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Breach Brief 2015 – VTech

December 2, 2015

Breach Brief – VTech

VTechDigital learning toy maker VTech reported a data breach that exposed the personal information of over five million customers and 200,000 children.

Hackers were able to retrieve the profile information of parents, including names, email addresses and passwords. They also seized secret questions and answers for password retrieval, I.P. addresses, mailing addresses and download histories.

The compromised database also contained the names, gender and birth dates of children, which is a bigger concern.

 VTech first alerted the public on Nov. 27 saying its Learning Lodge app store database had been compromised on Nov. 14.  “Learning Lodge allows our customers to download apps, learning games, e-books and other educational content to their VTech products,” the company says.

VTech makes digital-learning toys including the Digigo tablet, Kidizoom digital camera and Smartwatch, Cora the Smart Cub and Cody’s First Tablet as well as cordless phones.

In addition the breach also affected VTech’s Kid Connect service. Kid Connect allows parents to communicate with their children online, store pictures of children and parent’s and related chat logs.

In a statement VTech said the breach affected customers in about three dozen countries, including Australia, Belgium, Canada, China, Denmark, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Ireland, Luxembourg, New Zealand, Spain, the Netherlands, United Kingdom, and United States, as well as the Latin America region.

Because the data lost belongs to children this breach is considered especially disturbing. VTech allows children create their own accounts. The company has about 200,000 children’s accounts that contain first names, genders and birthdays. This information was kept in a separate database that was hacked.

Hackers who carried out the breach found it possible to match up the databases allowing them to see which kids belong to which parents. This resulted in hackers quickly seeing any child’s physical address. This combination combined with names, birthdays, parent’s email addresses opens the family up to hacker attacks. Another even more frightening possibility is that pedophiles can target children with this data.

As a result of the breach VTech has posted in its breach FAQ that it has “reached out to every account holder in the database, via email, to alert them of this data breach and the potential exposure of their account data.”  VTech has also taken some sites off line in order to  complete a “thorough security assessment and fortification.” The sites currently shut down include,Learning Lodge, sleepybearlullabytime.com, planetvtech.com and vsmilelink.com.

VTech said that its website purchases are handled by a third party payment gateway. “Our customer database does not contain any credit card information and VTech does not process nor store any customer credit card data on the Learning Lodge website.”

November 25, 2015

Breach Brief – Amazon.com

amazon-logoAmazon.com has announced a possible data breach of user passwords. ZDNet reported that Amazon has informed a currently unknown number of customers that their account passwords may have been compromised. Amazon has provided no details to the media but it said in an email that user’s passwords may have been stored or transmitted insecurely allowing hackers to possibly intercept the data. Amazon cannot verify if the passwords have been compromised but as a precaution is forcing users to change their passwords.

Amazon has also announced that users can now use two factor authentication on its website. To learn how click here.

November 21, 2015

Starwood Hotels

starwood-logo-640x3071Starwood Hotels have reported that its payments systems have been infected with malware that resulted in the loss of customer data. Starwood said hackers could see debit and credit card information of some people that dined or shopped at 54 of its hotels. According to Starwood malware was detected in payment systems at restaurants, gift shops, bars and other retail areas within hotels. However there was no malware detected at the front desk where guests pay for their stay.

The hotelier stated that the information exposed included names, card numbers, security codes and expiration dates. Contact information, PINs and loyalty programs information were not affected.

“We have no indication at this time that our guest reservation or Starwood Preferred Guest membership systems were impacted,” Starwood President Sergio Rivera wrote in a letter to affected customers. “The malware was designed to collect certain payment card information, including cardholder name, payment card number, security code and expiration date. There is no evidence that other customer information, such as contact information, Social Security numbers or PINs, were affected by this issue.”

Hotels affected in the U.S. include the St. Regis in Bal Harbour, Florida, Sheraton, Westin and W locations in Los Angeles, New York, Boston and several other cities including hotels in Canada and Puerto Rico. Starwood posted a list online of the hotels and dates malware was found at www.starwoodhotels.com/paymentcardsecuritynotice. Starwood said the malware has been cleansed from its systems and the hack dates back as far as November 2014.

For a complete list of the hotels affected click here.

November 20, 2015

Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp

secofstate-ga (1)Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp has acknowledged that a clerical error resulted in the release of voter data belonging to over six million Georgia voters. The information exposed includes voter Social Security numbers.  Kemp admitted that the data breach was in violation of policies he put in place to protect voter’s personal information.

According to Kemp’s office the file went to 12 organizations, including statewide political parties, news media organizations and Georgia GunOwner Magazine.

“Our office shares voter registration data every month with news media and political parties that have requested it as required by Georgia law,” Kemp said in a statement. “Due to a clerical error where information was put in the wrong file, 12 recipients received a disc that contained personal identifying information that should not have been included. This violated the policies that I put in place to protect voters personal information.”

