January 9, 2020

Identity Fraud From Space

Can Identity Fraud Happen in Space?

In today’s interconnected world, it feels like identity fraud can happen anywhere. But what happens when the crime of impersonation goes off Earth?

In August 2019, we were captivated by that idea after the accusations of identity fraud in space made headlines. During a divorce proceeding, an astronaut stood accused of illegally accessing their partner’s information while aboard the International Space Station.

The allegations of identity fraud from space

The story behind these identity fraud accusations starts on August 23, 2019. Summer Worden and Anne McClain were going through a divorce – but complicating things was McClain’s assignment to the International Space Station as an astronaut.

According to Worden, that’s where the alleged identity fraud took place. Sometime during the year, she claims McClain accessed her USAA Bank account information from the International Space Station. Worden’s attorney is backing those accusations with evidence: alleged information from Worden’s bank suggesting a login from low earth orbit. Her attorney says the telltale sign is an alleged login from a computer network registered to NASA.

Both McClain and her attorney completely denied the identity fraud accusations. While McClain’s attorney offered no direct comment on the situation, the astronaut wrote on Twitter: “There’s unequivocally no truth to these claims.”

While the divorce continues through the courts, Worden’s accusations were referred to NASA’s Office of the Inspector General for investigation. Although the administration called McClain “One of NASA’s top astronauts,” they did not provide additional comment on the accusations or investigation.

Is this a case of identity fraud from space?

With both sides levying accusations, it’s impossible to tell if this is an actual case of identity fraud from the International Space Station. In an article from The New York Times, two sides of the story are told:  one says it was identity fraud from space; the other says McClain’s log-in from the space station was lawful because their finances were still connected. Only time and a complete investigation will determine if this was truly an unlawful act.

However, the case does bring up a very interesting point about the potential lengths of identity fraud. As this situation demonstrates, potential identity fraud is not limited to the terrestrial surface. And while it is very unlikely your personal data would be accessed from the International Space Station, actual cybercriminals can create “spoof” identities online to mask where they are accessing your information from.

Identity fraud and “spoofing”

One of the most common methods cybercriminals use to protect their own identity is the practice of “IP spoofing.” Using a virtual private network or similar technology, thieves can mask their identity to appear to be a safe computer accessing your information. This works to their benefit two different ways: criminals can continue to hide their information while convincing networks that they are a friendly computer.

The recent case of alleged identity fraud from space demonstrates your personal accounts can be compromised from nearly anywhere. All an identity thief needs is your personally identifiable information and an internet connection.

How to reduce your risk of identity fraud

Before a cybercriminal tries to steal your identity, there are several steps you can take to minimize your risk. While there’s no guaranteed way to stop identity fraud, you can control variables in your control, including getting alerts when your information is compromised and how to react to minimize the threat.

  1. Choose long, secure passwords: The more complex the password, the more difficult it will be for a potential cybercriminal to break in. We recommend using a tool like Secure Password Generator to create complex passwords.
  2. Authenticate two-factor login for all your accounts: Two-factor authentication forces you to confirm your login from an independent advice, like a cell phone. By implementing two-factor logins, an identity thief would need your device to access your account, giving you an advance warning and another tool to stop identity fraud.
  3. Sign up for identity theft protection with IDSeal: IDSeal monitors your personally identifiable information for changes to your credit account, account takeover attempts, and new credit card applications. If your identity becomes compromised, IDSeal will send you a notification, allowing you to take control and reduce the chances of identity fraud.

Although you may not get hacked from space, this episode reinforces that everyone should go to great lengths to protect their identity. While identity fraud can happen at any time for any reason, you can minimize your risk by being a smart consumer.

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