A few security lessons from the Target breach

A few security lessons from the Target Breach by Susan Bradley, WindowsSecrets.com

The Target breach points out some facts of life on the Web: We’re all targets (pun intended) of cyber thieves.

Fortunately, there are steps we can take to protect ourselves. Here’s how to protect yourself from the next big breach.

I am a target. I shop online, I shop in large department stores, and I regularly use credit and debit cards. Shopping at large stores that process thousands of sales daily makes me even more of a target, because my transaction information (name, account number, etc.) gets combined with that of all other shoppers. And I became a potential victim when I shopped at Target this past Christmas shopping season.

These days, every time I swipe my credit card on a point-of-sale system, I think to myself: “Is this vendor doing all they can to keep me safe?” Retail companies believe they are; claiming that by following the Payment Card Industry (PCI) standards, they’re doing all they can to keep customer credit-card information safe. But I’m not convinced — especially in the U.S. European credit cards are considered more difficult to hack because they use an onboard security chip rather than the magnetic stripe common on U.S. cards.

This is so true! The article covers some great topics regarding malware designed to attack retail point-of-sale systemsWhen fishing, go for the biggest catch, and Ways to help protect yourself from POS attacks. 

Must read article.

There is also another excellent article from Wired.com that is also a must read:

Target Got Hacked Hard in 2005. Here’s Why They Let It Happen Again by Kim Zetter – Wired Threat Level

A gang of shadowy hackers tears through the systems of big-box retailers, making off with millions of credit and debit card numbers in a matter of weeks and generating headlines around the country.

Target and Neiman Marcus last week? Nope. This oh-so-familiar attack occurred in 2005.

That’s when Albert Gonzalez and cohorts – including two Russian accomplices — launched a three-year digital rampage through the networks of Target, TJ Maxx, and about half a dozen other companies, absconding with data for more than 120 million credit and debit card accounts. Gonzalez and other members of his team eventually were caught; he’s serving two concurrent sentences for his role, amounting to 20 years and a day in prison, but the big-box breaches go on.

The latest string of hacks attacking Target, Neiman Marcus, and others raise an obvious question: How is it that nearly a decade after the Gonzalez gang pulled off its heists, little has changed in the protection of bank card data?

Oh, and just in case you have forgotten them all, here is a list of all the others:

Target got off easy in the first breach: A spokeswoman told Reuters an “extremely limited” number of payment card numbers were stolen from the company by Gonzalez and his gang. The other companies weren’t as lucky: TJX, Hannaford Brothers grocery chain, the Dave & Busters restaurant chain, Office Max, 7-Eleven, BJ’s Wholesale Club, Barnes & Noble, JC Penney, and, most severely, Heartland Payment Systems, were hit hard.

BOLD emphasis mine.

Again, much more in the must read article including sections; What the Target Thieves GotInherent Flaws In the System, and the most telling section, Retailers Oppose Tougher Standards.

And as if that wasn’t bad enough, just yesterday on January 25th, Michael‘s too:

Sources: Card Breach at Michaels Stores by Brian Krebs – KrebsOnSecurity.com

Multiple sources in the banking industry say they are tracking a pattern of fraud on cards that were all recently used at Michaels Stores Inc., an Irving, Texas-based arts-and-crafts retailer that maintains more than 1,250 stores across the United States.

Update 1:34 p.m. ET: The U.S. Secret Service confirmed that it is investigating a potential data breach at Michaels. Also, Michaels has just issued a statement stating that it “recently learned of possible fraudulent activity on some U.S. payment cards that had been used at Michaels, suggesting that the Company may have experienced a data security attack.”

I think Gartner’s analyst Avivah Litan’s quote in the January 17 2014 Wired Threat Level article was spot on:

“It’s a big failure of the whole industry,” says Gartner analyst Avivah Litan. “This is going to keep getting worse, and this was totally predictable a few years ago and no one did anything. Everyone got worked up, and no one did anything.”

Often these days, I will get cash from the bank and use that instead of the card if I plan on visiting any retailers that have been a part of a security breach, which sadly leaves few you can actually feel comfortable using your credit/debit cards online and off.

I wonder how many others will do the same rather than chance the annoyance, the fear of loss of your hard earned money, the frustration of being without a card while it’s replaced when they disable the current one that’s compromised in a security breach or is used in a fraudulent transaction after a breach (even if it’s limited to $50 or whatever, that’s really not much help for the anxiety it puts people through), and finally of course dealing with the aftermath of your information being at large and the potential of someone using that information to impersonate you…believe me, a 6 month or 12 month credit monitoring does not help that much, or help you sleep at night knowing all that information being out there could be used to do as more and more of your information is made available through these breaches.

If retailers and credit/debit card companies want our ‘faith’ in them, and have us get the warm fuzzies regarding them being responsible enough to be trusted with other people’s money, they need to do what’s needed to get that faith back. Period.

And skimping on it like they did in 2005 won’t cut it, nor will the PCI compliance standards and the blame game. Something really needs to be done about this. People need to feel comfortable using credit/debit cards or they will go the way of the dodo.

Fix the problem, not the blame.*

Thanks to the movie, Rising Sun for the quote.

BTW: Might want to check out the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse and their page on data breaches since 2005. There have been quite a few more than just those noted in this posting!

