Breaches, breaches everywhere. There has to be a reason for it – criminals aren’t just following a trend like a spring shopper buying the latest styles of shoes. If you put yourself in the shoes of a cybercriminal (not the spring shopper’s), you’ll be able to appreciate how breach data equates money in a number of ways.
If a hacker manages to steal a long list of a few thousand names with their respective social security numbers, they can get pretty good money for it in the underground black market. The possibilities for such a list are pretty open: imagine how scammers and fraudsters can make use of that information. Now, imagine if the list includes names with their respective emails. Money too, right? Now imagine names, emails and passwords. Better yet, imagine all of them put together. Now imagine the list is for millions of names, instead of thousands. Yes, a gold mine that can even be sold multiple times to different gangs of fraudsters.
But cybercriminals haven’t just determined now that this is something good and they should grab this data. They’ve been doing this for years. It’s just that their standard way of doing it has changed: a few years ago, they used Trojans to infect their victims and steal their credentials – they still do that, it’s as good a way as any.
What’s been gradually changing in the cybercriminal landscape in the latest times is that the bad guys have come to the realization that bulk data stealing is more effective when performed at the source. A botmaster can steal email credentials from every one of their bots – normally counting in the thousands – but if they instead hack the email providers, they could potentially get millions of them.
Enter the second factor to this equation: the difficulty level to hack. I’m guessing that hacking a big email provider or a bank is pretty complicated but how about those high street retailers that handle thousands of transactions a day? Logic states that they should be difficult as well but apparently, not so much. These retailers fall in the sweet spot between the amount of data they hold and their hindered security level due to the sheer complexity of their operations. Oh, my! The criminals are hitting the jackpot so often with them that it would be funny only if it wasn’t our credentials they’re plundering.
Among those big retailers are also hotels for pretty much the same reasons. I wouldn’t be surprised if next in line are some bookstores, restaurants, coffee stores or *gasp* gas station chains. Retailers need to realize that they are pretty high up on the target list and they need to start securing their networks sooner rather than later. The loss of reputation that any of these breaches entails should be enough incentive to act quickly by securing any and all data they process. No excuses.
One of our recently released papers, Point of Sale System Breaches – Why The Retail and Hospitality Industries Need Better Security presents more details about this topic, along with information on how such attacks are executed, and the tools used.