Category Archives: Data Breach

Million password resets and 2FA codes exposed in unsecured Vovox DB

Million of password resets and two-factor authentication codes exposed in unsecured Vovox DB.

Sébastien Kaul, a security researcher based in Berlin, has discovered a poorly secured database owned by communication firm Vovox that contained left names, phone numbers, tens of millions of SMS messages, temporary passwords, two-factor codes, shipping alerts, and other information belonging to customers of companies including Microsoft, Amazon, and Google.

It has been estimated that the exposed archive included at least 26 million text messages year-to-date.

“Although Kaul found the exposed server on Shodan, a search engine for publicly available devices and databases, it was also attached to one of Voxox’s own subdomains.reported Techcrunch.

“Worse, the database — running on Amazon’s Elasticsearch — was configured with a Kibana front-end, making the data within easily readable, browsable and searchable for names, cell numbers and the contents of the text messages themselves.”

Vovox data leak

Vovox promptly took down the database after TechCrunch informed the company with an inquiry.

Anyone that accessed to the database while it was exposed online could have obtained two-factor codes sent by users to access their accounts potentially exposing them to account take over.

Below TechCrunch’s findings from a cursory review of the data:

  • We found a password sent in plaintext to a Los Angeles phone number by dating app Badoo;
  • Several partners were sent their six-digit two-factor codes to log in to the company’s extranet corporate network;
  • Fidelity Investments also sent six-digit security codes to one Chicago Loop area code;
  • Many messages included two-factor verification codes for Google accounts in Latin America;
  • A Mountain View, Calif.-based credit union, the First Tech Federal Credit Union, also sent a temporary banking password in plaintext to a Nebraska number;
  • We found a shipping notification text sent by Amazon with a link, which opened up Amazon’s delivery tracking page, including the UPS tracking number, en route to its destination in Florida;
  • Messenger apps KakaoTalk and Viber, and quiz app HQ Trivia use the service to verify user phone numbers;
  • We also found messages that contained Microsoft’s account password reset codes and Huawei ID verification codes;
  • Yahoo also used the service to send some account keys by text message;
  • And, several small to mid-size hospitals and medical facilities sent reminders to patients about their upcoming appointments, and in some cases, billing inquiries.

Kevin Hertz, Voxox’s co-founder and chief technology officer, wrote in an email that the company is “looking into the issue and following standard data breach policy at the moment,” and that the company is “evaluating impact.”

Pierluigi Paganini

(Security Affairs – Voxox, data leak)

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The Top Security Breaches in History

By Telemessage, Technology has indeed enabled companies of all sizes and nature to rethink and innovate the way they do business. Through the power of the internet, digital platforms, and

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OPM Still Failing on Security After 2015 Breach

The US Office of Personnel Management (OPM) has still not implemented over a third of the recommendations made by government auditors after a devastating 2015 breach. Some 29 recommendations remain “open” out

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Report: Small, Stealthy Groups Behind Worst Cybercrimes

A small group of cybercriminals are responsible for the most damaging cyberattacks--often with the help of state sponsorship. Still, low-level criminal activity on the dark web still poses the most widespread and immediate security threat, with cryptocurrency mining, ransomware and malware all on the rise, a recent report has found.

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HITRUST Common Security Framework – Improving Cyber Resilience?

A few weeks ago, Anthem agreed to a record $16 million HIPPA settlement with federal regulators to close the chapter on a data breach that exposed data on nearly 79 million individuals

The post HITRUST Common Security Framework – Improving Cyber Resilience? appeared first on The Cyber Security Place.

Cybersecurity and ethical data management: Getting it right

Data can provide information, information can lead to insight and knowledge, and knowledge is power. It’s no wonder, then, that seemingly everybody in this modern, computerized world of ours loves

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Nordstrom Reveals Data Breach, Sensitive Employee Information Exposed

A data breach involving luxury retailer Nordstrom has potentially exposed the personal information of thousands of its employees. The Seattle-based company said the compromised data included employee names, Social Security numbers, dates of birth, checking account and routing numbers, salaries, and more. According to reports, employees received an email notification this week informing them of […]… Read More

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Third-party data breach exposes info of Alabama hospital job applicants

Huntsville Hospital in Alabama announced that the personal data of job applicants may have been compromised after a security incident at the recruitment platform they collaborate with. Social Security numbers of thousands of people may have been leaked online. Detailed information has not been released, but applicants that may have fallen victim are contacted and offered identity protection services.

Huntsville Hospital released a statement on Thursday reading:

“Regrettably, we’ve learned that Jobscience, Inc., the vendor which we’ve used for online employment application services since 2006, had a data breach which may have involved information from individuals who applied for jobs at Huntsville Hospital. Because of this, notification letters are being sent to the affected persons.

“Although we have no indication that any information has been misused in any way, out of an abundance of caution, we are offering identity theft protection to those job applicants whose Social Security Number may have been compromised.

The hospital no longer uses the services of Jobscience.”

2018 has seen some major breaches in the healthcare sector. Motivated by financial gain, hackers have so far launched aggressive attacks on three hospitals in Massachusetts, countless ransomware attacks, and they compromised patient records through phishing attacks. Third-party vendors, as in the case of Huntsville Hospital, are turning into a key challenge because third-party risks have been neglected for far too long, even though they come with many associated risks.

Canada Post leaks sensitive information of thousands of cannabis buyers

Any of the thousands of Canadians who bought legal cannabis in Ontario in the past two weeks may have been the victim of a personal data leak, thanks to weak security at Canada Post Corporation, Motherboard reported. Two weeks ago, Canada became the second country to legalize recreational cannabis, which naturally put a strain on postal services that had already been on a rotating strike for weeks.

The security incident was caused by an OCS customer who “used OCS reference numbers” and the Canada Post website to steal information. The person had access to the type of products delivered, name of person who signed for the package, postal code and delivery date. The exact address, payment information and buyer names were not compromised.

Ontario Cannabis Store (OCS) released a privacy update on Twitter on Wednesday reassuring users that privacy and security are top priorities.

OCS said it was informed on Nov. 1 that “limited delivery information of information of approximately 2 percent of OCS customer orders (approximately 4,500 orders) was accessed by an individual through the Canada Post delivery tracking tool. Delivery data shared with the OCS also included information relating to customers of other Canada Post clients.”

The Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner (IPC) of Ontario was immediately informed of the security incident and worked with OCS to detect the cause of the breach and prevent similar issues in the future. According to OCS, even though Canada Post was urged to notify customers, at the time of the privacy update on November 7 they had not done so.

“Both [Canada Post and OCS] have been working closely together since that time to investigate and take immediate action,” said Canada Post for Motherboard. “As a result, important fixes have been put in place by both organizations to prevent any further unauthorized access to customer information. We have also shared with OCS that we are confident that the customer who accessed the information only shared it with Canada Post and deleted it without distributing further.”

Half a Million People Potentially Affected by Data Breach at Bankers Life

A data breach at Bankers Life might have compromised the personally identifiable information of over half a million people. On 25 October 2018, Fortune 1000 company CNO Financial Group, Inc. submitted a report to the Office for Civil Rights’ Breach Portal at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The report revealed an instance […]… Read More

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Which Threats had the Most Impact During the First Half of 2018?

One of the best ways for organizations to shore up their data security efforts and work toward more proactive protection is by examining trends within the threat environment.

Taking a look at the strategies for attack, infiltration and infection currently being utilized by hackers can point toward the types of security issues that will continue in the future and enable enterprises to be more prepared with the right data and asset safeguarding measures.

Each year brings both continuing and emerging threats which can complicate security efforts. Awareness of the most impactful threats – including those that might have been popular in the past, as well as the new approaches spreading among cybercriminals – is crucial in the data security landscape.

Recently, Trend Micro researchers examined the data protection and cyberthreat issues prevalent during the first half of 2018 and included these findings in the 2018 Midyear Security Roundup: Unseen Threats, Imminent Losses report.

Let’s take a closer look at this research, as well as top identified threats that impacted businesses during the first six months of this year.

Widespread vulnerabilities and software patching

Back in 2014, the world was introduced to Heartbleed. At the time, it was one of the largest and most extensive software vulnerabilities, impacting platforms and websites leveraging the popular OpenSSL cryptographic software library. The bug made global news because of the vast number of websites it affected, as well as the fact that it enabled malicious actors to access, read and potentially leak data stored in systems’ memory.

Since then, a few additional vulnerabilities have been identified, including two at the beginning of 2018. Design flaws within microprocessing systems – since dubbed Meltdown and Spectre – were identified by researchers. Unfortunately, though, these weren’t the only high-profile vulnerabilities to make headlines this year.

As Trend Micro reported in May, eight other vulnerabilities were uncovered following Meltdown and Spectre, which also impacted Intel processors, including four that were considered “high” severity threats. Because these processors are used by a considerable number of devices within businesses and consumer environments across the globe, the emerging vulnerabilities were significantly worrisome for security admins and individual users alike.

Vulnerabilities that affect such large numbers of devices and users can be a significant challenge for enterprise security postures. Taking a cue from Heartbleed, the Register reported that despite the fact that a patch was released several years earlier, an estimated 200,000 systems were still vulnerable to the bug in early 2017.

Installing software updates in a timely manner is a top facet of patching best practices.

Spectre, Meltdown and the series of other identified vulnerabilities showcase the key importance of proper patching. Even Intel worked to drive this point home in a released statement encouraging users to maintain a beneficial patching strategy.

“We believe strongly in the value of coordinated disclosure and will share additional details on any potential issues as we finalize mitigations,” Intel noted, according to TechSpot. “As a best practice, we continue to encourage everyone to keep their systems up-to-date.”

The mere presence of an identified vulnerability can create security weaknesses, but an unpatched system can boost the chances of an attack or breach incident even further. It’s imperative that, in light of these widespread vulnerabilities, enterprises ensure their patching processes are comprehensive and proactive.

Cryptocurrency mining steals valuable resources

Researchers also noted that while cryptocurrency mining activity became more prevalent in 2017, this trend continued into the first half of 2018. Cryptocurrency mining programs can be more of an issue than many users might realize, as such a malicious initiative can rob enterprise infrastructures of key computing resources required to maintain top performance of their critical systems and applications, not to mention result in increased utility costs.

During the first six months of 2018, researchers recorded a more than 140 increase in cryptocurrency mining activity through Trend Micro’s Smart Protection Network Infrastructure. What’s more, 47 new miner malware families were identified during Q1 and Q2, demonstrating that cryptocurrency mining will continue to be a top initiative for hackers.

“Unwanted cryptocurrency miners on a network can slow down performance, gradually wear down hardware, and consume power – problems that are amplified in enterprise environments,” Trend Micro researchers stated in the Unseen Threats, Imminent Losses report. “IT admins have to keep an eye out for unusual network activity considering the stealthy but significant impact cryptocurrency mining can have on a system.”

Ransomware: No end in sight

For years, ransomware infections have been a formidable threat to organizations within every industry, and the first half of 2018 saw no change in this trend. Researchers again identified an increase in ransomware infection activity – 3 percent. While this may seem small, the current rate at which ransomware attacks take place make this rise significant.

At the same time, Trend Micro discovered a 26 percent decrease in new ransomware families. This means that while hackers are continuing to leverage this attack style to extort money from victims, they are utilizing existing, standby ransomware samples, creating fewer opportunities for zero-day ransomware threats.

Data breaches remain a constant issue for businesses of all shapes and sizes.

Mega breaches: An increasingly frequent issue

As the sophistication and potential severity of hacker activity continue to rise, so too do the consequences of successful attacks.

According to data from the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, there was a 16 percent increase in data breaches reported in the U.S. during the first half of 2018, including 259 incidents overall. Fifteen of these events were considered “mega breaches,” or those that exposed 1 million records or more over the course of the breach and subsequent fallout.

Such incidents surpass traditional breaches in widespread effects on the victim company, its users and customers and the industry sector at large. Most of these mega breaches (71 percent) took place within the healthcare industry, and when one considers the significant amount of sensitive data healthcare institutions deal with, such threat environment conditions aren’t that surprising.

It’s also important to consider not only the traditional impact of regular and mega breaches – including losses related to company reputation and image, revenue, customer acquisition and retention and more – but the compliance costs that can emerge as well. This is an especially imperative consideration in the age of the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation, which became enforceable in May.

“This regulation … sets a high bar for data security and privacy protection,” Trend Micro’s report stated. “It imposes considerable fines for noncompliant organizations … Moreover, it has quite a long reach since any organization holding EU citizens’ data is affected.”

Check out Trend Micro’s GDPR Resource Center to learn more about maintaining compliance with this standard.

Read Trend Micro’s Unseen Threats, Imminent Losses report for more information about the top threats identified during the first half of this year.

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Europe’s largest bank just got hacked

HSBC Bank, the seventh-largest banking and financial services organizations in the world and the largest in Europe, has been breached by hackers. The bank is now sending letters to an undisclosed number of customers notifying them that hackers have their data.

In a notification template submitted to the California Attorney General’s Office, HSBC said it became aware that online accounts were accessed by unauthorized parties sometime between October 4 and October 14, 2018.

