newsWhat’s next for Hector Xavier Monsegur?

Monsegur, a.k.a. “Sabu,” won leniency Tuesday and exited a New York court a free man. Busted in 2011, the hacker-turned-FBI informant faced up to 317 months behind bars under US sentencing guidelines. That’s more than 26 years.

The government’s sentencing submission is a must-read. It said Monsegur, 30, “was an extremely valuable and productive cooperator” who helped thwart at least 300 cyberattacks. US District Judge Loretta Preska agreed. She sentenced him to time served – seven months – and supervised release for one year.

As a hacker searching for vulnerabilities in computer code, he contributed to attacks on Fox Television, Nintendo, the US Senate – and the list goes on. He caused between $1 million and $2.5 million in damages.

As an informant, he stopped an equally disturbing array of attacks, saving potential victims millions of dollars.

“Monsegur also provided information about vulnerabilities in critical infrastructure, including at a water utility for an American city, and a foreign energy company.”

Between the bad and good, that’s some job resume. Looking for a qualified candidate? Here are four more stories found on the beat:

Fix-it list

On the topic of the government and the web, check out Rob Pegoraro’s column for Yahoo: Five Tech Policy Bugs Congress Needs to Fix is succinct – and filled with some strong thoughts. He covers:

  • Net neutrality
  • Data breaches
  • Online privacy
  • Cybersecurity

What’s the fifth bug? It’s actually first on his list: “Government snooping” starts with this attention-getter:

“The Electronic Communications Privacy Act and its pathetically weak standard for law-enforcement access to email parked online remains intact.”

Staggering stats

Would you believe hackers disclosed the personal data of 110 million Americans and hacked up to 432 million accounts in the last 12 months? So says CNNMoney and the Ponemon Institute:

“The damage is real. Each record typically includes personal information, such as your name, debit or credit card, email, phone number, birthday, password, security questions and physical address.”

Consider these hacks:

  • 70 million Target customers’ personal information, plus 40 million credit and debit cards
  • 33 million Adobe user credentials, plus 3.2 million stolen credit and debit cards
  • 4.6 million Snapchat users’ account data
  • 3 million payment cards used at Michaels
  • 1.1 million cards from Neiman Marcus
  • “A significant number” of AOL’s 120 million account holders
  • Potentially all of eBay’s 148 million customers’ credentials

In list form, it’s pretty powerful.

Social media safeguards

You noticed Snapchat, the popular messaging app, in that list of massive security breaches, right? It’s a big reminder that even social media services with the best intentions struggle to protect users’ privacy. Gizmodo’s How To Make Your Social Media Accounts (Almost) Unhackable is recommended reading. It covers five simple, but essential items:

  • Two-step verification
  • Disconnecting third-party apps
  • Avoiding phishing scams
  • Locking devices
  • Passwords

Just because there are no guarantees doesn’t mean you should avoid taking every possible precaution.

Great ‘gig’ for six million customers

Cox Communications is the third-largest U.S. cable provider, behind Comcast and Time Warner Cable. But it’s the biggest to break a certain broadband barrier: Offering gigabit speed to its residential customers – beginning later this year. The Wall Street Journal reported:

“While many cable operators offer gigabit broadband service to businesses, the fastest residential speed offered by a major US cable operator is 505 megabits a second – roughly half a gigabit – although most households get far lower speeds.”

Phoenix, Las Vegas and Omaha, Neb., will be the company’s first residential areas to benefit from network upgrades. Cox President Pat Esser said the company is “trying to stay ahead of our customers’ needs.” Proactive rather than reactive is a good way to go.