Happy Friday my friend!
The past few weeks have been difficult for Las Vegas. I'm sure by now you've heard how the companies that own both the MGM and Caesar's Palace hotels were both hit by cyberattacks, locking guests out of rooms, blocking reservations and credit card machines, disabling gambling machines, and not just at their Vegas hotels, but at all of the hotels owned by these companies across the globe.
Just this week Cesar's admitted to negotiating and paying $15M to the criminal gang (they were demanding $30M) in exchange for the bad guys promising not to release the personal information for millions of customers, including driver’s licenses and Social Security numbers of loyalty rewards members.
According to Forbes, thanks to AI and machine learning, Cybercrime is on a major upswing in 2023. With the success of these high profile, disruptive attacks, you can bet that hospitality and reward programs will now be the focus for bad actors. In Ceaser's case, the objective was stealing patron metrics. As for MGM it was to shut down and disrupt their ability to operate.
So how does this relate to you?
Loyalty programs are a great way to earn rewards but a huge black eye for privacy. These programs exist at supermarkets, retail stores and casinos to track your behavior, enticing participation by offering discounts and giveaways in exchange for you agreeing to have them monitor and mine your buying behavior.
Often these loyalty programs ask for an email address, mailing address and phone number. Unless you really like handing out this information, I recommend the following:
1) In computer networks, one way to slow down a criminal is to create separate "rooms" for different things. For example one "room" for computers, another for surveillance cameras, another phones and so on (these are called vLan's btw). You can do the same with your email and set up a dedicated Gmail or Outlook account for loyalty and marketing emails.
2) When you give out your home address, it's not just for advertisers to send flyers. It discloses your income bracket, voting demographic, shopping patterns and unsurprisingly, where you are likely to physically be found. PO Boxes are an affordable way to but up some barriers between you and the advertisers. If there are none available at your local Post Office, the UPS stores also have them.
3) It's not uncommon for most of us to have a single phone number - our cell phone. But, when you give that out to advertisers you may notice an increase in marketing calls and text messages. Google voice is a free service that you can use as a disposable phone number. It can accept text messages and voicemails and if it ends up on a list stolen by hackers, you can easily change or disconnect it.
We can't change the world, but we can change our behaviors to defend ourselves from marketers and cybercrime.
Stay safe out there.
New Friday Funnies
Treat your password like underwear. Don't show it to strangers, change it regularly, and make sure to replace it immediately if there's a leak.