“When HSBC discovered your online account was impacted, we suspended online access to prevent further unauthorized entry of your account,” the notice reads. “You may have received a call or email from us so we could help you change your online banking credentials and access your account. We apologize for this inconvenience. HSBC takes this very seriously and the security of your information is very important to us.”

HSBC adds (emphasis ours), “The information that may have been accessed includes your full name, mailing address, phone number, email address, date of birth, account numbers, account types, account balances, transaction history, payee account information, and statement history where available.”

The bank provides no details of the breach, such as how the attackers managed to infiltrate its systems and then exfiltrate customer data. It does say, however, that its first action after containing the breach was to enhance the authentication process for HSBC Personal Internet Banking. This suggests the breach may have involved credential stuffing (where large numbers of previously-breached credentials are “stuffed” into login forms until they are potentially matched to an existing account), or a vulnerability in the bank’s two-factor-authentication (2FA) process.

On a slightly more positive note, customers are told HSBC is offering a complementary year of credit card monitoring via Identity Guard, which monitors and protects credit data, but also alerts users to activities that could indicate identity theft. Customers must sign up for the freebie within 90 days, or they won’t be eligible after that window is closed.

According to Wikipedia, HSBC’s assets total US $2.374 trillion, as of December 2016, with annual revenue in the tens of billions. Last year alone, it raked in $51.445 billion, or 45.1 billion euros. Considering the sheer number of potential European clients and the amount of personally identifiable information compromised, HSBC stands to incur a stinging fine under the recently introduced General Data Protection Regulation. The GDPR’s penalties for such data breaches are calculated at up to 20 million euros, or 4% of the company’s annual turnover, whichever is greater. Needless to says, EU legislators won’t have too hard of a time making that calculation.

HSBC Bank Notifies Customers of Data Breach

HSBC Bank sent a letter to an undisclosed number of customers informing them of a data breach that might have exposed their personal information. The California Attorney General’s Office recently received a template of a letter that HSBC Bank sent out to customers on 2 November. In the notice, the bank explains that it learned […]… Read More

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IoT Lockdown: Ways to Secure Your Family’s Digital Home and Lifestyle

Internet Of ThingsIf you took an inventory of your digital possessions chances are, most of your life — everything from phones to toys, to wearables, to appliances — has wholly transitioned from analog to digital (rotary to wireless). What you may not realize is that with this dramatic transition, comes a fair amount of risk.

Privacy for Progress

With this massive tech migration, an invisible exchange has happened: Privacy for progress. Here we are intentionally and happily immersed in the Internet of Things (IoT). IoT is defined as everyday objects with computing devices embedded in them that can send and receive data over the internet.

That’s right. Your favorite fitness tracking app may be collecting and giving away personal data. That smart toy, baby device, or video game may be monitoring your child’s behavior and gathering information to influence future purchases. And, that smart coffee maker may be transmitting more than just good morning vibes.

Gartner report estimated there were 8.4 billion connected “things” in 2017 and as many as 20 billion by 2020. The ability of some IoT devices is staggering and, frankly, a bit frightening. Data collection ability from smart devices and services on the market is far greater than most of us realize. Rooms, devices, and apps come equipped with sensors and controls that can gather and inform third parties about consumers.

Internet Of Things

Lockdown IoT devices:

  • Research product security. With so many cool products on the market, it’s easy to be impulsive and skip your research but don’t. Read reviews on a product’s security (or lack of). Going with a name brand that has a proven security track record and has worked out security gaps may be the better choice.
  • Create new passwords. Most every IoT device will come with a factory default password. Hackers know these passwords and will use them to break into your devices and gain access to your data. Take the time to go into the product settings (general and advanced) and create a unique, strong password.
  • Keep product software up-to-date. Manufacturers often release software updates to protect customers against vulnerabilities and new threats. Set your device to auto-update, if possible, so you always have the latest, safest upgrade.
  • Get an extra layer of security. Managing and protecting multiple devices in our already busy lives is not an easy task. To make sure you are protected consider investing in software that will give you antivirus, identity and privacy protection for your PCs, Macs, smartphones, and tablets—all in one subscription.
  • Stay informed. Think about it, crooks make it a point to stay current on IoT news, so shouldn’t we? Stay a step ahead by staying informed. Keep an eye out for any news that may affect your IoT security (or specific products) by setting up a Google alert.Internet Of Things

A connected life is a good life, no doubt. The only drawback is that criminals fully understand our growing dependence and affection for IoT devices and spend most of their time looking for vulnerabilities. Once they crack our network from one angle, they can and reach other data-rich devices and possibly access private and financial data.

As Yoda says, “with much power comes much responsibility.” Discuss with your family the risks that come with smart devices and how to work together to lock down your always-evolving, hyper-connected way of life.

Do you enjoy podcasts and wish you could find one that helps you keep up with digital trends and the latest gadgets? Then give McAfee’s podcast Hackable a try.


Toni Birdsong is a Family Safety Evangelist to McAfee. You can find her onTwitter @McAfee_Family. (Disclosures)


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Russian hackers compromise 120 million Facebook accounts; private messages on sale online

Facebook has fallen victim to countless security breaches and November brings even more bad news for the social network. Russian hackers are selling private conversations of at least 81,000 Facebook accounts at 10 cents per account, writes the BBC.

According to the BBC Russian Service, which communicated with the hackers, the criminals claim to have the private conversations of 120 million accounts and, of course, they are willing to sell for the right price. Most of the accounts belong to users in Ukraine and Russia, but some come from other countries such as the UK, US and Brazil.

The data breach was detected in September when the hackers announced on a forum that “We sell personal information of Facebook users. Our database includes 120 million accounts.”

The IP address of the website has been linked to the dissemination of the LokiBot Trojan, malware that lets criminals steal user passwords.

Facebook claims the security of its messaging platform was not compromised, and blames malicious browser extensions such as games and bookmarking applications. If users didn’t hide their information, emails and phone numbers may have also been compromised.

“We have contacted browser-makers to ensure that known malicious extensions are no longer available to download in their stores,” said Facebook executive Guy Rosen.

“We have also contacted law enforcement and have worked with local authorities to remove the website that displayed information from Facebook accounts.”

The BBC Russian Service reached out to the hackers via the emails provided in the announcement, asking to buy the details of 2 million accounts. Following the email exchange, BBC says the hackers denied any relation to the Cambridge Analytica story or other hacks, and claimed they were not linked to the Russian government or Internet Research Agency.

Eurostar resets customer passwords after hack attack

European high-speed railway service Eurostar reset all user account passwords after a security incident, according to the Telegraph.

The rail company detected unauthorized attempts to access user accounts between October 15 and 19, and immediately sent a notification email to the customers affected. Hackers used legitimate email addresses and passwords on the Eurostar website.

The company says the attack did not compromise credit card and payment details, which are not stored on their systems. They blocked accounts to prevent things from getting out of hand.

The exact number of affected accounts was not mentioned, nor was the type of data leaked.

“We have taken this action as a precaution because we identified what we believe to be an unauthorized automated attempt to access accounts using your email address and password,” the company told customers.

“We’ve since carried out an investigation which shows that your account was logged into between the 15 and 19 October. If you didn’t log in during this period, there’s a possibility your account was accessed by this unauthorized attempt.”

The Information Commissioner’s Office was informed and is looking into the matter.

“We’ve received a data breach report from Eurostar and are making enquiries,” said a spokeswoman.

As per GDPR requirements, companies that detect breaches affecting personal data of EU citizens must inform their customers within 72 hours. If companies don’t comply with GDPR requirements, they face hefty fines.

A number of companies operating with customer data have been hacked in the past months, including Air Canada, British Airways and Cathay Pacific. There’s no evidence linking them to the Eurostar breach.

Smashing Security #102: Ethical dilemmas, Girl Scouts, and porn-loving US officials

Smashing Security #102: Ethical dilemmas, Girl Scouts, and porn-loving US officials

Who deserves to die in a driverless car crash? Who has been sniffing around the Girl Scouts’ email account? And just how long would it take for a geologist to visit 9,000 adult web pages?

All this and much more is discussed in the latest edition of the award-winning “Smashing Security” podcast by computer security veterans Graham Cluley and Carole Theriault, joined this week by journalist and “Friends” fan Dan Raywood.

Tomorrowland festival goers affected by data breach

Tomorrowland, a major international music festival, has revealed a data breach potentially affecting around 60,000 attendees.

This one is a little different though, as the data accessed without permission isn’t recent. In fact, it dates back four years to an event long since come and gone. According to a Tomorrowland spokesperson, the managers of the Paylogic ticketing system noticed “unusual activity” on an older server. This server contained data for the 2014 event, but the hackers left everything else alone.

“Sensitive” versus “not sensitive”

The hacked server is now offline, and anyone potentially affected should have been made aware of what’s going to happen next. As with most breaches, it involves notification emails and a helpful set of suggestions for cybersecurity best practices.

Accounts conflict about what specifically was breached, accessed, and stolen in the Tomorrowland attack. This may be due to primary news sources being in languages other than English, and things are being lost in translation.

Tomorrowland representatives claim access to sensitive data did not take place. This is where things become reliant on your personal definition of what constitutes “bad” or merely “sort of bad.”

Data taken includes name, email, gender, age, and post code. Data not taken includes payment details, passwords, and addresses.

I suspect everyone’s mileage may vary greatly with regards to what constitutes “sensitive data” here. Depending on which region of the world you come from, a post code alone could drill you down to a couple of houses or a single street. At that point, the specific address probably doesn’t matter too much. With the post code and a name, you could easily find the exact house via publicly-listed information, a voting register, or a house sale.

That seems pretty sensitive to me.

Phishing risks

A dubious phishing attempt is more than doable here as a result of the data taken by scammers. Any communications regarding ticket sales, offers, promotions, or anything else you can think of should be greeted with a healthy dose of suspicion.

Revisit your mailbox and check for any interactions with event organisers the moment you receive any official communications. Have a look at anything you’ve replied to related specifically to Tomorrowland. In particular, pay attention to anything involving payments, password resets, or submission of further personal information. Ignore all rogue emails and send them straight to the recycling bin.

Without further information on when the breach took place, it’s difficult to say how long people should be concerned. We don’t know if the unauthorised access took place last week, last month, or last year. We can’t say how long people were sitting on the stolen information, or if it’s old news for scammers. Potentially, anything worthwhile in the haul has long since stopped being relevant or useful.

Pulling the plug: a good idea

It’s odd that a server containing data from a one-off event in 2014 was still online. Despite this, it’s entirely possible it was online for specific reasons we can’t guess at. Even so, it’s a good cautionary warning to remind admins to take anything offline that doesn’t really need to be there. Even data that should definitely be online for various reasons will often fall victim to attacks and scams.

A full audit, a sensible backup policy, and old data stored securely will solve a lot of these potential headaches. Everybody likes a music festival to be as eventful as possible, but this is perhaps a little too eventful. We hope you experience zero breaches, sensibly priced burgers, and permanently short queues for an abundance of portable toilets.

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Information security: How Hackers Leverage Stolen Data for Profit

Data theft is inarguably big business for hackers. This has been proven time and time again when big-name companies and their customers are involved in a data breach. As these instances appear to take place more often, and the number of stolen or compromised files continues to rise, it’s worth looking into exactly what hackers do with this information after they’ve put so much effort into stealing it.

While some data breaches involve low-hanging fruit – including default passwords and other sub-standard data protection measures – other attacks include increasingly sophisticated cybercriminal activity, backed by in-depth social engineering and research into potential targets. Thanks to these efforts, more than 2.6 billion records were stolen or compromised in 2017, a staggering 88 percent rise from the amount of data hackers made off with in 2016, according to Information Age.

But what takes place after a successful breach and data exfiltration? With all of this information in hand, where do hackers turn next to generate a profit?

Type of data dictates price, post-theft malicious activity

As Trend Micro research shows, the process that stolen data goes through after the initial breach depends largely upon the type of data and from what industry it was stolen.

Personally identifiable information (PII) can include a whole host of different elements and is stored by many brands to support customer accounts and personalization. Researchers discovered that once hackers bring this information to underground markets, it can be used to support identity fraud, the creation of counterfeit accounts, illicit money transfers, the launch of spam and phishing attacks, and even blackmail, extortion or hacktivism.

Let’s take a look at the ways in which other types of stolen data can be used once hackers gather it and bring it to underground marketplaces:

  • Financial data, including information tied to banking, billing and insurance activities, can be used for identity fraud, including fake tax returns and loan applications, to establish counterfeit payment cards, billing accounts or money transfers, and for blackmail or extortion. With the right details, hackers can even withdraw money directly from victims’ bank accounts.
  • Health care details, spanning hospital records, medical or insurance information and even data from medical wearables and other devices, can be sold or used to support fraudulent insurance claims, or for the fraudulent purchase of prescription drugs.
  • Payment card information, such as the card owner’s name, card number and expiration date can be used for fraudulent online purchases. As Trend Micro experts noted, when data of this kind is stolen and sold within underground hacker marketplaces, it can be even more dangerous to an individual’s identity than stolen financial data. The potential for negative impacts can be much greater with fraudulently used payment card information, particularly when that data is tied to a user’s credit card.
  • Account credentials, including the usernames and passwords, can be leveraged by hackers for fraudulent insurance claims, to buy prescriptions, to launch spam or phishing attacks, as well as for extortion or hacktivism, depending upon the account that is hacked.
  • Education information, encompassing items like students transcripts, other school records and enrollment data, can be used for identity fraud and fake student loan applications, as well as for blackmail or extortion.

