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After eBay recommended its 145 million users change their passwords, it has become evident: eBay will need to work to recover from what can snowball into a major public relations disaster. The popular auction website has been criticized for being slow to identify the data breach and inform users, months after the initial intrusion took place in February and March.
"Clear, concise, timely, and regular communications to those impacted by a breach is one of the key critical factors in successfully managing a security incident and in turn rebuilding customers' trust in you," said Brian Honan, CEO of BH consulting, which is a special adviser to Europol. "Something, I'm afraid eBay have failed to do so far."
In addition to multiple investigations into the breach, as Target is learning the hard way, eBay's reputation will take a hit among its users. Additional U.S. states and other countries could begin to investigate the breach, with announcements likely in the next few weeks.
Former National Security Agency (NSA) contractor Edward Snowden is working with the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB), likely as a technical adviser or consultant, according to Former KGB Maj. Gen Oleg Kalugin. Russia was the first country to offer Snowden asylum, and that likely came at a price, according to the 80-year-old former Russian spy.
"These days, the Russians are very pleased with the gifts Edward Snowden has given them," Kalugin said. "He's busy doing something. He is not just idling his way through life. Whatever he had access to in his former days at NSA, I believe he shared all of it with the Russians, and they are very grateful."
U.S. politicians noted earlier in the year that Snowden was likely living "under Russian influence," and there is growing evidence of this now. Instead of welcoming Snowden back to the U.S. to help reduce NSA-related spying and increase U.S. cybersecurity, he's wanted for cybercriminal charges and espionage.
The United States had 59 percent of cybercrime victims, a whopping lead over the United Kingdom at 14 percent and Australia in third with 11 percent, according to security firm Trustwave. Cybercriminals are making big money with successful data breaches, as customer information and medical records generating lucrative amounts on the black market.
Retail stores also tend to be attacked the most, with 35 percent of overall attacks investigated by Trustwave during 2013. The food and beverage industry was second with 18 percent and hospitality had just 11 percent of the overall number of attacks. In addition to traditional cyberattacks, retailers need to pay closer attention to sophisticated point-of-sale attacks targeting in-store technologies.
"Security is a process that involves foresight, manpower, advanced skillsets, threat intelligence and technologies," noted Robert McCullen, Trustwave CEO, in a press statement. "If businesses are not fully equipped with all of these components, they are only increasing their chances of being the next data breach victim. As we have seen in our investigations, breaches are going to happen. However, the more information businesses can arm themselves with regarding who are their potential attackers, what those criminals are after and how their team will identify, react and remediate a breach if it does occur, is key to protecting their data, users and overall business."
The United States wants to make it more politically uncomfortable for China to launch so many cyberattacks, with various retaliatory options on the table if China doesn't better behave with its numerous cyberespionage activities. Earlier in the year, China was blamed as the leading source of cyberattacks, and the attacks are increasingly towards stealing intellectual property - or disrupting critical infrastructure.
China has recently talked about improving its own Web security practices, in an effort to defend against U.S. and British spying. The Department of Justice filed charges against several Chinese Army officials, signaling a stronger response to foreign-based cyberattacks:
"Criminal charges can justify economic sanctions from our colleagues in the Treasury Department, sanctions that prevent criminals from engaging in financial transactions with U.S. entities and deny access to the U.S. financial system," said John Carlin, Justifice Department national security division head, when discussing the current state of foreign cyberaffairs. "They can facilitate diplomacy by the State Department."
The high-profile eBay data breach has already led to a multi-state investigation, and now cybercriminals are trying to exploit the breach for their own personal gain. A person claiming to have the stolen database of all compromised users and passwords online for 1.45 (about $760) bitcoin isn't providing a legitimate information, according to eBay.
The 3,000-row file has Asia-Pacific usernames, addresses, phone numbers and dates of birth for users - but that doesn't appear to be true. A "free sample" with reportedly extracted names of more than 12,000 accounts "are not authentic eBay accounts," according to eBay.