“My office undertook immediate corrective action, including contacting each recipient to retrieve the disc, and I have taken additional administrative action within the agency to deal with the error,” Kemp said.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution received the disk and confirmed the data breach by searching the the personal data of a newspaper staff member. The paper was able to see the staffers Social Security number and driver’s license information.

October 5, 2015


Scottrade-Logo-2011KrebsonSecurity.com reported that retail stock brokerage firm Scottrade suffered a data breach affecting 4.6 million customers. The company sent out notices via email and its website.  In the notice Scottrade stated that the breach occurred between 2013 and early 2014.

It wasn’t until the FBI notified Scottrade that company even became aware of the breach. According to company spokesperson Shea Leordeanu FBI officials were investigating breaches involving financial companies when Scottrade was notified in late August of the hack.

“They  asked us not to share the information with our customers so that they could complete a part of their investigation. We were then alerted last Friday that it was all right to begin notifying our clients and we began to do that as quickly as possible,” said Leordeanu.

Although Scottrade has 3.1 million customers the breach involved the personal data of 4.6 million people who had accounts with the company before February 2014. Hackers attacked a data base with information including names, email and physical addresses and Social Security numbers. But Scottrade claimed that hackers only took customer names and addresses. Leordeanu added that the company was not exactly certain how many names and addresses were lost so all customers were notified.

Scottrade said that it does not believe that its trading platforms or any client funds were compromised only contact information. “We have not seen any indication of fraudulent activity,” said Leordeanu. The company notified its customers that all passwords are encrypted at all times. The company is offering a full year identity theft protection.

October 2, 2015

T-Mobile, Experian

ExperianLogoCredit services provider Experian reported a massive data breach. The data of 15 million people who signed up for T-Mobile services were stolen.

People who applied for T-Mobile cell service between September 2013 through September 2015 are likely impacted by the breach. T-Mobile contracted with Experian to perform credit checks of cell service applicants.

t-mobile-logoThe information stolen includes customer names, addresses, social security numbers, birthdays, driver’s license numbers, military ID numbers and passport numbers.

According to Experian hackers broke into their computer systems and raided a server containing the information. Experian said no other servers were affected.  In a public statement Experian said; “this was an isolated incident of one server and one client’s data.”

An angry T-Mobile CEO John Legere said in a public statement; “Obviously I am incredibly angry about this data breach and we will institute a thorough review of our relationship with Experian. I take our customer and prospective customer privacy VERY seriously.”

Experian, one of the big three credit reporting agencies, collects vast amounts of sensitive personal information on all American consumers. The company is not new to data thefts and  has been involved in data breaches in the past. Previous Experian data breaches saw the loss of millions of records from its database through another company. The exact number of records lost is still unknown.

September 29, 2015

Hilton Worldwide

PrintHilton Worldwide, a global hospitality company is investigating a possible data breach at its properties. The data breach may have compromised payment card data of its customers.

The data breach was reported by Cybersecurity blogger Brian Krebs on Friday. According to KrebsOnSecurity.com credit card provider VISA alerted financial institutions of a breach between April 21, 2015 and July 27, 2015, and included compromised card numbers. Hilton Hotels have not confirmed any data breach.

The data breach is not isolated to Hilton hotels alone. Besides the flagship Hilton Hotels, the subsidiaries include Embassy Suites, DoubletreeHampton Inn and Suites, and the upscale Waldorf Astoria Hotels & Resorts. All are thought to be affected by this breach. Hotel gift shops, bars and restaurant point of sale (POS) systems may have been affected.

Although Hilton has said nothing officially several financial institutions told KrebsOnSecurity.com that the breach may date as far back as November 2014, and the hotels may still still be at risk.

Hilton has released a vague statement that neither denies nor acknowledges a data breach occurred.

“Hilton Worldwide is strongly committed to protecting our customers’ credit card information. We have many systems in place and work with some of the top experts in the field to address data security. Unfortunately the possibility of fraudulent credit card activity is all too common for every company in today’s marketplace. We take any potential issue very seriously, and we are looking into this matter.”

Trump Hotel Collection

Trump HotelUnlike Hilton Hotels Trump Hotel Collection has confirmed a malware data breach of their POS systems. The hotel confirmed the data breach after three months of investigations and the system may have been infected by malware for over a year.

The Trump Hotel Collection posted a undated “legal notice of potential security incident” on its website. The notice warned of POS breaches at  hotels in  Chicago, Honolulu, Las Vegas, New York, Miami, and Toronto. The notice did not give a specific number of customers who may be affected by the breach.

A statement from Trump Hotels said, “Payment card data, including payment card account number, card expiration date, security code, and names of individual cardholders who used a payment card at the hotel between May 19, 2014, and June 2, 2015, may have been affected.”  The hotel also warns that attackers may have also obtained cardholders’ names at the Las Vegas and Honolulu hotels.

A year of identity theft protection from Experian is being offered to all customers who used a payment card at those properties during the malware-infection period. A breach-notification letter is being sent to affected consumers by the law practice of Norton Rose Fulbright, which was posted by California’s Office of the Attorney General.