One theft leads to another

A main motivation of hackers is to make off with as much stolen information as possible. This thought process is applied not only to data breaches of specific companies, but also of the data belonging to individual users as well.

“More than 2.6 billion records were stolen or compromised in 2017.”

Take stolen account credentials, for example. A hacker will often leverage a stolen username and password to support further malicious activity and data theft in the hopes of compromising even more personal information.

“Theft of user credentials might even be more dangerous than PII, as it essentially exposes the victim’s online accounts to potential malicious use,” Trend Micro researches pointed out. “Email is often used to verify credentials and store information from other accounts, and a compromised email account can lead to further instances of fraud and identity theft.”

In such instances, a hacker can utilize stolen account credentials to fraudulently access an individual’s email. This may provide the cybercriminal with an email that includes a credit card invoice, giving them even more information for theft, and even the potential to steal, use or sell the victim’s credit card details for further fraud.

What’s more, as Trend Micro researchers noted, certain types of data are often interrelated, and the theft of one set of data often means the compromise of another, connected set. With health care files, for instance, a health care provider may store not only a patient’s medical history, but also their payment information as well. In this way, a breach of the provider could result not only in the exposure of medical details, but patient financial information as well.

What is data worth on underground marketplaces?

As Trend Micro’s interactive infographic shows, there are several different underground marketplaces existing all over the world, and the amount of profit hackers are able to generate depends on where they sell stolen information and the type of details their haul includes.

Experian data fro 2018 shows how profits for certain types of data can quickly add up for hackers, including for assets like:

  • Online payment account credentials, worth up to $200
  • Credit or debit card information, worth up to $110
  • Diplomas, worth up to $400
  • Medical records, worth up to $1,000
  • Passports, worth up to $2,000

Hackers also engage in data bundling, where individual pieces of stolen information are linked and packaged together, and then sold in a premium bundle for a higher price. These more complete, fraudulent profiles can include an array of information, including a victim’s name, age, address, birth date, Social Security number, and other similar information.

Working to prevent data theft

As the profit totals hackers can generate from stolen data continues to rise, it’s imperative that businesses and individual users alike take the proper precautions to safeguard their sensitive information.

This includes replacing default security measures with more robust protections, including strong passwords and multi-factor authentication, where applicable. Organizations should also limit access to especially sensitive information and databases to only those authorized users that need to utilize this data.

User education can also be a considerable advantage in better preventing information left. Users that are aware of current threats and know not to click on suspicious links or open emails from unknown senders can represent an additional layer of security against unauthorized access and cybercriminal activity.

To find out more about how to improve data prevention efforts within your organization, connect with the experts at Trend Micro today.

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Have You Talked to Your Kids About a Career in Cybersecurity?

career in cybersecurityHere’s some cool trivia for you: What profession currently has a zero-percent unemployment rate, pays an average of $116,000 a year, and is among the top in-demand jobs in the world? A lawyer? A pharmacist? A finance manager, perhaps?

Nope. The job we’re talking about is a cybersecurity specialist and, because of the increase in cyber attacks around the world, these professionals are highly employable.

Job Security

According to numbers from the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, a career in cybersecurity is one of the most in-demand, high-paying professions today with an average salary of $116,000, or approximately $55.77 per hour. That’s nearly three times the national median income for full-time wage and salary workers. How’s that for job security?

Why is the demand so high? Sadly, because there are a lot of black hats (bad guys) out there who want our data — our user IDs, passwords, social security numbers, and credit card numbers. Every month it seems banks, hospitals, and major corporations are reporting security breaches, which has put the global cybersecurity talent an estimated deficit of two million in cybersecurity

It’s exciting to see gifts and passions emerge in our kids as they grow and mature. If a child is good at math and sciences, we might point them toward some the medical field. If they a child shows an affinity in English and communication skills, maybe a law, teaching, or media career is in their future.

But what about a cybersecurity expert? Have you noticed any of these skills in your kids?

Cybersecurity skills/traits:

Critical thinking
Flexible/creative problem solving
Collaborative, team player
Continual learner
Gaming fan
A sense of duty, justice
Persistent, determined
Works well under pressure
Curious and perceptive
Technology/tech trend fan
Verbal and written communications


Most jobs in cybersecurity require a four-year bachelor’s degree in cybersecurity or a related field such as information technology or computer science. Students take coursework in programming and statistics, ethics, and computer forensics, among other courses.

Conversation Starters

First, if your child has some of the skills/personality traits mentioned, how do you start directing him or her toward this field? The first place to begin is in the home. Model smart cybersecurity habits. Talk about digital safety, the importance of protecting personal data and the trends in cybercrimes. In short, model and encourage solid digital citizenship and family security practices. career in cybersecurity

Second, bring up the possibility, or plant the seed. Be sure to encourage both boys and girls equally. Help your child find answers to his or her questions about careers in computer and data science, threat research, engineering and information on jobs such as cybersecurity analyst, vulnerability analyst, and penetration tester.

Third, read and share takeaways from the Winning The Game a McAfee report that investigates the key challenges facing the IT Security industry and the possible teen gaming link to a successful cybersecurity career.

Additional resources*

CyberCompEx. A connection point for everything cybersecurity including forums, groups, news, jobs, and competition information.

CyberCorps® Scholarship for Service. SFS is a program providing scholarships and stipends to undergraduate and graduate students studying cybersecurity at participating institutions. Great for those who want to work in government.

CyberPatriot. This site is created by the Air Force Association (AFA) to inspire K-12 students toward careers in cybersecurity or other science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).

GenCyber. This is a summer cybersecurity camp for K-12 students and teachers that focuses on inspiring kids to direct their talents toward cybersecurity skills and closing the security skills gap.

career in cybersecurityNational CyberWatch Center. The National CyberWatch Center is a consortium of higher education institutions, public and private businesses, and government agencies focused on advancing cybersecurity education and strengthening the workforce.

National Initiative for Cybersecurity Careers and Studies. NICCS provides information on cybersecurity training, formal education, and workforce development.

National Initiative for Cybersecurity Education. NICE is an initiative to energize and promote a robust network and an ecosystem of cybersecurity education, cybersecurity careers, training, and workforce development.

*Resource list courtesy of Stay Safe Online.


Toni Birdsong is a Family Safety Evangelist to McAfee. You can find her onTwitter @McAfee_Family. (Disclosures)

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#CyberAware: Teaching Kids to Get Fierce About Protecting Their Identity

Identity ProtectionIt wasn’t Kiley’s fault, but that didn’t change the facts: The lending group denied her college loan due to poor credit, and she didn’t have a plan B. Shocked and numb, she began to dig a little deeper. She discovered that someone had racked up three hefty credit card bills using her Social Security Number (SSN) a few years earlier.

Her parents had a medical crisis and were unable to help with tuition, and Kiley’s scholarships didn’t cover the full tuition. With just months left before leaving to begin her freshman year at school, Kiley was forced to radically adjusted her plans. She enrolled in the community college near home and spent her freshman year learning more than she ever imagined about identity protection and theft.

The Toll: Financial & Emotional

Unfortunately, these horror stories of childhood identity theft are all too real. According to Javelin Strategy & Research, more than 1 million children were the victim of identity fraud in 2017, resulting in losses of $2.6 billion and more than $540 million in out-of-pocket costs to the families.

The financial numbers don’t begin to reflect the emotional cost victims of identity theft often feel. According to the 2017 Identity Theft Aftermath report released by the Identity Theft Resource Center, victims report feeling rage, severe distress, angry, frustrated, paranoid, vulnerable, fearful, and — in 7% of the cases — even suicidal.

Wanted: Your Child’s SSNIdentity Protection

Sadly, because of their clean credit history, cyber crooks love to target kids. Also, identity theft among kids often goes undiscovered for more extended periods of time. Thieves have been known to use a child’s identity to apply for government benefits, open bank or credit card accounts, apply for a loan or utility service, or rent a place to live. Often, until the child grows up and applies for a car or student loan, the theft goes undetected.

Where do hackers get the SSN’s? Data breaches can occur at schools, pediatrician offices, banks, and home robberies. A growing area of concern involves medical identity theft, which gives thieves the ability to access prescription drugs and even expensive medical treatments using someone else’s identity.

6 Ways to Build #CyberAware Kids

  1. Talk, act, repeat. Identity theft isn’t a big deal until it personally affects you or your family only, then, it’s too late. Discuss identity theft with your kids and the fallout. But don’t just talk — put protections in place. Remind your child (again) to keep personal information private. (Yes, this habit includes keeping passwords and personal data private even from BFFs!)
  2.  Encourage kids to be digitally savvy. Help your child understand the tricks hackers play to steal the identities of innocent people. Identity thieves will befriend children online and with the goal of gathering personal that information to steal their identity. Thieves are skilled at trolling social networks looking at user profiles for birth dates, addresses, and names of family members to piece together the identity puzzle. Challenge your kids to be on the hunt for imposters and catfishes. Teach them to be suspicious about links, emails, texts, pop up screens, and direct messages from “cute” but unknown peers on their social media accounts. Teach them to go with their instincts and examine websites, social accounts, and special shopping offers.Identity Protection
  3. Get fierce about data protection. Don’t be quick to share your child’s SSN or secondary information such as date of birth, address, and mothers’ maiden name and teach your kids to do the same. Also, never carry your child’s (or your) physical Social Security card in your wallet or purse. Keep it in a safe place, preferably under lock and key. Only share your child’s data when necessary (school registration, passport application, education savings plan, etc.) and only with trusted individuals.
  4. File a proactive fraud alert. By submitting a fraud alert in your child’s name with the credit bureaus several times a year, you will be able to catch any credit fraud early. Since your child hasn’t built any credit, anything that comes back will be illegal activity. The fraud alert will remain in place for only 90 days. When the time runs out, you’ll need to reactivate the alert. You can achieve the same thing by filing an earnings report from the Social Security Administration. The report will reveal any earnings acquired under your child’s social security number.
  5. Know the warning signs. If a someone is using your child’s data, you may notice: 1) Pre-approved credit card offers addressed to them arriving via mail 2) Collection agencies calling and asking to speak to your child 3) Court notices regarding delinquent bills. If any of these things happen your first step is to call and freeze their credit with the three credit reporting agencies: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion.
  6. Report theft. If you find a violation of your child’s credit of any kind go to to report the crime and begin the restoring your child’s credit. This site is easy to navigate and takes you step-by-step down the path of restoring stolen credit.

Building digitally resilient kids is one of the primary tasks of parents today. Part of that resilience is taking the time to talk about this new, digital frontier that is powerful but has a lot of security cracks in it that can negatively impact your family. Getting fierce about identity protection can save your child (and you) hours and even years of heartache and financial loss.


Toni Birdsong is a Family Safety Evangelist to McAfee. You can find her onTwitter @McAfee_Family. (Disclosures)

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Cyber Security Roundup for September 2018

September 2018 started with a data breach bang, with British Airways disclosing a significant hack and data loss. 380,000 of the airlines' website and mobile app customers had their debit and credit card details lifted via a maliciously injected script.  The breach even caused BA owners, IAG, to drop in value 4%. And to compound matters, there were several claims made that the BA website wasn't PCI DSS compliant, implying if they were PCI DSS compliant, their customer's personal and payment card information would still be safe.  For further details about this breach see my blog posts; British Airways Customer Data Stolen in Website and Mobile App Hack and British Airways Hack Update: Caused by Injected Script & PCI DSS Non-Compliance is Suspected.

Facebook continues to make all the wrong kind of privacy headlines after a massive user data breach was confirmed by the social media giant at the end of the month. Facebook said at least 50 million users’ data was at risk after hackers exploited a vulnerability the Facebook code. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said he doesn’t know who is behind the cyber attack, however, the FBI are investigating. 

There was a good measure of embarrassment at the Tory Conference after a flaw in the conference App revealed the personal data of senior UK government cabinet ministers, with Boris Johnson, Michael Gove, Gavin Williamson among those whose their personal information and phones numbers made available.

There was a number of large data breach fines handed out in September, Tesco Bank was hit by a whopping £16.4 by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), the fine would have been doubled if it weren't for Tesco's good co-operation with the FCA investigation. The FCA said Tesco had security deficiencies which left their bank account holders vulnerable to a cyber attack in November 2016. The attack netted the bad guys, via 34 transactions, a cool £2.26 million. The FCA report said the cyber criminals had exploited weaknesses in the bank's design of its debit card, its financial crime controls and in its financial crime operations team, to carry out the attack over a 48-hour period. 

