The 2007 security hall of shame
- — 27 December, 2007 07:47
How bad was 2007 for breaches, vulnerabilities and similar mayhem? On the bright side, it was better than 2008 is forecast to be. With more of every sort of meltdown predicted -- more criminalization of the hacker community, more Web-application attacks, more phishing, more spamming, more zero-day attacks and more virtualization-related threats -- we're happy to tell you that you are likely to look back on 2007 as the peaceful old days.
What, that doesn't cheer you up? Hmm. All right, then -- wallow in previous misery with a quick look back at some of the notable security events of 2007. Just remember: It's all in the past now ... it's all in the past now ...
A brace of breaches: 2007's five worst
In a league of its own: The TJX Companies. The 2006 data breach news landscape was dominated by the compromise at the Department of Veterans Affairs, but this year commercial interests took the (booby) prize -- in particular, retailer TJX. The breach it disclosed in January (several months after the fact) was the biggest ever involving payment card data.
TJX itself claimed that over 45.6 million cards belonging to customers were compromised in an intrusion that went undetected for over 18 months; however, several banks suing the company claim the actual number is 94 million cards, a vast majority of them issued by Visa. The breach prompted numerous lawsuits and calls for stronger data protection laws -- and, unfortunately, engendered a spate of fraudulent card use.
Despite its scope, some believed that analyst firm Forrester Research was overestimating when it predicted early in the saga that the breach could end up costing TJX US$1 billion over the next few years. But nearly 11 months after the breach was disclosed, that number no longer seems so outlandish: By TJX's own estimates, the company has already spent or set aside close to US$250 million for costs stemming from the incident.
The UK's VA: HMRC misplaces records on 25 million kids In November, the UK's HM Revenue & Customs managed to achieve VA-level snafu status when it disclosed that it lost computer disks containing personal information on 25 million juvenile benefit claimants. The disks, which were not encrypted, disappeared in transit to the country's National Audit Office and included bank details and national ID numbers. Analyst firm Gartner predicted the processes of closing accounts and establishing new ones to protect against potential fraud resulting from the breach could end up costing British banks in the region of US$500 million.
The system was broken brokered: Fidelity National Information Services Personal information on over 8.5 million individuals was compromised when a senior database administrator working at Certegy Check Services, a subsidiary of Fidelity National, illegally downloaded the data and sold it to brokers. Fidelity National, which is separate from the better known Fidelity Investments, initially said that only 2.5 million records had been compromised when it first disclosed the breach in July. A few weeks later, it quietly upped the number to 8.5 million in filings with the US Securities and Exchange Commission. According to the company, the stolen data appears to have been resold primarily for direct marketing purposes and not for ID theft or other sorts of fraud.
Some honor among thieves: TD Ameritrade Holding Brokerage firm Ameritrade disclosed in September that someone had broken into one of its systems and stolen contact information such as names, addresses and phone numbers belonging to its more than 6.2 million retail and institutional customers. However, Social Security numbers and account numbers that were also stored in the same database appeared, according to the company, to have been left untouched. The stolen data was apparently used for the purposes of sending stock-related spam.
Creatures from the hack lagoon: Monster.com Names, e-mail addresses, mailing addresses, phone numbers and resume IDs belonging to an estimated 1.6 million job seekers were accessed from Monster.com's resume database in August. Though widely described as a hacking, what actually happened was that information was accessed by attackers using legitimate user names and passwords -- were most likely stolen from professional recruiters and human resource personnel using Monster.com to look for job candidates. No Social Security numbers or financial data was compromised in the breach.