September 22, 2015

Systema Software

Systema SoftwareA mysterious data breach has compromised private health records and contact information of as many as 1.5 million Americans. The data was posted on Amazon’s cloud services. The insurers affected by the data breach include Kansas’ State Self Insurance FundCSAC Excess Insurance Authority, and the Salt Lake County Database .

The data exposed included police injury reports, drug tests, names, addresses, phone numbers, biological health information including existing illnesses and current medications used by the patients. The information was posted to Amazon servers by insurers using Systema Software. Systema provides insurance claims administration systems to insurance corporations and governments. The breach could violate HIPAA laws.

It is unknown how or who posted the information and the number of affected patients remains unconfirmed. It is estimated that as many as 1 million Social Security numbers, 5 million financial transactions, and hundreds of thousands of injury reports were exposed. According to Databreaches.net the data included billing prices, various patient identification numbers, and some 4.7 million note entries including data on fraud investigations.

For more information please see Gizmodo.com

 September 10, 2015

Excellus Blue Cross Blue Shield

ExcellusBCBSExcellus BlueCross BlueShield reported a long running cyber-attack that began in December 2013 but wasn’t discovered until Aug. 5, 2015. The breach may have exposed information on as many as  10.5 million individuals. Information exposed includes individual’s names, addresses, birthdates, Social Security numbers, member IDs, financial account information, claims data and clinical information.

Cyber security firm Madiant was hired to conduct a forensic assessment of Excellus’ IT systems and discovered the breach. Excellus which is based in Rochester, N.Y., took the action after a wave of similar major cyber-attacks on other health insurers, including Anthem Inc.Premera Blue Cross, and CareFirst Blue Cross Blue Shield.

According to an Excellus spokesman of  the 10.5 million people affected 7 million were health plan members. Data belonging to another 3.5 million individuals belonged to Excellus’ holding company, the Lifetime Healthcare Companies. The individuals affected are Blue Cross Blue Shield plan members who sought treatment in the New York state service area. In a statement Excellus said,  “Individuals who do business with us and provided us with their financial account information or Social Security number are also affected.” Company officials said the that the data was encrypted but that hackers had access to administrative controls making the encryption a moot point.

The company is cooperating with an FBI investigation.

California State University

California_State_University_SealOfficials of the Chancellor’s office of the California State University System confirmed on Tuesday that a third-party vendor had exposed the personal information of 79,000 students in late August.

We End Violence, the San Diego based company that operated with the university to offer the course, has contacted students affected by the breach. The chancellor’s office said officials took immediate action to safeguard student information.

The CSU Chancellor’s Office in Long Beach said the breach, discovered on August 28th, included information such as sexual orientation, gender, email and mailing addresses. According to school officials the breach did not reveal Social Security, driver’s license numbers or credit card data. The data breach affected students at eight CSU campuses who had enrolled in a required sexual assault training class. The affected campuses included Cal State San BernardinoCal State NorthridgeCal Poly Pomona and Cal State Los Angeles.

August 24, 2015 

IRS Breach

IRS_LogoThe Internal Revenue Service (IRS) widened the scope of the breach first announced in May. The government agency is saying that as many as 390,000 taxpayers are now at risk. The hack was centered around the IRS’ Get Transcript system.

The IRS suspended the Get Transcript online service in May. The service was intended to simplify how taxpayers retrieve their tax records, review their tax account transactions, get line-by-line tax return information or wage and income reported to the IRS for a specific tax year.  Hackers circumvented the Get Transcript’s authentication safeguards and are believed to have gained access to taxpayer information, including Social Security numbers.

According to an August 17th statement the IRS stepped up its investigation of the breach. A deeper review of the compromised system included analyzing over 23 million system uses, including the 2015 filing season. Investigators were looking for suspicious activities and identified “more questionable attempts” to obtain taxpayer records through the Web application.

No details were provided on how the agency uncovered the additional taxpayer account breaches. But it is believed that the hackers were very skillful and probably covered their tracks to make it more made it difficult for the tax agency to quickly assess the extent of the breach.

Update-Ashley Madison Breach

ashley-madison-hed-2014Hackers who stole profile and customer data from Ashley Madison have released the data online. According to multiple reports a 10GB file of customer’s personal data including email addresses, member profiles and transaction data is now available online. Some reports say as many as 32 million customer’s information was released including one million UK civil servants, U.S. officials, members of the U.S. armed forces and top executives at European and North American corporations. There already reports of blackmail and divorce petitions because of the data release.

Impact Team, the hacker group claiming credit for the data theft,  released the data after Avid Life Media, which owns Ashley Madison and Established Men failed to meet demands that they permanently shut the sites down down. Cougar Life, another Avid Life Media site, was not mentioned and seems to be unaffected.

Additional information;

The Blackmail of Ashley Customer Has Already Begun

People are already starting divorce proceedings because of the Ashley Madison leak.