Equifax was fined the maximum pre-GDPR law amount of £500K by the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) after the US-based credit reference agency failed to protect the personal data of 15 million UK citizens. The ICO ruled Equifax's UK branch had "failed to take appropriate steps" to protect UK citizens' data. It added that "multiple failures" meant personal information had been kept longer than necessary and left vulnerable.

The ICO also fined Bupa £175K, for not having good enough security to prevent the theft of 547,000 customer records by an employee.  Uber has paid £133m to settle legal claims to customers and drivers, as a result of trying to cover up a huge breach which occurred in 2016 from their regulators. The ride-hailing company admitted to paying off hackers to the tune of $100,000 to delete the data they robbed from Uber's cloud servers. The personal data stolen was from 57 million Uber accounts, also included information about 600,000 driving license numbers. 

Looks like the MoD and GCHQ are looking to beef up Britan's Cyber Offense capabilities, announcing a plan to recruit a 2,000 strong 'cyber force' to take on the Russian threat. Meanwhile across the pond, the Mirai creators have done a deal to keep themselves out of jail in return for helping the FBI catch cybercrooks, which has echoes of the approach the FBI took with con artist and cheque fraud expert Frank Abagnale, the subject of book and movie "Catch me if you Can".

Bristol Airport was impacted by a ransomware attack, which took down their arrival and departure screens for a couple of days, and a Scottish Brewery was also hit by ransomware attack through infected CV it had received through an online job advertisement

Europol warned of 15 ways you could become a Cyber Crime Victim, and there was an excellent article in the New York Times on the Bangladesh’s Central Bank Cyber Theft


#CyberAware: Will You Help Make the Internet a Safe Place for Families?

National Cyber Security Awareness MonthDon’t we all kinda secretly hope, even pretend, that our biggest fears are in the process of remedying themselves? Like believing that the police will know to stay close should we wander into a sketchy part of town. Or that our doors and windows will promptly self-lock should we forget to do so. Such a world would be ideal — and oh, so, peaceful — but it just isn’t reality. When it comes to making sure our families are safe we’ve got to be the ones to be aware, responsible, and take the needed action.

Our Shared Responsibility

This holds true in making the internet a safe place. As much as we’d like to pretend there’s a protective barrier between us and the bad guys online, there’s no single government entity that is solely responsible for securing the internet. Every individual must play his or her role in protecting their portion of cyberspace, including the devices and networks they use. And, that’s what October — National Cyber Security Awareness Month (NCSAM) — is all about.

At McAfee, we focus on these matters every day but this month especially, we are linking arms will safety organizations, bloggers, businesses, and YOU — parents, consumers, educators, and digital citizens — to zero in on ways we can all do our part to make the internet safe and secure for everyone. (Hey, sometimes the home team needs a huddle, right!?)

8 specific things you can do!

National Cyber Security Awareness Month

  1. Become a NCSAM Champion. The National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSAM) is encouraging everyone — individuals, schools, businesses, government organizations, universities — to sign up, take action, and make a difference in online safety and security. It’s free and simple to register. Once you sign up you will get an email with a toolbox packed with fun, shareable memes to post for #CyberAware October.
  2. Tap your social powers. Throughout October, share, share, share great content you discover. Use the hashtag #CyberAware, so the safety conversation reaches and inspires more people. Also, join the Twitter chat using the hashtag #ChatSTC each Thursday in October at 3 p.m., ET/Noon, PT. Learn, connect with other parents and safety pros, and chime in.National Cyber Security Awareness Month
  3. Hold a family tech talk. Be even more intentional this month. Learn and discuss suggestions from STOP. THINK. CONNECT.™ on how each family member can protect their devices and information.
  4. Print it and post it: Print out a STOP. THINK. CONNECT.™ tip sheet and display it in areas where family members spend time online.
  5. Understand and execute the basics. Information is awesome. But how much of that information do we truly put into action? Take 10 minutes to read 10 Tips to Stay Safe Online and another 10 minutes to make sure you take the time to install a firewall, strengthen your passwords, and make sure your home network as secure as it can be.National Cyber Security Awareness Month
  6. If you care — share! Send an email to friends and family informing them that October is National Cybersecurity Awareness Month and encourage them to visit for tips and resources.
  7. Turn on multi-factor authentication. Protect your financial, email and social media accounts with two-step authentication for passwords.
  8. Update, update, update! This overlooked but powerful way to shore up your devices is crucial. Update your software and turn on automatic updates to protect your home network and personal devices.

Isn’t it awesome to think that you aren’t alone in striving to keep your family’s digital life — and future — safe? A lot of people are working together during National Cyber Security Awareness Month to educate and be more proactive in blocking criminals online. Working together, no doubt, we’ll get there quicker and be able to create and enjoy a safer internet.



Toni Birdsong is a Family Safety Evangelist to McAfee. You can find her onTwitter @McAfee_Family. (Disclosures)

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British Airways Hack Update: Caused by Injected Script & PCI DSS Non-Compliance is Suspected

On Friday (7th September 2018), British Airways disclosed between 21st August 2018 and 5th September 2018, 380,000 BA customer's payment card transactions were compromised by a third party through its website and mobile app. This data included the customer's full name, email address, debit\credit card 16 digit number (PAN), expiry date and card security code i.e. CVV, CV2

Details of how the hack was orchestrated have now come to light. In a blog post RiskIQ researchers have claimed to have found evidence that a web-based card skimmer script was injected into the BA website, very similar to the approach used by the Magecard group, who are believed to be behind a similar attack against the Ticketmaster website recently. Web-based card skimmer script attacks have been occurring since 2015.

In this case, once the customer has entered their payment card details and then submits the payment either on a PC or on a touchscreen device, the malicious script executes and captures their payment card data, sending it to a virtual (VPS) server hosted in Romania. The server was hosted on a domain called and was certified (https) by Comodo to make it appear legit within the website html (code). The server domain was registered 6 days before the breach started, this obviously went undetected by BA's security, perhaps the domain registration could have been picked up by a threat intelligence service.

Other Researchers have also claimed the BA website wasn't PCI DSS compliant. Marcus Greenwood found files loaded from 7 external domains onto the BA website, and crucially said the BA payment page wasn't isolating the card payment entry within an iframe, which would prevent any third-party scripts (and XSS attacks) from being able to read the payment card form fields. The Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) is required by all organisations which accept, process, store and/or transmit debit and credit cards.

Here is the advice from CEO of global cybersecurity specialist SonicWall, Bill Conner:

"Organizations and government entities carry a responsibility to consumers and civilians alike to guard their most valuable information at all cost. While the British Airways breach may not have been as detrimental as I’m sure its culprits would have liked it to be, it should serve as a wake-up call to CTOs, CIOs and CISOs. The fact is, it is early days, and the true damage done is yet to be seen. Personal information that does not change as easily as a credit card or bank account number drive a high price on the Dark Web. This kind of Personally Identifiable Information is highly sought after by cybercriminals for monetary gain. Companies should be implementing security best practices such as a layered approach to protection, as well as proactively updating any out of date security devices, as a matter of course."

My view mass credit\debit card data (cardholder data) complete with the security code has always been targeted by cyber crooks as it is very easily sellable on the dark web, as the data only can be used in cardholder-not-present transaction fraud, where credit card holder is not physically present i.e. online, app, phone. The finger can be pointed at lack of PCI DSS compliance by merchants like BA, however, I think it is about time technology was used to improve the security of all cardholder-not-not present transactions, namely Multi-factor authentication (MFA).  While MFA on all cardholder-not-present is not a silver bullet, there is no 100% security, enforced usage across all industries would certainly devalue debit\credit card data considerably.

British Airways Customer Data Stolen in Website and Mobile App Hack

In a statement, British Airways stated: "From 22:58 BST August 21 2018 until 21:45 BST September 5 2018 inclusive, the personal and financial details of customers making bookings on and the airline’s app were compromised." The airline said they will be notifying affected customers, and if anyone has been impacted to contact their bank or credit card providers.
The Telegraph reported 380,0000 payments were compromised, and that BA customers had experienced payment card fraud as a result before the BA breach disclosure, which strongly suggests unencrypted debit\credit cards were stolen.

There are no details about the data theft method at the moment, but given the statement said the BA website and BA mobile app was compromised, I think we could be looking at another example of an insecure API being exploited, as per the Air Canada breach and the T-Mobile breach last month.

We'll see what comes out in the wash over the next few days and weeks, but thanks to the GDPR, at least UK firms are quickly notifying their customers when their personal and financial data has been compromised, even if there is little detail reported about how. Without knowing how the data was compromised, customers cannot be truly assured their private data is safe. It also will be interesting to learn whether the BA systems were compliant with the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS), required by all organisations that accept, process, store and/or transmit debit and credit cards.

A spokesperson at BA said "hackers carried out a sophisticated, malicious criminal attack on its website" and impacted BA customers would be compensated. 

380,000 card payment transactions were confirmed as stolen, specifically:
  • Full Name
  • Email address
  • Payment card number (PAN)
  • Expiration date
  • Card Security Code [CVV] - typically a 3 digit authorisation code written on the back of the debit\credit card
BA insists it did not store the CVV numbers, these are not allowed to be stored after payment card authorisation under PCI DSS. This suggests the card details may have been intercepted during the payment transaction, perhaps by a maliciously injected or compromised third party website plugin, as opposed to data theft from the database, as often seen with SQL injections attacks against web apps.

BA have published help and FAQs to anyone that is impacted by this data breach.

British Airways is owned by IAG, their share price dropped by more than 4%, which equates to a £500m+ value loss in the company.

Update on the Attack Method (11 Sept 2018)
In a blog post RiskIQ researchers have claimed to have found evidence that a web-based card skimmer script was injected into the BA website, very similar to the approach used by the Magecard group, who are believed to be behind a similar attack against the Ticketmaster website recently. Web-based card skimmer script attacks have been occurring since 2015.

In this case, once the customer entered their payment card details and submitted the payment either on a PC or on a touchscreen device, the malicious script captured their data and sent it to a virtual (VPS) server hosted in Romania. The server was hosted on a domain called and was certified (https) by Comodo to make it look legit. The server domain was registered 6 days before the breach started, this obviously went undetected by BA's security, perhaps the rogue domain registration could have been picked up by a threat intelligence service.

Researchers have also claimed the BA website wasn't PCI DSS. They found 7 scripts running on the BA website, but crucially said the BA payment page wasn't isolating the card payments within an iframe, which would prevent third-party scripts (and XSS attacks) from being able to read the payment card form fields.

Bill Conner, CEO SonicWall said "Organizations and government entities carry a responsibility to consumers and civilians alike to guard their most valuable information at all cost. While the British Airways breach may not have been as detrimental as I’m sure its culprits would have liked it to be, it should serve as a wake-up call to CTOs, CIOs and CISOs. The fact is, it is early days, and the true damage done is yet to be seen. Personal information that does not change as easily as a credit card or bank account number drive a high price on the Dark Web. This kind of Personally Identifiable Information is highly sought after by cybercriminals for monetary gain. Companies should be implementing security best practices such as a layered approach to protection, as well as proactively updating any out of date security devices, as a matter of course."

A Look Back at the Equifax Data Breach, One Year Later

WannaCry, Petya, and Equifax first come to mind when you think of the most impactful cyber events in recent years, with the first-year anniversary of the latter coming up September 7th. Impacting nearly 150 million Americans (essentially half the country), the breach changed the nature of identity theft. Now, just before its anniversary, let’s take a look back on the impact of the Equifax data breach, what it all means for consumers, and the current state of identity theft.

Equifax reported that the breach exposed as many as 147.9 million consumer accounts, potentially compromising information such as names, dates of birth, addresses, and Social Security numbers.

To its credit, Equifax launched a program to alert potentially affected consumers that their data may have been exposed, and offered a free year subscription to its credit monitoring service, TrustID.

Unfortunately, identity theft breaches are not an uncommon occurrence. Such incidents are up 44% overall with 1,579 reports last year, and there are likely even more that went unreported. Exposed records due to data breaches are up 389%. Roughly 179 million records have been stolen, with 14.2 million credit card numbers exposed in 2017, an 88% increase over 2016. What’s more, 158 million Social Security numbers were exposed last year, an increase of more than 8 times from 2016. And all this theft has added up – consumers reported $905 million in total fraud losses last year, a 21% increase. So, it only makes sense that identity theft ranked as roughly 14% of all consumer complaints to the FTC last year.

However, despite all the publicity about major data breaches, consumers have done very little or have changed very little largely due to optimism bias. In fact, a recent McAfee survey shows that despite increased consumer concerns, only 37% of individuals use an identity theft protection solution and 28% have no plans to sign up for an ID theft protection solution.

