connected to the JPMorgan breach, which spanned the months of June through August.

Recent news from Florida may be connected, too. AdaptiveMobile reported this week that about 2,000 SMS messages went out in the Palm Beach and Tampa areas. The message: “JPMorgan Chase Bank, N.A. notification: You have a new message regarding your Chase account. Please tap the link bellow to read it: http://tinyurl.com/[REDACTED]”

Cathal McDaid, head of data intelligence and analytics at AdaptiveMobile rightly points out that fraud employs a seemingly innocuous strategy. “If fraudsters have your name and phone number they can use that in a lot of damaging ways,” McDaid says.

Taking a Cue From Direct Marketers

Direct Marketing professionals will typically send out a “dry test” to see if whatever they are selling appeals to their target market. If they get a decent response—anywhere between .1% and 10%—they will either proceed to a “wet test” or go full bore. Fraudsters do the same thing with their target, often testing purloined information to see if it works. It can take the form of small charges on your credit card or debit card, or it can be as simple your unthinking reply to an SMS phisher. This easy-to-miss trial is often the only sign that an attack is imminent.

While it’s impossible to know for sure if the smishing attack in Florida is related to the JPMorgan breach, the best practice here is to hope for the best and assume the worst.

It’s also worth noting that JPMorgan was not the only bank attacked this summer. According to the Wall Street Journal, nine financial institutions were also targeted. Indications thus far suggest those attacks were unsuccessful, but with around 1 billion records exposed since 2005, recent history seems to be trying to teach us not to take anything for granted.

Your Best Defense

As always, the 3 Ms are a good rule of thumb: minimize your exposure, monitor your accounts and manage the damage. Never authenticate yourself to anyone who contacts you by email, phone or in-person. Never click on links that appear to come from institutions or government entities claiming to take you to any site for you to provide personal information. Always call the customer service number on the back of your debit or credit card. Go to websites independently, type in the correct URLs and always ask yourself if the information you’re asked to provide is logical given the nature of the transaction you’re trying to complete.

You should also keep an eagle eye on your credit and finances. That means pulling your credit reports at least once each year at AnnualCreditReport.com, your credit scores frequently at free sites like Credit.com, your bank and credit card accounts daily and sign up for transactional monitoring programs offered by your financial institutions. Make yourself as hard to hit as possible. Change long and strong passwords and user names periodically. Get a program in place that can help you navigate identity theft should the worst-case scenario happen to you.

Like it or not, the sophistication of hackers combined with human error, as well as sloppy data management, has de facto deputized consumers to defend themselves. Never forget that despite all the laws, enforcement actions and best of intentions in the business community, the ultimate guardian of the consumer is the consumer.

This story is an Op/Ed contribution to Credit.com and does not necessarily represent the views of the company or its partners.

More on Identity Theft:

Image: Brian Jackson

Comments on articles and responses to those comments are not provided or commissioned by a bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by a bank advertiser. It is not a bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

Please note that our comments are moderated, so it may take a little time before you see them on the page. Thanks for your patience.

Credit.com receives compensation for the financial products and services advertised on this site if our users apply for and sign up for any of them.

Hello, Reader!

Thanks for checking out Credit.com. We hope you find the site and the journalism we produce useful. We wanted to take some time to tell you a bit about ourselves.

Our People

The Credit.com editorial team is staffed by a team of editors and reporters, each with many years of financial reporting experience. We’ve worked for places like the New York Times, American Banker, Frontline, TheStreet.com, Business Insider, ABC News, NBC News, CNBC and many others. We also employ a few freelancers and more than 50 contributors (these are typically subject matter experts from the worlds of finance, academia, politics, business and elsewhere).

Our Reporting

We take great pains to ensure that the articles, video and graphics you see on Credit.com are thoroughly reported and fact-checked. Each story is read by two separate editors, and we adhere to the highest editorial standards. We’re not perfect, however, and if you see something that you think is wrong, please email us at editorial team [at] credit [dot] com,

The Credit.com editorial team is committed to providing our readers and viewers with sound, well-reported and understandable information designed to inform and empower. We won’t tell you what to do. We will, however, do our best to explain the consequences of various actions, thereby arming you with the information you need to make decisions that are in your best interests. We also write about things relating to money and finance we think are interesting and want to share.

In addition to appearing on Credit.com, our articles are syndicated to dozens of other news sites. We have more than 100 partners, including MSN, ABC News, CBS News, Yahoo, Marketwatch, Scripps, Money Magazine and many others. This network operates similarly to the Associated Press or Reuters, except we focus almost exclusively on issues relating to personal finance. These are not advertorial or paid placements, rather we provide these articles to our partners in most cases for free. These relationships create more awareness of Credit.com in general and they result in more traffic to us as well.

Our Business Model

Credit.com’s journalism is largely supported by an e-commerce business model. Rather than rely on revenue from display ad impressions, Credit.com maintains a financial marketplace separate from its editorial pages. When someone navigates to those pages, and applies for a credit card, for example, Credit.com will get paid what is essentially a finder’s fee if that person ends up getting the card. That doesn’t mean, however, that our editorial decisions are informed by the products available in our marketplace. The editorial team chooses what to write about and how to write about it independently of the decisions and priorities of the business side of the company. In fact, we maintain a strict and important firewall between the editorial and business departments. Our mission as journalists is to serve the reader, not the advertiser. In that sense, we are no different from any other news organization that is supported by ad revenue.

Visitors to Credit.com are also able to register for a free Credit.com account, which gives them access to a tool called The Credit Report Card. This tool provides users with two free credit scores and a breakdown of the information in their Experian credit report, updated twice monthly. Again, this tool is entirely free, and we mention that frequently in our articles, because we think that it’s a good thing for users to have access to data like this. Separate from its educational value, there is also a business angle to the Credit Report Card. Registered users can be matched with products and services for which they are most likely to qualify. In other words, if you register and you find that your credit is less than stellar, Credit.com won’t recommend a high-end platinum credit card that requires an excellent credit score You’d likely get rejected, and that’s no good for you or Credit.com. You’d be no closer to getting a product you need, there’d be a wasted inquiry on your credit report, and Credit.com wouldn’t get paid. These are essentially what are commonly referred to as "targeted ads" in the world of the Internet. Despite all of this, however, even if you never apply for any product, the Credit Report Card will remain free, and none of this will impact how the editorial team reports on credit and credit scores.

Your Stories

Lastly, much of what we do is informed by our own experiences as well as the experiences of our readers. We want to tell your stories if you’re interested in sharing them. Please email us at story ideas [at] credit [dot] com with ideas or visit us on Facebook or Twitter.

Thanks for stopping by.

- The Credit.com Editorial Team