"It is always tough to tell whether the data is genuine in situations like this," said Rik Ferguson, Trend Micro global VP of security research. "The email addresses I have tested so far do not appear to be sourced from previous breaches."
Even though companies are becoming increasingly aware of cyberattacks and the rising threat they pose, many decision makers are hesitant to spend money to improve security - until a data breach or theft occurs. If an attack doesn't lead to massive financial losses, cybersecurity experts warn, cyberattacks are still being shrugged off. Unfortunately, companies don't think the cost of building a stronger cybersecurity defense is a worthwhile expense, instead focusing on more pressing business matters.
"Until it hits them at home, it won't matter much," said Scott Goldman, security company TExtPower CEO, in a statement. "The very fact that people are becoming numb to the constant stream of breaches indicates the pathetic level of security provided by most online services."
U.S. defense contractor Lockheed Martin said the attacks it faces has quadrupled since 2007, and public utilities also are being caught up in the chaos. Security typically won't lead to increased revenue or profit, and despite looming cyberthreats, it will continue to take a major incident before change is made.
Even though western cybersecurity experts confirm China is a major threat for cyberattacks, the Communications Security Establishment Canada chief was warned not to say China participates in cyberespionage. It's a difficult situation for John Forster and his staff, as public discussions over Chinese-based cyberattacks are becoming more commonplace.
This decision was made in February, and had nothing to do with the U.S. government charging five Chinese Army officers with cyberespionage charges earlier in the week. Meanwhile, the Canadian government has been targeted by likely Chinese attacks, at a time when government agencies are struggling to defend against organized cyberattacks.
"There are now more than 100 nations that possess the capability to conduct cyberoperations on a persistent basis," Forster noted, adding that "our government systems are probed millions of times a day and there are thousands of attempts to compromise these systems every year."
Following its massive data breach, eBay is now reportedly being investigated in at least three U.S. states and an investigation is opening up in Europe. So far, Florida, Connecticut and Illinois are the first, though other states will most likely begin to investigate the breach and how it happened. Consumers are still urged to change their passwords as soon as possible, and not rely on any state or Federal Trade Commission (FTC) investigations just yet.
"The magnitude of the reported eBay data breach could be of historic proportions, and my office is part of a group of other attorneys general in the country investigating the matter," said Pam Bondi, Florida Attorney General, in a press statement.
Media reports indicate UK officials also plan to investigate the massive breach, which compromised more than 100 million users. After the breach was disclosed earlier in the week, eBay confirmed it is currently working with law enforcement officials already.
So much news focuses on end-user security practices, and choosing a password is a very important step to try and keep data secure. Cybercriminals are becoming increasingly savvy in compromising users, relying on a mix of malware and social engineering to steal information.
Instead of a password, choosing a "passphrase" is a good first step; for example, "SantaMonicaBeach," or something that doesn't just rely on a single-word password. Users should also forget about relying on names of pets or family members, as social engineering leads criminals to troll social media accounts to gain additional information on users.
As users tend to have even more passwords, using some type of password manager is a good method to keep passwords under control. If possible, using two-step verification, whenever offered, is an important additional layer of security for users.
The House today clamped down on the National Security Agency's bulk phone surveillance techniques, marking the first time former NSA contractor Edward Snowden's disclosures have led to a government change. It's an important step forward, with a 303-121 vote, as politicians on both sides don't want the NSA being able to collect bulk surveillance information on U.S. citizens.
The USA Freedom Act will now go to the Senate, though some are concerned that this is simply a "watered down" version of the bill - and could still allow the government to weasel through loopholes.
"This legislation was designed to prohibit bulk collection, but has been made so weak that it fails to adequately protect against mass, untargeted collection of Americans' private information," said Nuala O'Connor, Center for Democracy and Technology president and CEO, in a statement.