So now the next question is, what should consumers do to protect themselves against identity theft? Start by following these tips:

  • Place a fraud alert. If you know your data has been compromised, place a fraud alert on your credit so that any new or recent requests undergo scrutiny. This also entitles you to extra copies of your credit report, so you can check for anything suspicious. If you find an account you did not open, report it to the police or Federal Trade Commission, as well as the creditor involved so you can close the fraudulent account. Then, make sure you correct your credit report by filing a dispute with each of the three credit bureaus.
  • Freeze your credit. This allows you to seal your credit reports so no one else can take out new accounts or loans in your name. You can do this without impacting your existing lines of credit, such as credit cards. If you want to apply for services or open new accounts, you can temporarily “unfreeze” your credit using a personal identification code only you have.
  • Invest in an identity theft monitoring and recovery solution. With the increase in data breaches, people everywhere are facing the possibility of identity theft. That’s precisely why they should leverage a solution tool such as McAfee Identity Theft Protection, which allows users to take a proactive approach to protecting their identities with personal and financial monitoring and recovery tools to help keep their identities personal and secured.

And, of course, to stay on top of the latest consumer and mobile security threats, be sure to follow me and @McAfee_Home on Twitter, listen to our podcast Hackable? and ‘Like’ us on Facebook.

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Cyber Security Roundup for August 2018

The largest data breach disclosed this month was by T-Mobile, the telecoms giant said there had been "unauthorised access" to potentially 2 million of their 77 million customer accounts. According to the media, a hacker took advantage of a vulnerability in a T-Mobile API (application programming interface). It was a vulnerable API used by Air Canada mobile App which was also exploited, resulting in the compromise of 20,000 Air Canada customer accounts. Air Canada promptly forced a password change to all of its 77 million customer accounts as a result, however, the airline faced criticism from security experts for advising a weak password strength. Namely, a password length of 8, made up of just characters and digits. Both of these hacks underline the importance of regularly penetration testing Apps and their supporting infrastructure, including their APIs.

Hackers stole up to 34,000 Butlin guest records, reportedly breaching the UK holiday camp firm through a phishing email. Dixons Carphone upped the estimated number of customer records breached in a hack last year from 1.2 million to 10 million, which includes 5.9 million payment cards. There was no explanation offered by Dixons to why it had taken so long to get a grip on the scale of the data breach, which was reported as occurring in July 2017.

Huawei continues to face scrutiny over the security of their products after the UK National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) issued a warning about using the Chinese tech manufacturing giant's devices in a security report. Huawei recently took over from Apple as the world's second largest provider of smartphones. A 16 year old Australian 'Apple fanboy' found himself in court after hacking into Apple's network.

On the international scene, Microsoft announced it had thwarted Russian data-stealing attacks against US anti-Trump conservative groups, by taking down six domains which hosted mimicked websites, which were likely to be used in future phishing campaigns. The Bank of Spain's website was taken out by a DDoS attack, and a Chinese Hotel Group's 140Gb customer database was found for sale on the dark web. The PGA golf championship was hit by a ransomware, and the FBI arrested three key members of the notorious FIN7 hacking group, the group is said to be responsible for stealing millions of credit card and customer details from businesses across the world.

On the personal front, the EC-Council confirmed my Computer Hacking Forensic Investigation (CHFI) certification had been renewed until 2021. I dropped into B-Sides Manchester this month, the highlight was a demonstration of a vulnerability found by Secarma researches, namely a PHP flaw which places CMS sites at risk of remote code execution

There was plenty of critical security patches released by the usual suspects, such as Microsoft, Cisco, and Adobe, the latter firm released several out-of-band patches during August. A critical update was released for Apache Struts (popular web server) and a reminder that Fax machines and all-in-one devices network devices could be used as a way into corporate networks by hackers.

Finally, there were a couple of interesting cybercrime articles posted on the BBC's news website this month,  Cyber-Attack! Would your firm handle it better than this? and Unpicking the Cyber-Crime Economy


Family Tech: How Safe is Your Child’s Personal Data at School?

Kids and Personal DataRight about now, most kids are thinking about their chemistry homework, the next pep rally, or chiming in on their group text. The last thing on their minds as they head back to school is cybersecurity. But, it’s the one thing — if ignored — that can wreck the excitement of a brand new school year.

You’ve done a great job, parent. You’ve equipped their phones, tablets, and laptops with security software. And, you’ve beefed up safeguards on devices throughout your home. These efforts go a long way in protecting your child’s (and family’s) privacy from prying eyes. Unfortunately, when your child walks out your front door and into his or her school, new risks await.

No one knows this season better than a cybercriminal. Crooks know there are loopholes in just about every school’s network and that kids can be easy targets online. These security gaps can open kids up to phishing scams, privacy breaches, malware attacks, and device theft.

The school security conversation

Be that parent. Inquire about your school’s security protocols.  The K-12 Cybersecurity Resource Center reports that 358 school breaches have taken place since January of 2016.  Other reports point to an increase in hackers targeting school staff with phishing emails and seeking student social security numbers to sell on the dark web.

A few questions to consider:Kids and Personal Data

  • Who has physical and remote access to your student’s digital records and what are the school’s protection practices and procedures?
  • How are staff members trained and are strong password protocols in place?
  • What security exists on school-issued devices? What apps/software is are being used and how will those apps collect and use student data?
  • What are the school’s data collection practices? Do data collection practices include encryption, secure data retention, and lawful data sharing policies?
  • What is the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policy?

The data debate

As K-12 administrators strive to maintain secure data collection practices for students, those same principles may be dubious as kids move on to college. As reported by Digiday, one retailer may be quietly disassembling privacy best practices with a bold “pay with data” business model. The Japanese coffee chain Shiru Café offers students and faculty members of Brown University free coffee in exchange for entering personal data into an online registry. Surprisingly, the café attracts some 800 customers a day and is planning on expanding its business model to more college campuses.

The family conversation

Keep devices close. Kids break, lose, lend, and leave their tech unattended and open to theft. Discuss responsible tech ownership with your kids. Stolen devices are privacy gold mines.

Never share passwords. Kids express their loyalty to one another in different ways. One way that’s proving popular but especially unsafe nowadays is password sharing. Remind kids: It’s never okay to share passwords to devices, social networks, or school platforms. Never. Password sharing opens up your child to a number of digital risks.

Safe clicking, browsing practices. Remind kids when browsing online to watch out for phishing emails, fake news stories, streaming media sites, and pop-ups offering free downloads. A bad link can infect a computer with a virus, malware, spyware, or ransomware. Safe browsing also includes checking for “https” in the URL of websites. If the website only loads with an “http,” the website may not be enforcing encryption.Kids and Personal Data

Be more of a mystery. Here is a concept your kids may or may not latch on to but challenge them to keep more of their everyday life a mystery by posting less. This includes turning off location services and trying to keep your whereabouts private when sharing online. This challenge may be fun for your child or downright impossible, but every step toward boosting privacy is progress!

Discuss the risk of public Wi-Fi. Kids are quick to jump on Wi-Fi wherever they go so they can use apps without depleting the family data plan. That habit poses a big problem. Public Wi-Fi is a magnet for hackers trying to get into your device and steal personal information. Make sure every network your child logs on to requires a password to connect. Go a step further and consider using a Virtual Private Network (VPN) for added security for your whole family.

Want to connect more to digital topics that affect your family? Stop by, and follow @McAfee_Family on Twitter. Also, join the digital security conversation on Facebook.

Toni Birdsong is a Family Safety Evangelist to McAfee. You can find her onTwitter @McAfee_Family. (Disclosures)

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Latest on the Currys PC World Data Breach Impacting 10 Million Customers

Following further investigations, Currys PC World today confirmed 10 million of their customer personal details may have been stolen by hackers, a revised number from the 1.2 million customers and 5.9 million payment cards it advised back in June.

In June 2018, the company said there was "an attempt to compromise" 5.8 million credit and debit cards but only 105,000 cards without chip-and-pin protection had been leaked after hackers attempted access to company's payment processing systems.

The hack was said to have occurred nearly a year before it was disclosed, so it either went undetected, which is common where there is inadequate security monitoring in place, or the business knew about the breach but choose not to disclose it to their impacted customers.

The Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) fined the Dixons Carphone £400,000 for a data in 2015 breach, however, Currys PC World stated the incidents were not connected.

The business stressed it has now improved its security measures including enhanced controls, monitoring, and testing to safeguard customer information, and "trebling their investment in cybersecurity". Unfortunately, no details have been disclosed explaining how the hackers were able to access such large quantities of personal data. The company "security improvement" statement suggests their IT security was rather underfunded and not at a sufficient standard to adequately secure their business operations and customer data.

The ICO (statement) and the NCSC (statement) both have released statements in June about the breach. So we'll see what the ICO makes of it, but I think the business is likely to be fined again, although not the potentially massive GDPR penalties, as this data breach occurred before the GDPR came into force in May.

Customer statement by Currys PC World to their customers today

On June 13, we began to contact a number of our customers as a precaution after we found that some of our security systems had been accessed in the past using sophisticated malware.

We promptly launched an investigation. Since then we have been putting further security measures in place to safeguard customer information, increased our investment in cyber security and added additional controls. In all of this we have been working intensively with leading cyber security experts.

Our investigation, which is now nearing completion, has identified that approximately 10 million records containing personal data may have been accessed in 2017. This unauthorised access to data may include personal information such as name, address, phone number, date of birth and email address.

While there is now evidence that some of this data may have left our systems, these records do not contain payment card or bank account details and we have no confirmed instances of customers falling victim to fraud as a result. We are continuing to keep the relevant authorities updated.

As a precaution, we are letting our customers know to apologise and advise them of protective steps to take to minimise the risk of fraud. These include:

If you receive an unsolicited email, letter, text or phone call asking for personal information, never reveal any full passwords, login details or account numbers until you are certain of the identity of the person making the request. Please do not click on any links you do not recognise.

If you think you have been a victim of fraud you should report it to Action Fraud, the UK’s national fraud and internet crime reporting centre, on 0300 123 2040*.

We also recommend that people are vigilant against any suspicious activity on their bank accounts and contact their financial provider if they have concerns.
You can find more information here

We take the security of your data extremely seriously and have previously announced that we have taken action to close off this access and have no evidence it is continuing. Nevertheless, we felt it was important to let customers know as soon as possible.

We continue to make improvements and investments to our security systems and we’ve been working round the clock to put this right. We’re extremely sorry about what has happened – we’ve fallen short here. We want to reassure you that we are fully committed to protecting your data so that you can be confident that it is safe with us.

The Reddit Data Breach: What Consumers Need to Know

With the tagline, “giving you the best of the internet in one place,” Reddit is a popular website designed for discussion, news aggregation, and the creation of social content. Boasting over 330 million users, the platform is characterized by an engaged community. Which also means it contains treasure troves of consumer data. Unfortunately, there’s now a chance that information has been exposed, as Reddit announced today that its systems were hacked at some point earlier this summer.

Announcing the breach on its r/announcements section, Reddit informed users that its internal systems were accessed by attackers sometime between June 14th to June 18th. The cybercriminals managed to bypass the SMS-based two-factor authentication the company had in place to access user data. This information includes some current email addresses and a 2007 database backup containing old salted and hashed passwords (meaning, passwords that haven’t been stored in plaintext). Additionally, email digests sent in June 2018 were also accessed by the hackers as well.

Now, the amount the impacted emails and passwords is not yet exactly known, but it’s crucial Reddit users (particularly those who joined by 2007) start taking steps now to secure their personal security. Start by following these tips:

  • Change up your password. If you joined Reddit in 2007 or before, you should change up your password immediately. When changing your password, make sure the next one you create is a strong password that is hard for cybercriminals to crack. Include numbers, lowercase and uppercase letters, and symbols. The more complex your password is, the more difficult it will be to crack. Avoid common and easy to crack passwords like “12345” or “password.”
  • Keep an eye out for sketchy emails and messages. If you received an email from a Reddit digest in June, then there’s a chance the hacker has your email address. Cybercriminals can leverage this stolen information for phishing emails and social engineering scams. So, if you see something sketchy or from an unknown source in your email inbox, be sure to avoid clicking on any links provided. Better to just delete the email or message entirely.
  • Don’t solely rely on SMS two-factor authentication (2FA). If anything, we can all learn a lesson from this Reddit breach – we can’t solely rely on SMS two-factor authentication anymore to secure our data. In fact, SMS is one of the weakest forms of 2FA. If you wish to lock down your data on your devices, it’s best to use app-based two-factor authentication, such as Google Authenticator.

And, of course, to stay on top of the latest consumer and mobile security threats, be sure to follow me and @McAfee_Home on Twitter, listen to our podcast Hackable? and ‘Like’ us on Facebook.

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Ransomware Hits Health Care Once Again, 45,000 Patient Records Compromised in Blue Springs Breach

More and more, ransomware attacks are targeting one specific industry – health care. As detailed in our McAfee Labs Threats Report: March 2018, health care experienced a dramatic 210% overall increase in cyber incidents in 2017. Unfortunately, 2018 is showing no signs of slowing. In fact, just this week it was revealed that patient records from the Missouri-based Blue Springs Family Care have been compromised after cybercriminals attacked the provider with a variety of malware, including ransomware.

Though it’s not entirely sure yet how these attackers gained access, their methods were effective. With this attack, the cybercriminals were able to breach the organization’s entire system, making patient data vulnerable. The attack resulted in 44,979 records being compromised, which includes Social Security numbers, account numbers, driver’s licenses, disability codes, medical diagnoses, addresses, and dates of birth.

