Category: Data Breach

How Accidental Data Leaks Happen

It’s easy to assume that all data breaches are the result of criminal activity, but that’s far from true.

A study of data from 2016/17 showed that 92% of security data incidents and 84% of confirmed data breaches were due to accidents or mistakes.

Here are the most common problems leading to leaks of data:

1. Expired Security Certificates

These certificates are an essential component in protecting systems and Equifax found out the hard way in 2017 when hackers accessed huge amounts of confidential data through an expired certificate. This data included 143 million records exposed containing names, addresses, dates of birth, Social Security numbers, and driver license numbers.

The data was stolen by hackers who exposed a vulnerability in Equifax’s web servers. If the relevant security certificates had been updated as they should have been – the hackers couldn’t have used that way in.

2. Unsecured Third Party Vendors

Many websites and complex systems are a mix of the owner’s software plus a variety of third party plugins, addons and linked external services. As in any other part of life – the weakest link determines the safety level of the whole system. If the 3rd parties aren’t adequately secured then the whole system becomes vulnerable.

3. Poor Email Security

Most hackers still gain access through phishing – that is sending out emails that attract people to respond in some way that gives the hackers the information they need to access systems. Maybe it’s through a fake quiz that requires a login and password or an offer of a gift token etc.

Or could just be that people haven’t learned the need to use passwords that are unguessable and not to write them down by their desk.

A company named Nightfall protects systems data and they have created the following article to explain in more detail how accidental data leaks can happen: https://nightfall.ai/resources/accidental-data-leaks/

If you have any experiences with these scams do let me know, by email.

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Easyjet Data Breach

EasyJet announced in May 2020 that the personal data of nine million customers from around the world had been exposed in a data breach. The breach itself occurred in January 2020 and EasyJet did notify the UK Information Commissioner’s Office at that time, but did not tell its customers till April.

Details stolen in the breach include full names, email addresses and travel data with departure dates, arrival dates and booking dates.

Also 2,208 customers had their credit card details accessed after EasyJet was hacked.

A class action claim has been brought against EasyJet by law firm PGMBM.

PGMBM said that the exposure of details of individuals’ personal travel patterns may pose security risks to individuals and is a gross invasion of privacy. Also that under Article 82 of the EU General Data Protection Regulation (EU-GDPR), customers have a right to compensation for inconvenience, distress, annoyance and loss of control of their personal data.

For any Easyjet customers who wish to join the claim there is information available at www.theeasyjetclaim.com.

  1. Are EasyJet customers at risk?

EasyJet says that “there is no evidence that any personal information of any nature has been misused”.

“This was a highly sophisticated attacker. It took time to understand the scope of the attack and to identify who had been impacted.  We could only inform people once the investigation had progressed enough that we were able to identify whether any individuals have been affected, then who had been impacted and what information had been accessed”. 

“In April, we notified a small group of customers whose credit card details had been impacted and offered them support including a dedicated helpline and monitoring”.

“Passwords have not been impacted by this incident”.

Easyjet say that they have contacted all customers who have been impacted. If you have not heard from EasyJet directly, your information is not affected by the incident.

If you have any issues over this data breach, do let me know, by email.

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Dixons Fined for Data Breach

Dixons Carphone has been fined £500,000 by the data watchdog over a computer hack which compromised the personal information of at least 14 million people.

The Information Commissioner’s Office found that hackers were able to access the names, postcodes, email addresses and failed credit checks of millions of people.

The data also included the details of 5.6 million payment cards used between July 2017 and April 2018.

Dixons Carphone says it has no confirmed evidence of any customers suffering fraud or financial loss as a result of the hack.

What Should Business Do to Protect Itself?

  1. Invest in expert cyber security and keep it up to date
  2. Maintain all computer devices with anti-virus and anti-malware and keep that up to date
  3. Regularly check all financial accounts. If you spot anything unusual, contact your provider immediately.
  4. Train staff on security procedures e.g. how to spot phishing attempts
  5. Stay up to date with protection against latest threats
  6. Remember that human beings are usually the weakest link in security.

