Russian Cyberthieves Steal 1.2B Passwords

HackersMore than 420,000 websites may be compromised

 LAS VEGAS Security researchers say a Russian crime ring has pulled off the largest known theft of confidential Internet information, including 1.2 billion user name and password combinations and more than 500 million e-mail addresses.   The cybergang injected malicious code to steal databases from at least 420,000 websites, says Alex Holden, founder and chief information security officer for Hold Security in Milwaukee.  “It is absolutely the largest breach we’ve ever encountered,” Holden said late Tuesday.  Most unsettling, he said, was finding his own credentials among the compromised data.

 Hold Security cybersleuths have been monitoring the gang for about seven months but only recently realized the magnitude of its operation, Holden said.  “We thought at first they were run-of-the-mill spammers,” he said, “but they got very good at stealing these databases.”  Holden won’t identify the gang, but he says his investigators know their names and locations. “The perpetrators are in Russia, so not much can be done. These people are outside the law,” he said.  Hold Security said it is trying to contact the victims, but most of the websites remain vulnerable. Holden would not identify the victims but said they included the auto industry, real estate, oil companies, consulting firms, car-rental businesses, hotels, computer hardware and software firms and the food industry. The gang targeted SQL databases, Holden said.  The New York Times first reported the breach Tuesday.

 Word comes as hundreds of the world’s computer security professionals gather here for the Black Hat conference.  While the breach appears to be large, it’s still hard to say if it’s the biggest that has ever been discovered, said Marc Maiffret, chief technical officer at BeyondTrust, a Phoenix-based computer security company. “There’s always lots of changes when the dust settles; it takes months to know” how important a breach was, he said.  The cache of credentials was created by taking advantage of the two most common types of hacking — attacking websites to gain access to underlying databases, as well as going after individuals and “everyday e-mail,” Maiffret said. “It’s really a perfect storm” of an attack.  


Large companies need to acknowledge that modern-day hackers are likely “much better funded than they are,” said security expert Sharon Vardi, who is the chief marketing officer of Securonix.  “These guys are really well funded. These are not 16-year-old kids playing around. They are backed by millions of dollars to get the job done,” he said.   Describing the breach as “easily five times the size of the Target breach,” Vardi said that most organizations are not set up to defend these types of attacks.  “They are not monitoring anomalies in their networks to detect these breaches quickly,” he said.  

Leinwand Leger reported from McLean, Va., Guynn from San Francisco

Victims were said to include the auto industry, oil companies, consulting firms, car-rental businesses, hotels and more.
Donna Leinwand Leger, Elizabeth Weise and Jessica Guynn, USA TODAY 08/06/2014
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