EDIT 1-26-2014 8:508PM: @SecurityGarden posted the following and linked to this article; Exclusive: FBI warns retailers to expect more credit card breaches – Reuters:

@SecurityGarden Status regarding expanding on this posting on the security breaches

@SecurityGarden Status regarding expanding on this posting on the security breaches

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New Twist to Online Tech Support Scam and more

This one has been going on for quite a while, but it is definitely spreading like a bad rash. Just to prove it, one of my clients got a call from one of these while I was actually at their home for an appointment to work on their computer. What’s the chance of that happening? It’s certainly never happened before. And they are definitely using some serious social engineering to fool people into allowing them to get into their computers to quote/unquote fix their computers.

Thanks to Windows Secrets and Fred Langa for the link:

Windows Secrets reader Scott Brande was recently on the receiving end of a typical tech-support con. Recognizing it for what it was, he carefully documented the attempted snow job, then sent in his notes as a service to all Windows Secrets readers.

Check out the rest of Fred Langa’s article for the fully documented story.

And from IC3.gov site:

New Twist to Online Tech Support Scam and more – IC3.gov Scam Alerts (Jan 7, 2013)

NEW TWIST TO ONLINE TECH SUPPORT SCAM

The IC3 continues to receive complaints reporting telephone calls from individuals claiming to be with Tech Support from a well-known software company. The callers have very strong accents and use common names such as “Adam” or “Bill.” Callers report the user’s computer is sending error messages, and a virus has been detected. In order to gain access to the user’s computer, the caller claims that only their company can resolve the issue.

The caller convinces the user to grant them the authority to run a program to scan their operating system. Users witness the caller going through their files as the caller claims they are showing how the virus has infected their computer.

Users are told the virus could be removed for a fee and are asked for their credit card details. Those who provide the caller remote access to their computers, whether they paid for the virus to be removed or not, report difficulties with their computer afterwards; either their computers would not turn on or certain programs/files were inaccessible.

Some report taking their computers to local technicians for repair and the technicians confirmed software had been installed. However, no other details were provided.

In a new twist to this scam, it was reported that a user’s computer screen turned blue, and eventually black, prior to receiving the call from Tech Support offering to fix their computer. At this time, it has not been determined if this is related to the telephone call or if the user had been experiencing prior computer problems.

Unbelievable! MICROSOFT DOESN’T DO THAT!

Avoid tech support phone scams

Cybercriminals don’t just send fraudulent email messages and set up fake websites. They might also call you on the telephone and claim to be from Microsoft. They might offer to help solve your computer problems or sell you a software license. Once they have access to your computer, they can do the following:

  • Trick you into installing malicious software that could capture sensitive data, such as online banking user names and passwords. They might also then charge you to remove this software.
  • Take control of your computer remotely and adjust settings to leave your computer vulnerable.
  • Request credit card information so they can bill you for phony services.
  • Direct you to fraudulent websites and ask you to enter credit card and other personal or financial information there.

Neither Microsoft nor our partners make unsolicited phone calls (also known as cold calls) to charge you for computer security or software fixes.

More here at Microsoft’s article: Avoid Phone Scams

Some more interesting things in the IC3 Scam Alerts:

You might also find the rest of the IC3 Scam Alerts interesting; including a list of the most popular passwords out there. If you are using any of them as passwords, you might just want to change it now!

Also some info on Java Exploit that is for sale for 5 digits! :

Miscreants in the cyber underground are selling an exploit for a previously undocumented security hole in Oracle’s Java software that attackers can use to remotely seize control over systems running the program, KrebsOnSecurity has learned.

Might want to check out: How to Unplug Java from the Browser

Microsoft Security Advisory (2798897)

Microsoft Security Advisory (2798897)

This is a security advisory about fraudulent certificates that need to be revoked!

As Security Garden wrote here:

Microsoft released Security Advisory 2798897 to provide notification regarding a a fraudulent digital certificate issued by TURKTRUST Inc.

TURKTRUST Inc. incorrectly created two subsidiary Certificate Authorities: (*.EGO.GOV.TR and e-islem.kktcmerkezbankasi.org). The *.EGO.GOV.TR subsidiary CA was used to issue a fraudulent digital certificate to *.google.com.

The Certificate Trust list update is available through Windows Updates.

Be sure to apply any Windows Updates that are waiting (showing in the lower right corner in the system tray) to be installed and/or check for Windows Updates manually to be sure you have the update!

This is an important update since fraudulent digital certificates can make spoofing attacks possible.

More information at KrebsOnSecurity here:

Google and Microsoft today began warning users about active phishing attacks against Google’s online properties. The two companies said the attacks resulted from a fraudulent digital certificate that was mistakenly issued by a Turkish domain registrar.

In a blog post published today, Google said that on Dec. 24, 2012, its Chrome Web browser detected and blocked an unauthorized digital certificate for the “*.google.com” domain.

More info from WOT and Firefox and Chrome:

Google blocked both certificates in Chrome on December 26. It now plans to no longer display “Extended Validation” status in Chrome for any certificate issued by TurkTrust. It’s debating whether to also block any connection to HTTPS sites validated by the CA.

Mozilla announced that it too was revoking trust for the two problem certificates in a Firefox update landing next Tuesday. TurkTrust’s root certificate is also being excluded from Firefox for the time being. Microsoft is doing the same, as are other browser vendors.

I would imagine that Apple will be also releasing an update to their Digital Certificate list if this is a universal issue.