The company’s official statement notes, “at this time, we have not received any indication that the information has been used by an unauthorized individual.”  However, if this type of data does become leveraged, it could be used by hackers for both identity and medical fraud.

So, with a plethora of personal information out in the open – what should these patients do next to ensure their personal data is secure and their health information is private? Start by following these tips:

  • Talk with your health provider. With many cyberattacks taking advantage of the old computer systems still used by many health care providers, it’s important to ask yours what they do to protect your information. What’s more, ask if they use systems that have a comprehensive view of who accesses patient data. If they can’t provide you with answers, consider moving on to another practice that has cybersecurity more top of mind. 
  • Set up an alert. Though this data breach does not compromise financial data, this personal data can still be used to obtain access to financial accounts. Therefore, it’s best to proactively place a fraud alert on your credit so that any new or recent requests undergo scrutiny. This also entitles you to extra copies of your credit report so you can check for anything suspicious. If you find an account you did not open, report it to the police or Federal Trade Commission, as well as the creditor involved so you can close the fraudulent account.
  • Keep your eyes on your health bills and records. Just like you pay close attention to your credit card records, you need to also keep a close eye on health insurance bills and prescription records, which are two ways that your health records can be abused. Be vigilant about procedure descriptions that don’t seem right or bills from facilities you don’t remember visiting.
  • Invest in an identity theft monitoring and recovery solution. With the increase in data breaches, people everywhere are facing the possibility of identity theft. That’s precisely why they should leverage a solution tool such as McAfee Identity Theft Protection, which allows users to take a proactive approach to protecting their identities with personal and financial monitoring and recovery tools to help keep their identities personal and secured.

 And, of course, to stay on top of the latest consumer and mobile security threats, be sure to follow me and @McAfee_Home on Twitter, listen to our podcast Hackable? and ‘Like’ us on Facebook.

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Cyber Security Roundup for July 2018

The importance of assuring the security and testing quality of third-party provided applications is more than evident when you consider an NHS reported data breach of 150,000 patient records this month. The NHS said the breach was caused by a coding error in a GP application called SystmOne, developed by UK based 'The Phoenix Partnership' (TTP). The same assurances also applies to internally developed applications, case-in-point was a publically announced flaw with Thomas Cook's booking system discovered by a Norwegian security researcher. The research used to app flaw to access the names and flights details of Thomas Cook passengers and release details on his blog. Thomas Cook said the issue has since been fixed.

Third-Third party services also need to be security assured, as seen with the Typeform compromise. Typeform is a data collection company, on 27th June, hackers gained unauthorised access to one of its servers and accessed customer data. According to their official notification, Typeform said the hackers may have accessed the data held on a partial backup, and that they had fixed a security vulnerability to prevent reoccurrence. Typeform has not provided any details of the number of records compromised, but one of their customers, Monzo, said on its official blog that is was in the region of 20,000. Interestingly Monzo also declared ending their relationship with Typeform unless it wins their trust back. Travelodge one UK company known to be impacted by the Typeform breach and has warned its impacted customers. Typeform is used to manage Travelodge’s customer surveys and competitions.

Other companies known to be impacted by the Typeform breach include:

The Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) fined Facebook £500,000, the maximum possible, over the Cambridge Analytica data breach scandal, which impacted some 87 million Facebook users. Fortunately for Facebook, the breach occurred before the General Data Protection Regulation came into force in May, as the new GDPR empowers the ICO with much tougher financial penalties design to bring tech giants to book, let's be honest, £500k is petty cash for the social media giant.
Facebook-Cambridge Analytica data scandal
Facebook reveals its data-sharing VIPs
Cambridge Analytica boss spars with MPs

A UK government report criticised the security of Huawei products, concluded the government had "only limited assurance" Huawei kit posed no threat toUK national security. I remember being concerned many years ago when I heard BT had ditched US Cisco routers for Huawei routers to save money, not much was said about the national security aspect at the time. The UK gov report was written by the Huawei Cyber Security Evaluation Centre (HCSEC), which was set up in 2010 in response to concerns that BT and other UK companies reliance on the Chinese manufacturer's devices, by the way, that body is overseen by GCHQ.

Banking hacking group "MoneyTaker" has struck again, this time stealing a reported £700,000 from a Russia bank according to Group-IB. The group is thought to be behind several other hacking raids against UK, US, and Russian companies. The gang compromise a router which gave them access to the bank's internal network, from that entry point, they were able to find the specific system used to authorise cash transfers and then set up the bogus transfers to cash out £700K.


Cyber Security Roundup for June 2018

Dixons Carphone said hackers attempted to compromise 5.9 million payment cards and accessed 1.2 million personal data records. The company, which was heavily criticised for poor security and fined £400,000 by the ICO in January after been hacked in 2015, said in a statement the hackers had attempted to gain access to one of the processing systems of Currys PC World and Dixons Travel stores. The statement confirmed 1.2 million personal records had been accessed by the attackers. No details were disclosed explaining how hackers were able to access such large quantities of personal data, just a typical cover statement of "the investigation is still ongoing".  It is likely this incident occurred before the GDPR law kicked in at the end of May, so the company could be spared the new more significant financial penalties and sanctions the GDPR gives the ICO, but it is certainly worth watching the ICO response to a repeat offender which had already received a record ICO fine this year. The ICO (statement) and the NCSC (statement) both have released statements about this breach.

Ticketmaster reported the data theft of up to 40,000 UK customers, which was caused by security weakness in a customer support app, hosted by Inbenta Technologies, an external third-party supplier to Ticketmaster. Ticketmaster informed affected customers to reset their passwords and has offered (to impacted customers) a free 12-month identity monitoring service with a leading provider. No details were released on how the hackers exploited the app to steal the data, likely to be a malware-based attack. However, there are questions on whether Ticketmaster disclosed and responded to the data breach quick enough, after digital banking company Monzo, claimed the Ticketmaster website showed up as a CPP (Common Point of Purchase) in an above-average number of recent fraud reports. The company noticed 70% of fraudulent transactions with stolen payment cards had used the Ticketmaster site between December 2017 and April 2018. The UK's National Cyber Security Centre said it was monitoring the situation.

TSB customers were targetted by fraudsters after major issues with their online banking systems was reported. The TSB technical issues were caused by a botched system upgrade rather than hackers. TSB bosses admitted 1,300 UK customers had lost money to cyber crooks during its IT meltdown, all were said to be fully reimbursed by the bank.
The Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) issued Yahoo a £250,000 fine after an investigation into the company's 2014 breach, which is a pre-GDPR fine. Hackers were able to exfiltrate 191 server backup files from the internal Yahoo network. These backups held the personal details of 8.2 million Yahoo users, including names, email addresses, telephone numbers, dates of birth, hashed password and other security data. The breach only came to light as the company was being acquired by Verizon.

Facebook woes continue, this time a bug changed the default sharing setting of 14 million Facebook users to "public" between 18th and 22nd May.  Users who may have been affected were said to have been notified on the site’s newsfeed.

Chinese Hackers were reported as stealing secret US Navy missile plans. It was reported that Chinese Ministry of State Security hackers broke into the systems of a contractor working at the US Naval Undersea Warfare Center, lifting a massive 614GB of secret information, which included the plans for a supersonic anti-ship missile launched from a submarine. The hacks occurred in January and February this year according to a report in the Washington Post.

Elon Musk (Telsa CEO) claimed an insider sabotaged code and stole confidential company information.  According to CNBC, in an email to staff, Elon wrote I was dismayed to learn this weekend about a Tesla employee who had conducted quite extensive and damaging sabotage to our operations. This included making direct code changes to the Tesla Manufacturing Operating System under false usernames and exporting large amounts of highly sensitive Tesla data to unknown third parties". Telsa has filed a lawsuit accusing a disgruntled former employee of hacking into the systems and passing confidential data to third parties. In the lawsuit, it said the stolen information included photographs and video of the firm's manufacturing systems, and the business had suffered "significant and continuing damages" as a result of the misconduct.

Elsewhere in the world, FastBooking had 124,000 customer account stolen after hackers took advantage of a web application vulnerability to install malware and exfiltrate data. Atlanta Police Dashcam footage was hit by Ransomware.  And US company HealthEquity had 23,000 customer data stolen after a staff member fell for a phishing email.

IoT Security
The Wi-Fi Alliance announced WPA3, the next generation of wireless security, which is more IoT device friendly, user-friendly, and more secure than WPA2, which recently had a security weakness reported (see Krack vulnerability). BSI announced they are developing a new standard for IoT devices and Apps called ISO 23485. A Swann Home Security camera system sent a private video to the wrong user, this was said to have been caused by a factory error.  For Guidance on IoT Security see my guidance, Combating IoT Cyber Threats.

As always, a busy month for security patching, Microsoft released 50 patches, 11 of which were rated as Critical. Adobe released their monthly fix for Flash Player and a critical patch for a zero-day bug being actively exploited. Cisco released patches to address 34 vulnerabilities, 5 critical, and a critical patch for their Access Control System. Mozilla issued a critical patch for the Firefox web browser.


Cyber Security Roundup for May 2018

I'm sure the release of the GDPR on 25th May hasn't escaped anyone's attention. After years of warnings about the EU parliament's intended tough stance on enforcing the human right to privacy in the digital realm, a real 'game changer' of a global privacy regulation has finally landed, which impacts any organisation which touches EU citizen personal data. 

The GDPR's potential hefty financial penalties for breaching its requirements is firmly on the radar of directors at large enterprises and small businesses alike, hence the massive barrage of emails we have all have received in recent weeks, on changes to company privacy statements and requesting consent, many of which I noted as not being GDPR compliant as obtaining "explicit consent" from the data subject. So there is a long way to go for many organisations before they become truly GDPR compliant state based on what I've seen so far in my mailbox.

Cybercriminals have been quick to take advantage of the GDPR privacy emails deluge, using the subject matter in their phishing attacks to cheat access to accounts and con victims.
On a positive GDPR note, also on 25th May, IBM developerWorks released a three-part guidance series written by myself, aimed at helping Application Developers to develop GDPR compliant applications.

Developing GDPR Compliant Applications Guidance

Overshadowed by the GDPR coming in force, was the release of new NHS Data Security and Protection Toolkit, aimed at the NHS and their service providers, and the European NIS Directive (for telecom providers) went under the radar, but they are significant to those working in those industries.

Always make sure your Broadband Router\Hub does not permit remote administrative access (over the internet) and is always kept up-to-date with the latest security patches, otherwise, it will be at serious risk of being hacked and remotely controlled by cyber-criminals. As evidenced with month, after a DNS flaw in over 800,000 Draytek Routers has allowed hackers to take them over, malware called VPNFilter has infected 500,000 routers, and serious vulnerabilities has been reported in TP-Link EAP controllers.

IBM made headlines after banning its workers from using USB sticks, which I think is a good and reasonable policy. As quite frankly any modern enterprise, whether large or small, with a decent IT infrastructure and cloud services, staff shouldn't need to use USB devices to move data either internally or externally with third parties, so I see this as a rather smart business and security move to ban all USB devices, as it forces staff to use the more secure and more efficient technology made available.

As my @securityexpert twitter account crossed the 10,000 follower threshold Twitter advised 300 million users to reset their passwords after internal error. Apparently, the passwords for the Twitter accounts were accidentally stored in a database in their "plain text" value instead of using a hashed value for the password, as per best practice. I always strongly recommend Twitter users to take advantage and use the multi-factor authentication system Twitter provides, which reduces the risk of account hacking.

Breaches of note in May included a T-Mobile website bug which exposed personal customer data, Coca-Cola said an insider breached 8,000 accounts, and BMW cars were found to have over a dozen security vulnerabilities.

As always a busy month of new security patch releases, with Microsoft, Adobe, PHP, PGP, Google, Git, and Dell all releasing critical security updates to fix significant security flaws. Click the links for the full details.

Analysis of DDoS Attacks at Cloudflare, has revealed that while organisations in the UK have certainly upped their spending on DDoS mitigation, cyber-criminals are now responding by switching to Layer 7 based DDoS attacks
Some interesting articles about the Welsh Cyber Security Revolution and a review of the NHS a year on from the WannaCry outbreak

Reports of interest this month include the Thales Data Threat Report, which found UK businesses to be the most breached in Europe. The LastPass Psychology of Passwords Report which found 59% of people surveyed used the same passwords across multiple accounts, despite 91% of them knowing that using the same password for multiple accounts is a security risk. The 2017 Cylance Report stated the number of cyber-attacks on industries such as healthcare, manufacturing, professional services, and education rose by about 13.4% between 2016 and 2017.


Application Development GDPR Compliance Guidance

Last week IBM developerWorks released a three-part guidance series I have written to help 
Application Developers develop GDPR compliant applications.

Developing GDPR Compliant Applications Guidance

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) was created by the European Commission and Council to strengthen and unify Europe's data protection law, replacing the 1995 European Data Protection Directive. Although the GDPR is a European Union (EU) regulation, it applies to any organizations outside of Europe that handle the personal data of EU citizens. This includes the development of applications that are intended to process the personal information of EU citizens. Therefore, organizations that provide web applications, mobile apps, or traditional desktop applications that can indirectly process EU citizen's personal data or allow EU citizens sign in are subject to the GDPR's privacy obligations. Organizations face the prospect of powerful sanctions should applications fail to comply with the GDPR.