After the devastating hack, these lawsuits are threatening to wipe Ashley Madison out altogether.

A chart made from the leaked Ashley Madison data reveals which states in the US like to cheat the most.

The Pentagon Is Investigating the Ashley Madison Leak.

How to check if an account was exposed in the Ashley Madison hack

August 4, 2015

United Airlines

united_continental_logo_detAccording to Bloomberg Business United Airlines has reported that it’s customer flight records have been lost to a data breach.

The breach was detected in May or June of this year and involved flight manifests. Chinese hackers are suspected. These same Chinese hackers are suspected of stealing more than twenty million OPM records. Experts believe that Chinese intelligence is constructing a massive database.

United Airlines is one of the government’s largest contractors. It is believed that the stolen data contains vast amounts of information on military and government officials and federal employee’s travel.

Experts have also questioned a possible connection between the hack and the computer glitch that caused flight delays on July 8th. Evidence from the investigation reveal that hackers may have been inside United’s computers for months.

A spokesman for United Airlines declined to confirm that a breach occurred and insisted that customer’s private data is safe.

One of the major concerns is that hackers, tinkering with sensitive systems, could accidently or deliberately, cause massive flight delays or even cripple a major airline causing nationwide and potentially global aviation gridlock. Another concern is backdoors left inside computer networks that allow hackers back in at will.

United spokesman Luke Punzenberger said of customer information that United “would abide by notification requirements if the situation warranted.”

Medical Informatics Engineering

mielogolargeA data breach at Medical Informatics Engineering has compromised the data of over 3.9 million people nationwide. According MIE the information loss includes names, phone numbers, mailing addresses, user names, hashed passwords, security questions and answers, email addresses, birthdates, Social Security numbers, lab results, health insurance policy information, diagnoses, disability codes, doctors’ names, medical conditions, and spouses’ and childrens’ names and birthdates.

MIE creates electronic medical records software for health care providers and the result of the breach could impact as many as 11 healthcare providers including local, national and the federal government.

According to the company the hackers had access to the MIE servers for three weeks and have stolen the information to sell on the black market. Experts suspect the theft was likely and inside job.

MIE has reported the breach to the FBI Cyber squad and said the investigation into the security breach is ongoing. MIE  is offering free credit monitoring and identity theft protection. The company has established a toll free hotline available Monday-Friday 9:00AM-9:00PM EST at (866) 328-1987.

 July 28, 2015



Experian Credit Reporting Services is the target of a class action lawsuit filed in California. The amount is to be determined. According to the suit Experian was negligent and violated consumer protection laws because it failed to realize that for nearly a year a customer of it’s data brokerage subsidiary, Court Ventures, was actually a criminal gang specializing in selling consumer data to identity thieves. Experian purchased Court Vnetures in 2012.

The leader of the identity theft ring was sentenced to 13 years in prison last week in New Hampshire. Hieu Minh Ngo accessed as many as 200 million consumer records by posing as a private investigator based in the United States.

According to the government Ngo collected nearly $2 million from his scheme. The IRS has confirmed that 13,673 U.S. citizens had their personal information stolen and sold on Ngo’s websites Superget.info and Findget.me. The stolen identities were used to file over $65 million dollars in fraudulent tax returns.

Plaintiffs in the case have asked the court to compel Experian to notify all consumers affected by the breach, provide free credit monitoring services, turn over all profits made as a result of the Ngo relationship and to establish a fund to reimburse victims for the time and expenses of fighting fraud and correcting identity theft caused by customers of Ngo’s ID theft service.

U.S Census Bureau

2000px-Census_Bureau_seal.svgThe U.S. Census Bureau reported a data breach early last week. In a written statement released on Friday Census Bureau Director John H. Thompson said a database belonging to the Federal Audit Clearinghouse had been attacked. The FAC collects audit reports from the government agencies and other organizations spending federal money.

According to Thompson the information included the names of people who submitted information, addresses, phone numbers, user names and other data. According the Bureau no household or business data was lost.

In the statement Thompson wrote that the intruders accessed the database through a configuration setting on an external IT system. That system is separate from the Census Bureau internal systems that stores census data.

In the statement Thompson went to say, “Over the last three days, we have seen no indication that there was any access to internal systems.”

The attack was apparently in protest of the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. Both are pending trade agreements that have been widely criticized. A group calling itself Anonymous Operations claimed credit for the breach and posted a link on Twitter to four of the stolen files.

July 20, 2015

Ashley Madison

ashley-madison-hed-2014A hacking group calling itself the Impact Team has hacked into the sex hookup website AshleyMadison.com.

According to Krebsonsecurity.com massive caches of customer and company data have been stolen and posted online. The group claims to have totally penetrated the company’s networks taking control of the company’s customer database of 37 millon users, financial records and other proprietary information. As a website dedicated to cheating spouses the damage could go well beyond lost data.