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Cathay Pacific Data Breach

In 2018, aviation’s biggest data breach occurred when the information on 9.4 million customers was stolen from Cathay Pacific.

Strangely, most of the data accessed was about passenger travel plans and very little about financial information. Only 430 credit card details were stolen and most of those were incomplete or out of date.

Hong Kong’s watchdog – The Privacy Commissioner investigated the data breach and accused Cathay Pacific of two contraventions of law in having insufficient regard for data privacy and taking seven months to disclose the breach.

The data stolen consisted of passenger names, flight details, email address, membership number, phone number, date of birth etc. This included passport numbers in 9% of cases and identity numbers in 6% of cases.

The watchdog said Cathay contravened the law on two counts: first, it did not take all reasonably practicable steps to protect data. Second, Cathay retained Hong Kong identity card numbers 13 years after being collected.

Cathay’s investigation concluded there were two distinct groups of hackers. The first group is traced to October, 2014 when keylogger malware was installed to harvest user information and this attack continued until March 2018.

The second attack occurred in August, 2017 and exploited a vulnerability of an internet facing server, (a long standing and well known security risk). This second group made a brute force attack in March, 2018  that resulted in approximately 500 Cathay staff being locked out of their account, according to the report. The last known activity of the attack was on May 11, 2018.

Cathay said that its operations and flight safety systems were not impacted and flight safety was never compromised. Cathay has already made some changes, and said “as the sophistication of cyber attackers continues to increase, need to and will continue to invest in and evolve our IT security systems.”

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Binance Crypto Exchange Hacked

BINANCE is one of the world’s biggest cryptocurrency exchanges I.e. an exchange for online currencies such as Bitcoin, Ethereum, Ripple etc. .  Hackers patiently built up information and hacked into the services and stole stole 7,000 bitcoin (about $40 million) — but also stole user security codes (two-factor authentication codes and API tokens) which can lead to further thefts.

Binance CEO Zhao Changpeng said “The hackers used a variety of techniques, including phishing, viruses and other attacks”.  “The hackers had the patience to wait, and execute well-orchestrated actions through multiple seemingly independent accounts at the most opportune time. The transaction was structured in a way that passed our existing security checks.”

Binance CEO Zhao Changpeng said “The hackers used a variety of techniques, including phishing, viruses and other attacks”.  “The hackers had the patience to wait, and execute well-orchestrated actions through multiple seemingly independent accounts at the most opportune time. The transaction was structured in a way that passed our existing security checks.”

The  hackers compromised multiple high-net-worth accounts, whose Bitcoin was kept in Binance’s hot wallet—which, unlike cold wallets, are connected to the internet. Anyone who keeps their Bitcoin in a Binance hot wallet should change that immediately.

The hackers got access to security codes for some users and that means they may still control certain user accounts and may use those to influence prices. Binance say they will monitor the situation closely.

Cyber currencies still seem a little like the Wild West and are taking a long time to become mainstream and become as safe as mainstream currency.

If you have any experiences with crypto-currencies do let me know, by email.

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Massive Data Release on Internet

Collection #1 is a data set that was dumped onto the Internet. It contains 773 million email IDs and 21 million passwords and anybody can see the data.

Security researcher Troy Hunt runs the Have I Been Pwned website that lets people check if their email address has been in a data breach and he has analysed the data and uploaded it to his website haveibeenpwned.com so anyone can check if their details are included in this or any other high profile data breach. He does make the actual data available to anybody.

His analysis shows that Collection #1 is a set of email addresses and passwords totalling 2,692,818,238 rows. It’s made up of many different individual data breaches from literally thousands of different sources”

After cleaning the data and removing duplicates, it seems that 772,904,991 unique email addresses, along with 21,222,975 unique passwords are available in plain text. This does not include passwords that were found still in their hashed form.

Importantly, anyone who gets their hands on the cache can easily test the plain-text passwords against actual accounts. Approximately 140 million email accounts and some 10.6 million passwords were not known from past breaches.

If one or more of your accounts are in this data breach, then it is likely that one or more of your old passwords are available for others to see. Make sure you are not still using passwords from years ago.

Check if your accounts are included in the breach and if necessary change passwords and delete unnecessary accounts.

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