Security Corner

Apr 30 2011   10:37PM GMT

Think You’re Not a Target Because You’re Small? Think Again

Ken Harthun Ken Harthun Profile: Ken Harthun

If you pay attention to mainstream media, you can easily get the wrong idea about online attacks. The press usually only covers the sensational data breaches like the recent Epsilon and Sony fiascoes. Truth is, there are far more people at risk than the press leads you to believe.

Consider the case of Rogelio Hackett, Jr., a 26-year-old hacker from Georgia who recently pleaded guilty to the theft of more than 675,000 credit cards. More than $36 million in damages resulted from his crime. Hackett targeted smaller organizations that had not coded their websites properly, leaving them open to SQL injection attacks. “He exploited SQL vulnerabilities,” say Randy Sabett, partner and co-chair of the Internet and Data Protection practice at law firm SNR Denton LLP. “And despite the fact that SQL injections are well documented, we’re still seeing companies that are getting hit and compromised by that kind of attack.”

This article on the Bank Information Security (BIS) blog gives further details:

According to court records, Hackett began his hacking career in the late 1990s by searching for and exploiting SQL vulnerabilities. More than a decade later, the same method of attack continued to reap rewards. “These SQL injections are allowing someone in through the side fence, not the front door,” Sabett says. Josh Corman, research director of the Enterprise Security Practice at The 451 Group, says SQL injections, oftentimes, go right through firewalls. “That’s why we need to look at application-level security,” Corman says. “Firewalls need to be augmented, with things like web-application firewalls.”

If you are a small business with an e-commerce site that stores transaction information in a SQL database, I would suggest you perform an immediate security audit to reveal any potential vulnerabilities in your system. You just don’t know where an attack may come from. It’s not like it used to be, with high-profile hackers and Eastern European crime syndicates leading they way. These days, it’s more like “disorganized crime.” Smaller, less spectacular crimes are able to stay under the law enforcement and card companies’ radars for longer periods.

Avivah Litan, distinguished analyst at Gartner Research, points out, Hackett’s case highlights how widespread and diverse hacking has become. “For every Rogelio Hackett Jr. that gets arrested, there are likely at least another dozen or more ‘Hacketts’ or ‘hackers’ that are not,” Litan says. (Source: BIS blog)

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