IRS is open for business. However, refunds can be held up for closer scrutiny – especially if you are claiming refundable child tax credit or earned income credit. Measures to help detect tax identity theft and refund fraud could result in delays.
New tax bill may increase tax fraud this year. Experts warn that the combination of new laws, IRS budget cuts, and data breaches gives way for hackers to commit tax identity theft. For example, the Equifax breach in 2017 exposed the Social Security numbers of 143 million people, which can be used to file fraudulent tax returns. The IRS has also already warned about phishing emails appearing to come from the IRS and ask for personal tax information. The best advice for avoiding tax fraud is to file your taxes as early as possible.
What to know about the Spectre and Meltdown vulnerabilities
Every year, we face new major cybersecurity incidents that seem more broadly damaging than those in the past. This year has started off no differently, with the discovery of the Spectre and Meltdown vulnerabilities, which affect nearly every type of device made in 1995 or later.
Meltdown and Spectre are hardware vulnerabilities that were discovered in nearly every processor, the main hardware in devices such as computers and smartphones. The flaws allow hackers to access your device’s memory, including your passwords stored in a manager or browser, emails, photos, browsing history, private documents saved on your device, and more.
The flaws were shared with technology industries before being shared with the public to give the companies a chance to create patches for the vulnerabilities.
It is very likely that your devices are affected by these flaws. Thus, it is imperative that you update all of your devices quickly and regularly as more patches become available. It is also important to update your browsers, operating system, and software programs. Below is a list of patch details for some popular devices and operating systems.
- Apple: Apple users should be running iOS 11.2.2 on iPhones and iPads to protect themselves against the vulnerabilities. Mac users should be using macOS 10.13.2 and AppleTV should be running tvOS 11.2. If you use Safari, be sure it has been updated to version 11.0.2. Your devices should prompt you to update automatically, but you can learn more about the update here.
- Google/Android: Android users should update their devices using the Android 2018-01-05 Security Patch Level. If Google Chrome is your preferred browser, be sure to update to version 64 but note that more updates may become available later. Chomebooks should all be updated to version 63, which started being pushed out in December of 2017. You can get more details on other Google products and patches here.
- Microsoft/Windows: Windows has pushed updates following the Spectre and Meltdown vulnerabilities but was forced to shut down the updates temporarily as they caused issues on some devices. Older Windows devices may experience slower performance after applying the patch. You can check if a patch is available your device here. Your device should prompt you to update automatically.
- Linux: Linux released an update for devices back in December 2017. You can access the update here.