Avid Life Media, which in addition to Ashley Madison also owns hookup sites CougarLife.com and EstablishedMen.com, was attacked in retaliation for lying to customers. According to the Impact Team hackers ALM advertised to customers  a service allowing members to completely erase their profile information for a $19 fee. According to the hackers the company is not fully deleting user’s information including personally identifiable information, user’s purchase details and real name and address.

The hackers have demanded that Ashley Madison and Established Men websites be taken down immediately and permanently or more information will be released online.  The hackers are threatening to release customer records, including profiles with their secret sexual fantasies and matching credit card transactions, real names and addresses, and employee documents and emails.

Avid Life Media CEO Noel Biderman believes the attack maybe the work of one or more persons, possibly an employee or contractor, who had legitimate access to the company’s network.

July 18, 2015

CVSPhoto.com, Costocophotocenter.com, RiteAid Photo, Sams Club, Walgreens & Tesco

CVS PhotoPNI Digital Media  is a third party vendor that handles transactions for these retailers according to KrebsOn Security.com PNI has suffered a data breach of unknown size. But it is known that customer payment information has been compromised.

Neither PNI nor any of the retailers connected with the breach have said much only saying that more information will be released as it becomes available. CVSPhoto.com took down its photo site and posted an announcement indicating an investigation is under way and that other CVS sites such as it’s pharmacy were unaffected by the breach. CVS has asked customers who used the photo service to check and monitor their card statements for suspicious activity or transactions. If anything looks strange they are to contact their bank or card company immediately to report it.

Costcophotocenter.com and RiteAid photo also took their sites down.

UCLA Health

UCLA Health has confirmed health information for as many as 4 million individuals has been exposed as a result of a data breach that may have began last September. The FBI is investigating and UCLA has hired a private forensics experts to beef up the security on it’s servers.

According to a UCLA Health statement released on Friday “criminal hackers” hacked into parts of the organization’s computer network containing personal and medical information.

UCLA Health began investigating suspicious activity on its networks in October of 2014. At the time they  did not believe the attackers gained access to areas of the network containing personal and medical information.

“As part of that ongoing investigation, on May 5, 2015, UCLA Health determined that the attackers had accessed parts of the network that contain personal information such as names, addresses, dates of birth, Social Security numbers, medical record numbers, Medicare or health plan ID numbers and some medical information. Based on the continuing investigation, it appears that the attackers may have had access to these parts of the network as early as September 2014. We continue to investigate this matter.”

Office of Personnel Management

Even though OPM suffered a data breach and the loss of information of 24 million Americans the government still has not notified those invividuals. Its been two months.

Officials from multiple agencies familiar with the investigation say that OPM is working with other agencies to set up a system to inform the victims.

An OPM official, who wishes to remain anonymous, said that because of the complicated nature of the data and movement of contract and federal employees it would be weeks before a mechanism was in place.

According to the official the government is attempting to establish a central notification system rather than rely on separate agencies to make notifications. An outside contractor  is being considered for the task but OPM has not yet asked for bids for the job.

July 16, 2015

OPM Data Breach

An interagenOPM Sealcy task force investigating April’s OPM hacking has determined with “high confidence” that as many as 21.5 million people had their personal information stolen. This includes social security numbers .

The Office of Personnel Management updated its website last Thursday with the startling new information.

According to the OPM 4.2 million former federal employees’ personnel data was stolen. While investigating that theft investigators found a much larger data theft. OPM has not yet notified the 19.7 million additional individuals affected. Those are the people who requested a background check normally for employment purposes or acces to classified information. An additional 1.8 were people were not job appicants but were either married to or co-habiting with an applicant.

In addition to personal information the hackers stole as many as one million fingerprint records.

Applicants who applied for employment had their user names and passwords for investigation forms stolen. It is also highly possible that information such as mental health history and financial history many have also been stolen. Applicants that were interviewed as part of their background investigations often reveal this sensitive information when applying for security clearences.

OPM attempted to take some of the sting from the bad news by saying “there is no evidence that health, financial, payroll, and retirement records of federal personnel or those who have applied for a federal job were impacted by this incident (for example, annuity rolls, retirement records, USAjobs, Employee Express).” The agency assures the public that it’s working to create safeguards to prevent such incidents in the future.

OPM Director Katherine Archuleta resigned her position last week after whitering criticism over the data breach.

Army National Guard Data Breach

Seal_of_the_United_States_Army_National_Guard.svgCurrent and former members of the Army National Guard members dating back to 2004 had personal information including social security numbers, birthdates and home addresses stolen.

National Guard Spokesman Major Earl Brown, said “The National Guard Bureau takes the control of personal information very seriously,” said Brown. “After investigating the circumstances of these actions, and the information that was transferred, the Guard has determined, out of an abundance of caution, to inform current and past Guard personnel that their Personally Identifiable Information (PII) was among the files that were transferred.”