Part 1: A Developer's Guide to the GDPR
Part 1 summarizes the GDPR and explains how the privacy regulation impacts and applies to developing and supporting applications that are intended to be used by European Union citizens.

Part 2: Application Privacy by Design
Part 2 provides guidance for developing applications that are compliant with the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation. 

Part 3: Minimizing Application Privacy Risk

Part 3  provides practical application development techniques that can alleviate an application's privacy risk.

Cyber Security Roundup for April 2018

The fallout from the Facebook privacy scandal rumbled on throughout April and culminated with the closure of the company at the centre of the scandal, Cambridge Analytica.
Ikea was forced to shut down its freelance labour marketplace app and website 'TaskRabbit' following a 'security incident'. Ikea advised users of TaskRabbit to change their credentials if they had used them on other sites, suggesting a significant database compromise.

TSB bosses came under fire after a botch upgraded to their online banking system, which meant the Spanished owned bank had to shut down their online banking facility, preventing usage by over 5 million TSB customers. Cybercriminals were quick to take advantage of TSB's woes.

Great Western Railway reset the passwords of more than million customer accounts following a breach by hackers, US Sun Trust reported an ex-employee stole 1.5 million bank client records, an NHS website was defaced by hackers, and US Saks, Lord & Taylor had 5 million payment cards stolen after a staff member was successfully phished by a hacker.

The UK National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) blacklist China's state-owned firm ZTE, warning UK telecom providers usage of ZTE's equipment could pose a national security risk. Interestingly BT formed a research and development partnership with ZTE in 2011 and had distributed ZTE modems. The NCSC, along with the United States government, released statements accusing Russian of large-scale cyber-campaigns, aimed at compromising vast numbers of the Western-based network devices.

IBM released the 2018 X-Force Report, a comprehensive report which stated for the second year in a row that the financial services sector was the most targeted by cybercriminals, typically by sophisticated malware i.e. Zeus, TrickBot, Gootkit. NTT Security released their 2018 Global Threat Intelligence Report, which unsurprisingly confirmed that ransomware attacks had increased 350% last year.  

A concerning report by the EEF said UK manufacturer IT systems are often outdated and highly vulnerable to cyber threats, with nearly half of all UK manufacturers already had been the victim of cybercrime. An Electropages blog questioned whether the boom in public cloud service adoption opens to the door cybercriminals.

Finally, it was yet another frantic month of security updates, with critical patches released by Microsoft, Adobe, Apple, Intel, Juniper, Cisco, and Drupal.


Cyber Security Roundup for March 2018

In the wake of the global political fallout over the Salisbury nerve agent attack, there are reports of a growing threat of Russian state or Russian state-affiliated hacking groups conducting cyber attack reprisals against UK organisations, government officials have directly warned bosses at electricity, gas and water firms, Whitehall departments and NHS hospitals to prepare for a state-sponsored cyber assault

Large-scale data breaches were disclosed with Under Armour’s Fitness App MyFitnessPal (1.5 million personal records compromised), Orbitz (880k payment cards at risk), and at a Walmart partner (1.3 million personal records compromised). The latter was caused when an AWS S3 bucket holding a Walmart database was left with open access, which isn't the first time a cloud service misconfiguration has caused a major data breach.

TalkTalk were warned about their website’s poor security after a hacker known as 'B' disclosed a cross-site scripting vulnerability on the website to Sky News. TalkTalk was given a record £400,000 fine by the Information Commissioner's Office following a major website breach in October 2015, which 157,000 customer details were stolen. And the company were told to "be more diligent and more vigilant” and was fined a further £100,000 after data belonging to 21,000 customers were exposed to "rogue" staff at an Indian call centre.

GitHub survived the largest ever DDoS attack recorded thanks to Akamai DDoS protection, which peaked at a massive 1.35 terabytes of data per second.

UK schools were warned they were soft targets for cybercriminals, experts believe many schools are ill-equipped to prevent cyber thefts, with sensitive data such as children’s medical records said to be lucrative on the dark web. There has been a number of security incidents disclosed involving UK schools in recent months.
Gwent Police are facing scrutiny by the Information Commissioner's Office for not informing 450 people that hackers may have accessed their personal information, after discovering the breach over a year ago.

A hacker alleged to be behind a gang the ran the Carbanak and Cobalt bank target malware has been arrested. The gang is reported to be responsible for the theft of up to billion euros through bank transfers and from cash machines, from over 100 banks since 2013




Drinkman and Smilianets Sentenced: The End to Our Longest Databreach Saga?

On Thursday, February 15, 2018, we may have finally reached the end of the Albert Gonzalez Databreach Saga.  Vladimir Drinkman, age 37, was sentenced to 144 months in prison, after pleading guilty before U.S. District Judge Jerome Simandle in New Jersey.  His colleague, Dmitriy Smilianets, age 34, had also pleased guilty and was sentenced to 51 months and 21 days in prison (which is basically "time served", so he'll walk immediately).  The pair were actually arrested in the Netherlands on June 28, 2012, and the guilty pleas had happened in September 2015th after they were extradited to New Jersey.

Those who follow data breaches will certainly be familiar with Albert Gonzalez, but may not realize how far back his criminal career goes.

On July 24, 2003, the NYPD arrested Gonzalez in front of a Chase Bank ATM at 2219 Broadway found Gonzalez in possession of 15 counterfeit Chase ATM cards and $3,000 in cash. (See case 1:09-cr-00626-JBS).  After that arrest, Gonzalez was taken under the wing of a pair of Secret Service agents, David Esposito and Steve Ward.  Gonzalez describes some of the activities he engaged in during his time as a CI in his 53 page appeal that he files March 24, 2011 from his prison cell in Milan, Michigan.

At one point, he claims that he explained to Agent Ward that he owed a Russian criminal $5,000 and he couldn't afford to pay it.  According to his appeal, he claims Ward told him to "Go do your thing, just don't get caught" and that Agent Ward later asked him if he had "handled it." Because of this, Gonzalez (who again, according to his own sentencing memo, likely has Asperger's) claims he believed that he had permission to hack, as long as he didn't get caught.

Over Christmas 2007, Gonzalez and his crew hacked Heartland Payments Systems and stole around 130 million credit and debit cards.  He was also charged with hacking 7-Eleven (August 2007), Hannaford Brothers (November 2007) where he stole 4.2 million credit and debit cards. Two additional data breaches against "Company A" and "Company B" were also listed as victims.  In Gonzalez's indictment, it refers to "HACKER 1 who resided in or near Russia" and "HACKER 2 who resided in or near Russia."  Another co-conspirator "PT" was later identified as Patrick Toey, a resident of Virginia Beach, VA.  (Patrick Toey's sentencing memorandum is a fascinating document that describes his first "Cash out trip" working for Albert Gonzalez in 2003. Toey describes being a high school drop out who smoked marijuana and drank heavily who was "put on a bus to New York" by his mother to do the cash out run because she needed rent money.  Toey later moved in with Gonzalez in Miami, where he describes hacking Forever 21 "for Gonzalez" among other hacks.

Gonzalez's extracurricular activities caught up with him when Maksym Yastremskiy (AKA Maksik) was arrested in Turkey.  Another point of Gonzalez's appeal was to say that Maksik was tortured by Turkish police, and that without said torture, he never would have confessed, which would have meant that Gonzalez (then acting online as "Segvec") would never have been identified or arrested.  Gonzalez claims that he suffered from an inadequate defense, because his lawyer should have objected to the evidence "obtained under torture."  These charges against Gonzalez were tried in the Eastern District of New York (2:08-cr-00160-SJF-AKT) and proved that Gonzalez was part of the Dave & Buster's data breach

On December 15, 2009, Gonzalez tried to shrug off some of his federal charges by filing a sentencing memo claiming that he lacked the "capacity to knowingly evaluate the wrongfulness of his actions" and asserting that his criminal behavior "was consistent with description of the Asperger's discorder" and that he exhibited characteristics of "Internet addiction."  Two weeks later, after fighting that the court could not conduct their own psychological exam, Gonzalez signed a guilty plea, agreeing that the prosecutor would try to limit his sentence to 17 years. He is currently imprisoned in Yazoo, Mississippi (FBOP # 25702-050) scheduled to be released October 29, 2025.

Eventually "HACKER 1" and "HACKER 2" were indicted themselves in April 2012, with an arrest warrant issued in July 2012, but due to criminals still at large, the indictment was not unsealed until December 18, 2013. HACKER 1 was Drinkman.  HACKER 2 was Alexandr Kalinin, who was also indicted with Drinkman and Smilianets.

Shortly after the Target Data Breach, I created a presentation called "Target Data Breach: Lessons Learned" which drew heavily on the history of Drinkman and Smilianets. Some of their documented data breaches included:
NASDAQMay 2007  loss of control
7-ELEVEN August 2007
Carrefour October 2007 2 million cards
JCPenneyOctober 2007
HannafordNovember 2007 4.2 million cards
Wet SealJanuary 2008
CommideaNovember 2008 30 million cards
Dexia Bank BelgiumFeb'08-Feb'09
Jet BlueJan'08 to Feb '11
Dow Jones2009
EuroNetJul '10 to Oct '11  2 million cards
Visa JordanFeb-Mar '11  800,000 cards
Global Payments SystemsJan '11 to Mar '12
Diners Club SingaporeJun '11
IngenicardMar '12 to Dec '12

During the time of these attacks, Dimitry Smilianets was also leading the video game world.  His team, The Moscow 5, were the "Intel Extreme Masters" champions in the first League of Legends championship, also placing in the CounterStrike category.   Smilianets turned out not to be the hacker, but rather specialized in selling the credit cards that the other team members stole.  Steal a few hundred million credit cards and you can buy a nice gaming rig!

Smilianets with his World Champion League of Legends team in 2012

 How did these databreaches work?

Lockheed Martin's famous paper "Intelligence-Driven Computer Network Defense Informed by Analysis of Adversary Campaigns and Intrusion Kill Chains" laid out the phases of an attack like this:

But my friend Daniel Clemens had explained these same phases to me when he was teaching me the basics of Penetration Testing years before when he was first starting Packet Ninjas!

1. External Recon - Gonzalez and his crew scan for Internet-facing SQL servers
2. Attack (Dan calls this "Establishing a Foothold") - using common SQL configuration weaknesses, they caused a set of additional tools to be downloaded from the Internet
3. Internal Recon - these tools included a Password Dumper, Password Cracker, Port Scanner,  and tools for bulk exporting data
4. Expand (Dan calls this "Creating a Stronghold")  - usually this consisted with monitoring the network until they found a Domain Admin userid and password.  (for example, in the Heartland Payments attack, the VERITAS userid was found to have the password "BACKUP" which unlocked every server on the network!
5. Dominate - Gonzalez' crew would then schedule an SQL script to run a nightly dump their card data
6. Exfiltrate - data sent to remote servers via an outbound FTP.

In Rolling Stone, Gonzalez claims he compromised more than 250 networks
In the Rolling Stone article, "Sex, Drugs, and the Biggest Cybercrime of All Time" , Steven Watt, who was charged in Massachusetts for providing attack tools to Gonzalez in October 2008.  Watt's tools were used in breaches, including BJ's Wholesale Club, Boston Market, Barnes & Noble, Sports Authority, Forever 21, DSW, and OfficeMax.  As part of his sentencing, Watt was ordered to repay $171.5 Million dollars.

Almost all of those databreaches followed the same model ... scan, SQL Inject, download tools, plant a foothold, convert it to a stronghold by becoming a domain admin, dominate the network, and exfiltrate the data. 

How did the TARGET Data breach happen, by the way?  Target is still listed as being "Unsolved" ...   but let's review.  An SQL injection led to downloaded tools, (including NetCat, PSExec, QuarksPWDump, ElcomSoft's Proactive Password Auditor, SomarSoft's DumpSec, Angry IP Scanner (for finding database servers), and Microsoft's OSQL and BCP (Bulk Copy)), a Domain Admin password was found (in Target's case, a BMC server monitoring tool running the default password), the POS Malware was installed, and data exfiltration begun. 

Sound familiar???


With most of Gonzalez's crew in prison by 2010, the data breaches kept right on coming, thanks to Drinkman and Smilianets. 

Drinkman, the hacker, was sentenced to 144 months in prison.
Smilianets, the card broker, was sentenced to 51 months and 21 days, which was basically "time served" -- he was extradited to the US on September 7, 2012, so he'll basically walk.

Will Smilianets return to video gaming? to money laundering? or perhaps choose to go straight?

Meanwhile, Alexandr Kalinin, of St. Petersburg, Russia; Mikhail Rytikov, of Odessa, Ukraine; and Roman Kotov, of Moscow, Russia, are all still at large.  Have they learned from the fate of their co-conspirators? or are they in all likelihood, scanning networks for SQL servers, injecting them, dropping tools, planting footholds, creating strongholds, and exfiltrating credit card data from American companies every day?

