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Brian Pennington

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2013 looks like being a bigger year than 2012 as the ICO starts catching up with the backlog of breaches

2013 has started as 2012 finished off with UK Information Commissioner (ICO) coming down hard on those who breach the Data Protection Act.

So far this January 3 organisations have fallen foul of the ICO:

  1. Sony Computer Entertainment Europe Limited
  2. Mansfield District Council
  3. Prospect Trade Union

Sony Computer Entertainment Europe Limited

Sony Computer Entertainment Europe Limited fined £250,000 after the April 2011 hacking of the Sony PlayStation Network Platform (PSN). That breach resulted in millions of Sony customers having their data stolen including:

  • Names
  • Addresses
  • Email addresses
  • Dates of birth
  • Account passwords
  • Customers’ payment card details were also at risk.

David Smith, Deputy Commissioner and Director of Data Protection, said:

“If you are responsible for so many payment card details and log-in details then keeping that personal data secure has to be your priority. In this case that just didn’t happen, and when the database was targeted – albeit in a determined criminal attack – the security measures in place were simply not good enough.

“There’s no disguising that this is a business that should have known better. It is a company that trades on its technical expertise, and there’s no doubt in my mind that they had access to both the technical knowledge and the resources to keep this information safe.

“The penalty we’ve issued today is clearly substantial, but we make no apologies for that. The case is one of the most serious ever reported to us. It directly affected a huge number of consumers, and at the very least put them at risk of identity theft.

“If there’s any bright side to this it’s that a PR Week poll shortly after the breach found the case had left 77 per cent of consumers more cautious about giving their personal details to other websites. Companies certainly need to get their act together but we all need to be careful about who we disclose our personal information to.”

Mansfield District Council. The council had several incidents of housing benefit claimants personal data being disclosed to the wrong landlord. The ICO has issued a formal undertaking to Mansfield District Council.

Prospect Trade Union. Prospect unfortunately sent two files containing personal details of approximately 19,000 members of the union to an unknown third party email address in error. The ICO has issued a formal undertaking to Prospect.

Both Prospect and Mansfield District Council have agreed “Formal Undertaking”. An undertaking is a detailed and document agreement between the ICO and the organisation that breached the Data Protection Act, specifically how those that have breached the Act will improve their Data Protection regime.

The Sony hack was widely reporting and was a result of an external attack whilst the other two, Prospect and Mansfield District Council were both the result of avoidable human error.

Want to know who was caught in 2012? Read my post 2012 was a big year for the Data Protection Act with record fines and breaches, see the full 2012 list here.

eCrime Trends Report Q1 2011 – Phishing Up – Rustock Down

Internet Identity (IID) has released their eCrime Trends Report: First Quarter 2011.

The report is a summary of statistics and news items from this year’s first quarter and serves as a useful reminder of how regularly breaches occur and how easy it is to forget about the last big breach.

Every month seems to have another record for the largest breach, Epsilon was usurped by Sony, who will be next? This is why quarterly reviews are so important.

The highlights of the IID report are below:

IT security firms in the cybercrime crosshairs

  • Breach of HBGary Federal reveals vulnerability of the extended enterprise
  • Internal emails exposed information about partners and clients
  • RSA Security breach

Notorious Rustock botnet goes offline

  • Microsoft and law enforcement cooperate in unprecedented action to shut down and confiscate criminal servers
  • Significant reduction in spam noted worldwide

Phishing attacks

  • National banks saw increase of 11% over Q4 2010
  • Banks outside the U.S. increased most dramatically
  • Recent database breaches could lead to increased spear phishing in the coming quarter
  • Compared to Q4 2010, Phish targeting larger, national banks increased 11%. Much of the growth was seen in non-US based banks, which took three of the top five spots among banks
  • Phishing in Q1 2011 grew 12% over Q1 2010.

Parts of the Internet went dark in Q1 for a variety of reasons

  • Egyptian ISPs ordered to shut down following Internet-led protests
  • Mooo.com seizure by DHS temporarily suspended 80,000 subdomains
  • Rabobank blackholed its own DNS records in an attempt to combat DDoS attack

“As we’ve seen with recent attacks against Sony’s PlayStation Network and Epsilon, cyber criminals now have inside information about tens of millions of customers to use in highly targeted phishing campaigns,” said IID President and CTO Rod Rasmussen.

“The worry is that with all of this specific data, cyber criminals have all they need to convince people to share their highly valuable personal information. Organizations must ensure they are taking every measure to stop these attacks, including blocking access to phishing sites and command and control domains for malware that exfiltrates data. This should be done with e-mail filtering, firewalls and secure domain name system resolvers.” 

Read the full report here.

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Identity Theft Resource Center found that hacking accounted for the largest number of breaches in 2011 year-to-date

The Identity Theft Resource Center® has found that hacking accounted for the largest number of breaches in 2011 year-to-date.

Almost 37% of breaches between January 1st and April 5th were due to malicious attacks on computer systems. This is more than double the amount of targeted attacks reflected in the 2010 ITRC Breach List (17.1%).

ITRC point out that their findings do not include the large Epsilon Email Breach as the full findings were are to be disclosed and the effects seen. The findings will not include the massive Sony Playstation Network breach as this was after the report.

Anecdotally the ITRC in their press release also refer to other pieces of research

  • Symantec Internet Security Threat Report. This report discloses that over 286 million new threats were identified during 2010. Additionally, the Symantec report said they witnessed more frequent and sophisticated targeted attacks in 2010.
  • McAfee found that the most significant threat to businesses was data leaked accidentally or intentionally by employees.

ITRC views employee breaches as two different types of breaches.

1. Accidental breaches are those that happen by employee mistakes, and while they cause harm, the people who made a mistake never intended to injure the company.

2. The insider who intentionally steals or allows others access to personal information is considered a malicious attacker.

“At first it may be difficult to know if a hacking was perpetrated by an insider or outsider,” says Linda Foley, founder of the ITRC and data breach report manager. “ITRC does not have access to the Secret Service’s forensic information has so we can only report on situations when information is released.   As of April 5, 11.6% of 2011 breaches with known forms of leakage were insider theft.  When these events are added to known hacking attacks, ITRC’s breach database report indicates that 48.2% of published breaches are some form of targeted attack.

Businesses are taking the brunt of hacking attacks, according to published reports of breaches. 

  • 53.6% of all breaches on the ITRC report were business related. 
  • The other categories, “Banking/Credit/Financial,” “Educational,” “Government/Military and Medical/Healthcare all dropped in their respective percentage of reported breaches.

Other ITRC finding include:

  • Nearly half of breached entities did not publicly report the number of potentially exposed records
  • Several medical breaches ranging up to 1.9 million records caused a spike in the total records for the health services field.

ITRC was unable to draw any long term conclusions from these initial findings.

For further details of the ITRC visit.

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