“The issue was identified and promptly reported, and we do not believe the data will be used unlawfully,” Brown said. “This was not a hacking incident, in which the intent was to use data for financial gain. Nonetheless, the Guard believes that individuals potentially affected need to know about the breach and what actions they can take to protect themselves from potential identity theft.”

If you are a member of the Nationa guard and need more information please  go to http://www.nationalguard.mil/Features/IdentityTheft.aspx or call  toll-free 877-276-4729 8AM to 4PM EST, Monday through Friday. You can also email any questions you have to dod.data.breach.questions@mail.mil

App of the Week – WebMD Baby

Web MD babyOne of the toughest jobs in the world is beng a new parent. A new baby can as joyful as it is mysterious. Trying to decypher exctly what is hapening with your your new baby cn be a tough even terrifying task. That is why WebMD Baby is the App of the Week.

The WebMD Baby claims to offer new parents hundreds of articles and videos that have been developed and approved by WebMD doctors. Other features of the app include;

  • A growth tracker allowing parents to track their childs weight and height and head circumference. The app can also track this growth using photos.
  • A diaper tracker that records the dates and times of every diaper change, if the diaper was wet, dirty, or both. This information can be emailed and a report can be compiled to see all changes in a calendar view.
  • A sleep tracker to record a infants sleep sessions and details like whether the baby slept in a crib or a car seat. You can also generate a report with ths information.
  • A feeding tracker to record feeding dates and times and source for every feeding and set up reminders for the next feeding.
  • For memories there is a baby tracker feature to record you baby’s key moments and milestones in the Baby Book. The new parent can add photos or videos along with their own captions and share them on Facebook or email to friends and relatives.

WebMD Baby also provides news articles, a weekly tip from doctors and other information for the first and second years of your childs life.

WebMD Baby is free and available for Apple and Android devices.

App of the Week – ClassDojo


classdojoSome of us remember the day when you dreaded that call from your teacher. Or the letter home. It was an old school way of alerting your parents of what was happening in class and it was not always good news. Black parents should be aware and monitor their child’s progress and performance in class. It is vital to your child’s education that you know exactly what they are doing and how they are performing. As a parent you can help your child by spotting weaknesses and deficiencies in their classroom performance early. That is what ClassDojo can do for you.

ClassDojo is the App of the Week. This app helps to keep parents and teachers in constant communication about the performance and behavior of students in the classroom.  Teachers using the app can encourage a better classroom atmosphere by providing immediate feedback to parents of a student’s accomplishments or infractions.

For students the app helps to encourage new skills and improved behavior. The recognition of the child’s progress can be recorded for the parents to see.

The app is applicable to all grades kindergarden through 12th grade as well as speciality classes.

ClassDojo permits teachers to communicate with parents in real time via text-based messaging, photos and voice notes. The app also tells children how well they are doing and collect points for good behavior and class performance and lose points for not performing or behaving. When a child has points deducted the app will notify the parent who has signed up for the service.

According to the ClassDojo website the app is currently being used by one out of two schools in the United States. The app is one of the many innovations to be spurred by the estimated $7.9 billion education software market for students from pre-kindergarten to high school. Although there are similar behavior-tracking programs ClassDojo may be the most popular.

As with any app there some who are not completely pleased with it. Some parents, teachers as well as privacy advocates say ClassDojo, and other new unproven education technologies are being deployed without proper consideration for students privacy.

These critics believe that the “carrot-and-stick” method of classroom discipline is outmoded saying the behavior apps themselves are too subjective. Some don’t believe that teachers should reward or penalize students for undefined acts like “disrespect.” They argue that behavior databases could potentially label a student as a problem and this label could stick with them for years.

My only question about this app is; What does it to do monitor the performance of the teacher and school? The app appears to be a one way street. What if the deficiencies of teacher is responsible for the child under-performing in certain subjects? I would argue there should be an app that monitors a teacher’s and schools abilities and performance. This would be an equally or even more valuable app for parents.

ClassDoJo is free and available for Apple and Android platforms.

Free Online Homework Help for Black Students

canstockphoto12791520African-American students of all grades are back in school. And school means homework and studying. Your child or maybe even yourself will need help with homework.  One of the great things about the Internet is that whatever the subject or the problem you can find homework help online.

Black parents understand that our children will have trouble in school. Its not always for lack of effort but sometimes the system does not work for us. Black parents should understand the urgent need to address this in our communities. We also need to focus on spending time helping with homework and paying attention to the classroom. Visit your child’s school, sit in class and get to know their teachers. It will help in the log run.

And please do not hesitate to seek out help for your child. There are resources and a lot of it is free. For example you can check with your child’s school or local library for homework assistance. 

Use the Internet. Lets face it, we all have busy lives and sometimes you or your child or both of you will hit a wall. Regardless of the subject you will need help. Let’s look at the best online sites for homework help.

There are a lot of homework help websites. Some offer excellent one-on-one help for students but that help can be expensive, as much as $35 an hour and up. I know a lot of parents with children in school. Very few really want to pay $35 an hour for a tutor but sometimes you need to. 

