Capitol Briefs: Shapiro alerts Pennsylvanians to latest Facebook data breach

By Bill O’Boyle - [email protected]
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WILKES-BARRE — Attorney General Josh Shapiro this week cautioned Pennsylvanians about the latest Facebook data breach — a hack that occurred last month that could have compromised user data and information from 50 million Facebook profiles.

The breach, which occurred Sept. 25 and was announced Sept. 28, was the largest in the company’s 14-year history. The hackers reportedly exploited a feature in Facebook’s code to gain access to user accounts and potentially take control of them.

“As my Bureau of Consumer Protection digs into this latest data breach at Facebook and investigates its impact on users across our Commonwealth, Pennsylvanians should take steps to protect themselves,” Shapiro said. “Facebook users should log out of signed in accounts, change your passwords and, most importantly, remember – never give money or personal information to anyone requesting it online or over the phone.”

After the discovery of the hack, Facebook logged out more than 90 million users, forcing them to log back in with their credentials to avoid further access to any sensitive information by hackers. The investigation into the source of the hack and what information was accessed during the breach is ongoing.

Shapiro provided the following tips for consumers on how to protect themselves from identity theft or other harm related to this type of hack:

• Do not give money, financial or personal information to anyone requesting it through Facebook or another online social media platform without first independently verifying the identity of the individual and their reason for needing the information.

• Always log out of Facebook when not in use.

• Change your password, make sure it is strong and continue to change it every six months.

• Enable log-in notifications in your profile settings to alert you any time a log-in occurs from a new device.

• Do not accept friend requests from people you do not know. Even if you do know the individual, the profile could be fake.

• Monitor your credit card, banking and other financial statements as you receive them for any suspicious charges.

• Monitor your credit report by visiting the three major credit bureaus, Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. You can access your report for free once a year at each bureau.

In March, Shapiro led a bipartisan coalition of 41 state Attorneys General in demanding answers from Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg following reports that data of at least 50 million Facebook profiles may have been misused by third-party software developers. The investigation later determined that 2,960,311 Pennsylvanians’ Facebook data was shared with Cambridge Analytica and other third parties.

If you believe you have been a victim of identity theft or feel that your personal information has been compromised, Shapiro recommends you immediately:

• Contact your local police.

• Freeze or close all affected accounts.

• Change your PINs and passwords.

• Report it to Office of Attorney General at 1-800-441-2555 and the Federal Trade Commission at 1-877-ID-THEFT.

• Freeze your credit until you feel confident the issue has been resolved and only unfreeze it when you are attempting to obtain new credit opportunities.

• Contact the three major credit bureaus and place a “fraud alert” on your account:

— Equifax: 1-800-525-6285 or www.equifax.com

— Experian: 1-888-397-3742 or www.experian.com

— TransUnion: 1-800-680-7289 or www.transunion.com

Teen usage of e-cigarettes

declared a national epidemic

The Wolf Administration is urging teens and their parents, educators and health care providers to be aware of the dangers of vaping or using e-cigarettes as the number of teens using this method of smoking is increasing across the nation.

“Most e-cigarettes contain nicotine, which is a highly addictive drug that can harm brain development, which continues until about age 25,” Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine said. “Young people who use e-cigarettes may be more likely to go on to use regular cigarettes. If you have a problem with vaping, there are resources available to help you.”

Recently, the federal government issued warnings about the dangers of e-cigarettes. The FDA declared the use of e-cigarettes among teens an ‘epidemic’ and is taking steps to stop youth access to tobacco products. At the same time, the U.S. Surgeon General determined that e-cigarette use among youth and young adults is a public health concern.

An increasingly popular e-cigarette device, called JUUL, is shaped like a USB flash drive. JUUL, one of the leading brands sold, is among the most popular with teens, but also the most dangerous. JUULs have one of the highest nicotine levels among all e-cigarettes.

“One JUUL cartridge contains the same amount of nicotine as a pack of cigarettes,” Dr. Levine said. “Once a teen begins using e-cigarettes, it is often very difficult for them to stop, and it is a decision that can affect the rest of their life. A conversation must take place about just how dangerous vaping is.”

E-cigarette aerosol is not harmless. “Vaping” aerosol can contain other harmful ingredients, in addition to nicotine. Parents are urged to learn about the different shapes and types of e-cigarettes and the risks of all forms of e-cigarette use for young people.

For help quitting vaping, there are resources available. The department has a free hotline, 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-855-DEJELO-YA in Spanish).

For more information about the dangers of vaping and smoking, visit the Department of Health website at www.health.pa.gov.

Voter registration

deadline is Oct. 9

Acting Secretary of State Robert Torres this week reminded Pennsylvanians they have one week left to register to vote in the Nov. 6 election. He encouraged citizens to take advantage of quick and convenient online voter registration (OVR).

Eligible citizens have until Tuesday, Oct. 9, to apply for a new voter registration or make changes to their existing registration.

The state’s OVR application can be found at register.votesPA.com. In addition to applying for a new registration, the OVR system can also be used to make updates to an existing voter record, such as a change of name, address or party affiliation. Since the launch of OVR in August 2015, more than 1.18 million eligible Pennsylvanians have used the site.

Voters are also encouraged to use the online system to confirm their registration status prior to the deadline. The site also provides polling place information and identifies each voter’s congressional, state Senate and state House districts.

Registered voters planning to cast an absentee ballot are advised to pay close attention to important deadlines. Although the deadline to request an absentee ballot is Tuesday, Oct. 30, completed ballots must be received in the county election office by 5 p.m. Friday, Nov. 2.

For more information on voter registration, call the Department of State’s toll-free hotline at 1-877-VOTESPA (1-877-868-3772) or visit votesPA.com.

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By Bill O’Boyle

[email protected]

Reach Bill O’Boyle at 570-991-6118 or on Twitter @TLBillOBoyle.

Reach Bill O’Boyle at 570-991-6118 or on Twitter @TLBillOBoyle.