Kalinin (AKA Grig, AKA "g", AKA "tempo") is wanted for hacking NASDAQ and planting malware that ran on the NASDAQ networks from 2008 to 2010.  (See the indictment in the Southern District of New York, filed 24JUL2013 ==> 1:13-cr-00548-ALC )

Mykhailo Sergiyovych Rytikov is wanted in the Western District of Pennsylvania for his role in a major Zeus malware case.  Rytikov leased servers to other malware operators.  Rytikov is also indicted in the Eastern District of Virginia along with Andriy DERKACH for running a "Dumps Checking Service" that processed at least 1.8 million credit cards in the first half of 2009 and that directly led to more than $12M in fraud.  ( 1:12-cr-00522-AJT filed 08AUG2013.)  Rytikov did have a New York attorney presenting a defense in the case -- Arkady Bukh argues that while Rytikov is definitely involved in web-hosting, he isn't responsible for what happens on the websites he hosts.

Roman Kotov, and Rytikov and Kalinin, are still wanted in New Jersey as part of the case 1:09-cr-00626-JBS (Chief Judge Jerome B. Simandle ). This is the same case Drinkman and Smilianets were just sentenced under.

Cyber Security Roundup for December 2017

UK supermarket giant Morrisons, lost a landmark data breach court case in December after a disgruntled Morrisons employee had stolen and posted the personal records of 100,000 co-workers online, the supermarket chain was held liable for the data breach by the UK High Court. The High Court ruling now allows those affected to claim compensation for the "upset and distress" caused. Morrisons said it believed it should not have been held responsible and would be appealing against the decision. If the appeal is lost it could open up the possibility of further class action lawsuits cases by individuals. Pending the GDPR becoming law in May 2018, such a court ruling sets a legal precedent for individuals to claim damages after personal data losses by companies through the courts as well. After May 2018, the GDPR grants individuals the right sue companies for damages following personal data breaches. So we can expect 'ambulance chasers' lawyers to pick up on this aspect of the GDPR, with class action lawsuits following data breaches, it well could become the new "P.P.I. industry"

Any businesses or individuals using Kaspersky should be aware the UK National Cyber Security Centre has warned government agencies against using the Russian supplier’s products and services, which follows a ban by US government departments in November. Barclays responded to the warning by stopping their free offering of Kaspersky anti-virus products to its customers. 2017 saw Cyber Security become a political football, so it is no real surprise that the UK and US once again blamed North Korea for the devasting WannaCry attacks earlier in the year, personally, I blame poor patch management and hackers, not the North Korea cyber army!

Nadine Dorries MP got herself in hot water after trying to defend now former political colleague Damian Green, following claims of Mr.Green accessed porn on his Parliment computer. This was activity was reported by a retired Police officer, which was said to be a breach of the data protection act. Nadine tweeted "my staff log onto my computer on my desk with my login everyday" to suggest anyone could have used Damian Green's PC to access the illicit websites. This led to widespread condemnation and a warning by ICO to MPs on password sharing. 

The fact illicit websites were not blocked by Parliament systems is one concerning lack security issue, but the flagrant disregard for basic cybersecurity by government MPs is gobsmacking, especially when you consider they are supposed to be understanding the risk and setting laws to protect UK citizens from cyber attacks and data breaches. Its another "slap palm on head" after the last UK Prime Minister announced he wanted to ban encryption.

2017 has seen huge rises in cryptocurrencies values, which has placed cryptocurrency brokers and user crypto coin wallets in the sights of cybercriminals. This month mining platform NiceHash was breached by hackers, who stole £51 million worth of Bitcoin and Bitcoin exchange Youbit, which lets people buy and sell Bitcoins and other virtual currencies, shut down and filed for bankruptcy after losing 17% of its assets in the cyber-attacks. I think we can expect further cryptocurrencies attacks in 2018 given the cryptocurrency bubble is yet to burst.

Faked LinkedIn profiles are nothing new, however, the German Intelligence Agency (BfV) said it had spotted China were using faked LinkedIn profiles to connect with and gather information on German officials and politicians, which is an interesting development.

Finally, Hackers were reported as taking advantage of poorly secured systems at UK private schools, and it was claimed hackers could turn off heating systems at UK schools and military bases.


Cyber Security Roundup for November 2017

One of the most notable data breaches disclosed this month was by Uber, given the company attempted to cover up the breach by paying off hackers. Over a year ago the transport tech firm was said to have paid £75,000 to two hackers to delete 57 million Uber account records which they had stolen. Uber revealed around 2.7 million of the stolen records were British riders and drivers. As a UK Uber rider, this could mean me, I haven't received any notification of the data breach from Uber as yet. The stolen information included names, email addresses, and phone numbers. Uber can expect enforcement action from regulators on both sides of the pond, the UK Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) said it had "huge concerns" about the breach and was investigating.

Jewson, Cash Converters, and Imgur all reported losing data due to hacks this month, while Equifax has reported suffering significant negative financial losses following their high profile hack of personal customer data. Equifax reported their net income had dropped by £20 million due to the hack, and their breach bill was coming in at a whopping £67 million.

November was a very busy month for security patches releases, with Microsoft, Apple, Adobe, Oracle, Cisco and Intel releasing a raft of patches to fix critical vulnerabilities. Apple even had to quickly release an emergency patch at end of November to fix a root access flaw reported in macOS High Sierra version 10.13.1. So just keep patching everything IT to ensure you and your business stays ahead of enterprising cybercriminals, the Equifax breach is a prime example of what can go wrong if system patching is neglected.

November also saw Open Web Application Security Project (OWASP) finally released an updated version to its Top Ten application vulnerabilities list, which is a ‘must know’ secure coding best practice for all software developers and security testers, especially considering that Akamai reported web application attacks had increased by 69% in the third quarter of 2017. Look out for an updated OWASP Top Ten IBM DeveloperWorks Guidance from me in December to reflect the updated list.


When the Press Aids the Enemy

Let's start with this- Freedom of the press is a critical part of any free society, and more importantly, a democratically governed society.

But that being said, I can't help but think there are times when the actions of the media aid the enemy. This is a touchy subject so I'll keep it concise and just make a few points that stick in my mind.

First, it's pretty hard to argue that the media looks for ever-more sensational headlines, truth be damned, to get clicks and drive traffic to their publication. Whether it's digital or actual ink-on-paper sensationalism sells, there's no arguing with that.

What troubles me is that like in the war on terrorism, the enemy succeeds in their mission when the media creates hysteria and fear. This much should be clear. The media tend to feed into this pretty regularly and we see this in some of the most sensational headlines from stories that should told in fact, not fantasy.

So when I came across this article on Buzzfeed called "The Messy Media Ethics Behind the Sony Hacks" it suddenly hit me - the media may very well be playing perfectly into the enemy's hands. The "Guardians of Peace" (GOP) in their quest to ruin Sony Pictures Entertainment have stolen an unfathomable amount of information. As Steve Ragan who has repeatedly written on about this and many other breaches tweeted that's 200Gb or 287,000 documents. That's mind-blowing.

This cache of data has proven to be yet-unreleased movies, marketing presentations, email exchanges between executives and attorneys, financial plans, employees' medical records and so much more. The GOP have made it clear their aim is to "punish" Sony Pictures Entertainment - and while we don't really have an insight as to the true motivations here, I think it's clear that releasing all this data is meant to severely negatively impact the business.

What has followed in the days since the announcement of the hack is a never-ending stream of "news" articles that I struggle to understand. There were articles like this one providing commentary and analysis on internal marketing department presentations. There were articles analyzing the internal and privileged (as far as I know, but I'm not a lawyer) communications between corporate legal counsel and Sony Pictures executives. There were articles talking about the release of SPE employee medical records. The hit-parade goes on and on... and I'm not linking over to any more of the trash because it embarrasses me.

Clearly, clearly, the mainstream media (and hell even the not-so-mainstream) have long lost their ethics. Some would claim that it's the "freedom of the press" that allows them to re-publish and discuss sensitive, internal documents. Others argue that since it's already in the public domain (available on BitTorrent) then it's fair game. Note: This was discussed during the Snowden release - and it was clear that classified information released to the public domain does not suddenly lose its classified status. I'm fairly certain this easily applies to the not-national-security type of assets as well. To be honest, this argument makes me question the intellectual integrity of some of the people who make it.

Anyway, back to my point. If the GOP wanted to destroy Sony Pictures Entertainment then hacking in and releasing secret information and intellectual property was only half the battle. The second half, unfortunately, is being picked up and executed by the media, bloggers, and talking heads putting out "analysis" on all this data. Publishing links to the hacked data, analyzing its contents, and looking for further embarrassing and ugly things to publish- the media should be ashamed of itself.

The hack alone wasn't going to damage SPEs image to where it has fallen now - the media is clearly complicity in this and it's a shame. I'm not an attorney so I question whether publishing and discussing confidential communications between an attorney and executive is ethical. Forget that, is it even legal? Journalists and bloggers continue to hide behind the "freedom of the press", and some folks even to blasting me for daring to question the absolute rights of the press. Except - the freedom of the press isn't absolute, as far as I know.

But whether it's legal, clearly there are ethical problems here. If you're in the media and you're poring over the confidential email communications stolen from Sony Pictures Entertainment systems, I emphasize stolen, and you're commenting on this - to what end? Arguing that the media is releasing this information because (a) it's already in the public domain and (b) it's "for the public good" is ludicrous.

Remember - while you're reveling in someone else's misery that you too may be a coincidental victim one day. Then it'll be your turn to have your private information released and analyzed and attacked as part of the next breach. Your recourse? None... Glass houses, journalists. Glass houses.

The Other Side of Breach Hysteria

In a world where everyone is trying to sell you something, security is certainly no exception. But separating the hype from the truth can easily turn into a full time job if you're not careful.

With all the recent retail data breaches, it would appear as though the sky is falling in large chunks right on top of us. Every big-name retailer, and even some of the smaller ones, are being hacked and their precious card data is bring whisked away to be sold to miscreants and criminals.

Now enter the sales and marketing pitches. After every breach it would seem our mailboxes fill up with subject lines such as-
"Learn how not to be the next , read how our latest gizmo will keep you secure!"
I don't know about you, but the snake-oil pitch is starting to get old. While it's clear that the average buyer is getting the message about data breaches and hackers - I believe there are two other aspects of this which aren't talked about enough.

First there is the notion of "breach fatigue". If you read the news headlines you would have thought that everyone's bank accounts would be empty by now, and everyone in the United States would have been the victim of identity theft by now. But they haven't. Or they haven't been impacted directly. This leads to the Chicken Little problem.

You see, many security professionals cried that security incidents did not receive enough attention. Then the media took notice, and sensationalized the heck out of incidents to an almost rock-star fervor. The issue here is that I believe people are starting to grow weary of the "Oh no! Hackers are going to steal everything I have!" talk. Every incident is the biggest there has ever been. Every incident is hackers pillaging and stealing countless credit card records and identities. The average person doesn't quite know what to make of this, so they have no choice but to mentally assume the worst. Then - over time - the worst never comes. Sure, some get impacted directly but there is this thing called zero fraud liability (in the case of card fraud) that means they are impacted - but barely enough to notice because their banks make it alright. More on this in a minute.

We as humans have a shocking ability to develop a tolerance to almost anything. Data breach hysteria is no exception. I've now seen and heard people around televisions (at airports, for example, where I happen to be rather frequently) say things like "Oh well, more hackers, I keep hearing about these hackers and it never seems to make a difference." Make no mistake, this is bad.

You see, the other side of the awareness hill, which we are rapidly approaching, is apathy. This is the kind of apathy that is difficult to recover from because we push through the first wave of apathy into awareness, and then hysteria, which leads to a much stronger version of apathy where we will be stuck - I believe. So there we are, stuck.

If I'm honest, I'm sick and tired of all the hype surrounding data breaches. They happen every day of every week, and yet we keep acting like we're shocked that Retailer X, or Company Y was breached. Why are we still even shocked? Many are starting to lose the ability to become shocked - even though the numbers of records breached and scale of the intrusions is reaching absurd proportions.

Second point I'd like to make is around the notion of individual impact. Many people simply say that "this still doesn't impact me" because of a wonderful thing like zero fraud liability. Those 3 words have single-handedly destroyed the common person's ability to care about their credit card being stolen. After you've had your card cloned, or stolen online and had charges show up - you panic. Once you realize your bank has been kind enough to put the funds back, or roll-back the fraudulent charges you realize you have a safety net. Now these horrible, terrible, catastrophic breaches aren't so horrible, terrible and catastrophic. Now they're the bank's problem.

Every time someone has a case of credit card fraud the bank covers under zero fraud liability (and let's face it, most cards and banks have this today) - their level of apathy for these mega-breaches grows. I believe this is true. I also believe there is little we can do about it. Actually, I'm not sure if there is anything that needs to be done about it. Maybe things are just the way they're going to be.

There is a great phrase someone once used that I'm going to paraphrase and borrow here - things are as bad as the free market will support. If I may adapt this to security - the security of your organization is as good (or bad) as your business and your customers will support.

Think about that.