But you have options. You can go online to find the help you or your child needs. The sites listed below are all free and offer an expansive list of topics from the pre-school to college and graduate school. Keep in mind this is just a sample.

logoHippoCampus.org – This site is free and offers help for subjects and students from middle school to college. HippoCampus provides multimedia help using videos, animations and various simulations. This assistance is offered to teachers as well as students and its free. Teacher can use the website in class by assigning tasks for computer lab work. Students can access the site at home. The site does not require students to register or log in  which is a big privacy benefit. Make sure your computer is up to date since the website video works better on a high speed connection and you will need the latest Adobe Flash software on your computer.

FreeMathHelp.com This site pretty much covers all the math subjects  you can think of from kindergarten to 8th grade. The site offers help with algebra, geometry, calculus, statistics and even sports math. One of the things I like is the current discussion section that allows students to join in on the topic. There are math lessons that include trigonometry and various calculators to choose from. Student can also find math games like Addition Aliens Attack and Sodoku. Students can also take advantage of the various subjects in the forums sections.

Khan academy Khanacademy.org – This one of the more highly thought of websites dedicated to education. This site is non-profit and has the goal of transforming education in order to provide the best education possible for any student or person anywhere in the world free of charge. Students can find help from kindergarten to college level on just as many subjects. A tour of the subjects menus will reveal topics from differential calculus to pre-historic art. If you need a coach you can set your student up with an account to access this service. The one thing I don’t like about the site is that you can log in with your Facebook or Google account. That is a tip off that there is some tracking and ad targeting  aimed at the user. That means your child is being tracked by this and other sites. This is a serous privacy concern as far as I’m concerned and as a parent you should be concerned too. But the site is very good at helping students, has great purpose and objectives and it takes donations.

logoStudentQuestions.com – This site offers both paid and free help. You can find help in subjects from math to medical subjects. The help comes from tutors who answer posted questions. That is the free help. If you want to get more customized help then the prices start at $2.00. The site calls it a commission and the question is emailed to the tutors. Some of the tutors are other high school students or college students. Tutors are rated by the users so you can see how good the help really is. By the way,  those are the ones that get paid. The site requires the user to register and login to use.

path_main_bannerPATH or Pupils Ask Teacher’s Help – PATH is a another excellent website for homework help. One of the really nice features is that students can get live help through the site. That is, if there are teachers available. Otherwise there is a message board. Another feature of the site that I have not seen on other sites is the special needs boards. I was impressed with this as there are many parents who are searching for help with their special needs students. Parents who home school their children can also find help here as well. Students can find help from junior high school to college subjects and even career counseling.

Black parents need to pay special attention to this information. Every action you take in helping your child succeed in school pays off big in the future. Schools simply do not have the resources to really get in depth with your child on an individual level. You have to take up the slack. In the age of the Internet and the abundance of information you have the resources to really help your child or yourself. Especially if you are taking classes for your personal growth or career. There is absolutely no need for you or your child to feel lost or stranded. There is plenty of free homework help out there. Here is a site that offers the 100 Best Websites for Free Homework Help.

Now you know.








Spyware Exposes Teen Sexting

MTECHNOLOGY MSPY - MOBILE SPYWARE LOGOWe were all teenagers at one time. And as a teen we had two lives, one with our parents and family and the other with our teenage friends. Don’t deny it! And if you have been reading this blog you know how good black teens are at hiding their Internet activity. The latest spyware can help parents uncover some of that secret activity.

Teens today live in a much different world than we did. Today, in the age information and communication, they have more channels of communication and devices available to them than we ever dreamed of.

Teens are about the latest thing. Be it movies. music, clothes, electronic gadgets and even sex. Yes sex!

Sexting is the exchange of sexually explicit messages and images. Many times its selfies of themselves nearly or completely naked and even having sex.

This growing phenomenon is getting dangerous. Teens are naturally spontaneous and lack fore thought so they are not thinking of the consequences of sexting when it goes wrong. In cities all over the country teenagers are being humiliated or even killing themselves after nude images of them show up on social media and in one instance on the school website. A mother in Virginia called the police on her 13 year old daughter after she found numerous pictures of nude teens on her daughters cell phone and tablet.

One of the newest and popular social media apps among teens is called SnapChat. Why? Because pictures and videos self-destruct without a trace. Teens using the app can set the destruct time from a few seconds to days, This encourages teens to snap silly selfies and, for some, sexting.

But if your teen is using SnapChat and you want to know what they are doing there is a way you can. For $40 a month mSpy allows parents to see exactly what their teens are doing on SnapchatThey can also see  their texts , calls and emails and even their location. Parents must first download the software onto their teens phone. After its installed they can see it all on their own device. mSpy leaves no icon or evidence of its presence so your teen will never know its there. mSpy can also monitor Skype calls and WhatsApp messages, too. The software is growing in popularity especially among parents. According to COO Uri Soroka, of the 2 million people using the spyware a third of them are parents.

Other users of the spyware are business owners that want to see what employees are doing on company owned devices. Another spyware, FlexiSpy is targeted toward married couples who suspect their spouse is cheating.

Now you know.



Cyber Security for Black Children, Its Time for the Talk

canstockphoto7024756Parents, cyber security for black children, its time for the talk. We take child raising seriously. We have to. The world is a more dangerous place for our children than others. And having a black child online means you have even more things to worry about. Cyber security for black children is vital. You teach them about everything else that can harm them and safety and security online is just as important.

Does your child have a Facebook page?  Probably so. But did you know there are at least five social media sites that teens like  more than Facebook? They are Tumblr, Kik, Snapchat, Vine and Pheed. There are probably a lot more but those are the ones getting the most publicity right now.

Does your child have a cell or smartphone? Again, the answer is probably yes. Now for the bad news. You probably don’t know half the things a smartphone can do and your teenager is walking around with it. Cyber  security for children and teens is more vital now than ever. Its time to have the talk.

The first thing you need to do before your teen gets a smartphone is teach them what it is capable of. This includes broadcasting location data and tracking who they call and how long they talk. A smartphone can record text messages and send them to someone else. Tell them that smartphones can steal any picture they take, take pictures and even record their conversations without them knowing it. The apps on their smartphone is capable of stealing their contact lists and user names and passwords if they go on the Internet with it. You need to know and your teen needs to know that a smartphone is a spy and snitch. Don’t believe me? Check this video out.

A good tool to use on your iPad and iPhone is called the Disconnect Kids app. This app captures all traffic leaving your iPad and blocks any contact with a list of known mobile tracking companies. It works just as well on iPhones. For teens its a good idea to have an app that does this. As parent you need to understand the setting and apps on your child’s phone and make sure they are properly configured for their safety. And institute a policy of no apps unless you approve. Then enforce it. Nuff said!

What do you know about sexting? Much like when your were young teens nowadays keep secrets from their parents. Sexting is when teens engage in sexually explicit chat, texts or image sharing online. They think its all fun but when those pictures get  out “in the wild” as they say online, you got big trouble. Recently two teenage boys in McLean, Va. were operating a online file sharing operation that exchanged nude images of girls at their high school. The images were of teenage girls who willingly, yes willingly, allowed themselves to be photographed naked. Now those images are all over the Internet. Children are committing suicide or killing each other as a result of things that happen online. Are you awake yet?

Did you know that gangs have a strong presence on the Internet? Yes, street gangs have Facebook pages, post violent videos to YouTube, use Twitter, threaten other gangs, brag about crimes including murder and even recruit members all through the Internet. Is your child seeing these things? Do you know? As a parent, a black parent, you better get into your child’s online life before its too late.

You have to have the  talk with your child or teenager about what they do online. There is no software that can do that for you, sorry. You have to tell them that once it goes online it stays online. So a nude picture, a ugly profane post, name calling, bullying, whatever it is, never goes away. And let them know that colleges and employers do social media background checks to see what they have been doing. So that picture of them smoking weed and drinking Hennessy at a party might show up. Don’t laugh, it happens.

As a black parent you need to take the time to educate your children from the first time they sit in front of a computer. The first thing you need to teach them is privacy online and how to protect themselves.

Your child should never, ever use their real name or age online. Make it game and create a fake name, address and birthday for them. And test them on it. Does your child need a password for a website? The first thing you need to do is thoroughly research the website they are visiting. Know the answer to these questions; why does my child need a password? Is the website age appropriate for my child? Is the website product oriented? What information is the website asking from my child? Does the website use cookies? Is your child “friending” others online? Who are they? And finally, does the website have an endorsement from some organization. Research them too.  Listen, pedophiles love children’s and teen websites. You can find a pedophile on every social media website on the web.They are there in the chatrooms and they chat with children all the time. Don’t let your child be the next victim. And not all predators are sexual. Some are luring teens into revealing personal information, applying for credit cards, or who knows what else.

Once you decide that your child can use a password you need to teach them how to create a password. I have in the past recommended the use of pass phrases. For adults and children a pass phrase is a small task to create and remember. But you can also use Diceware. This is a simple way to create pass phrases using small dice. This too can be made into a game to teach your child how to create secure passwords. Remember what I said before, if they can use a computer then they are ready to learn these things. But if you are really a diligent parent you can create a password and not tell them. That way they can’t access the website without you being there.

Of course you need to use software that will help to keep the data hounds from tracking them online.  I suggest using Ghostery. This software works with your browser to keep your child from being tracked online. That means that marketers or even pedophiles can’t locate them in cyberspace. Another good tool to make use of is DuckDuckgo. This is a web search engine similar to Google or Bing that allows your child to search online without the search being recorded on a server for use later, like shooting ads at them. This is not fun and games online. There is a are lot of things happening and you need to be aware and alert to them.

So, black parents, its time to have the talk with your teens and children; the cyber security talk.