Posts Tagged ‘fraud’

Everyone’s favourite daytime TV show This Morning featured a selection of RFID Protect products during a slot about credit card fraud and the fast-growing issue of ‘e-pickpocketing‘.  During a five-minute feature, presenter Phillip Schofield showcased RFID Protect’s latest Leather Multi-card Holder, which has been designed in collaboration with crime-reduction officers at Victoria Police, Australia and is new to the UK.

Mr Schofield was visibly shocked at the ease by which information can be ‘skimmed’ from a contactless credit or debit card; during a demonstration given by Thomas Cannon (Director of Research and Development) at American company ViaForensics.

First shown on Thursday 10th May, 2012 the programme can be viewed again for a limited period, at and a direct link to their Crime File discussion area for this particular issue can be found at:

A spokesman for RFID Protect said,

“…we’re absolutely thrilled that ITV came to us for guidance on the whole issue of ‘e-pickpocketing’, and what members of the public can do to better protect their contactless bank cards.  Working with the team on This Morning has been a great pleasure; it’s great to receive so much positive feedback about our work and products.”


“…ITV has very kindly agreed to provide viewers with a direct link to our products from their main website.  This will go live shortly, but in the meantime our full range of RFID shielding kit can be purchased on-line at:

In early November 2011, BBC News services reported that malware attacks on UK Android Apps, and smartphone fraud in general had risen by a staggering 800% since this time last year!!!!  Today we learn from The Telegraph newspaper that,

“…the majority of Britons are scared of ‘wave and pay’, [and with] only a small minority of people keen to use their mobiles like wallets. [Many] fear that ‘wave and pay’ apps will lead to greater security breaches”. 

Emma Barnett, Digital Media Editor for the Telegraph elaborated stating,

“…[the] Intersperience study, which polled 1,000 people as part of a larger project entitled ‘Digital Selves’, found that phone hacking fears are dominating consumers’ security concerns when thinking about adopting new mobile wallet payment systems.”

A spokesperson for Paypal recently intimated that mass adoption of contactless payments for products using mobile phones, or smart credit cards is at least three years away.  This is perhaps not surprising given that very few UK retailers offer this type of payment option to their customers.

Meanwhile, UK company RFID Protect has announced its intentions to offer a solution for smartphone users wary of this technology.  It comes in the shape of a simple App that will be launched mid 2012, and made available to download from

So before too long, iPhone and Android users will have the option to disable their NFC (Near Field Communication) feature and in the words of a RFID Protect spokesperson, “MAKE YOURSELF INVISIBLE’ to would be phone hackers, e-pickpockets and e-payment skimmers.  Apparently, there’s a timer function too – so users get to determine the amount of time their phone can be read by third parties.

Read the full Telegraph article at:

First published on the: 14 October 2011

Flashback to 2005 for a moment, and witness the arrival of new advice for the US banking sector concerning how best to marshal its risks in respect of online e-payments.  This guidance came from none other than the Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council (FFIEC) – an interagency body of the United States government empowered to prescribe uniform principles, and standards, across all US financial institutions.

Now fast forward to the present day.  Digital security expert, Adam Dolby of Gemalto, recently made the following comments,

“…the 2005 guidance was stricter than its predecessor because most banks had failed to take action. The FFIEC was hoping the banks would self- regulate, but that didn’t happen!”

It now transpires that rather than acting upon the FFIEC guidance, many key players within banking instead opted for a ‘minimum compliance’ approach, or in simple terms – ‘what can we get away with’.  So, if our banks are reluctant to spend money on payment authentication, and on-line security, then it’s perhaps not unreasonable to form the view that losses through fraudulent activities are merely absorbed by the banks; i.e. it’s just the price of doing business on-line.

Dolby continues stating,

“…when we rolled out internet banking we educated people and told them it was safe, protected behind firewalls and secure socket layers. And now everyone thinks it’s safe.”

It’s an interesting statement, one that hints to ongoing security threats for e-payments; ones which the banks are not necessarily equipped to counteract.  Movie fans may draw parallels with the Brad Pitt and Edward Norton film ‘Fight Club’.  In the movie, Norton’s character talks about how automotive giants determine whether a car should be recalled once found unsafe.

Edward Norton: A new car built by my company leaves somewhere travelling at 60 mph. The rear differential locks up. The car crashes and burns with everyone trapped inside. Now, should we initiate a recall? Take the number of vehicles in the field, (A), multiply by the probable rate of failure, (B), multiply by the average out-of-court settlement, (C).

A x B x C = X.

If X is less than the cost of a recall, we don’t do one.

Woman on plane: Are there a lot of these kinds of accidents?

Edward Norton: You wouldn’t believe.

Woman on plane: Which car company do you work for?

Edward Norton: A major one.

So when your bank tells you that a new ‘contactless’ payment card is 100% secure, perhaps you’ll keep in mind their track record for ‘security’ and their approach to acting on the advice of independent regulators such as the FFIEC.  There’s probably nothing to worry about, but just to be on the safe side then why not avoid potential mayhem and consider a low-cost ‘anti-skim’ sleeve for that new ‘contactless’ credit or debit card; such as those that can be purchased from RFID Protect.

This article makes reference to an original story in Digital ID News:

Eavesdropping attacks on RFID enabled devices, such as e-passports and contactless credit cards or secure door entry systemsThis extraordinary academic paper, with its practical experiments, presents actual ‘proof-of-concept’ eavesdropping attacks across a range of RFID enabled devices.

The author, G.P. Hancke (of the British-based Smart Card Centre / Information Security Group at University of London), demonstrates how he implemented successful attacks on the three most popular High Frequency (HF) standards: ISO 14443A, ISO 14443B and ISO 15693.

What some may find particularly disturbing is that in each case Hancke not only describes the equipment needed to execute an attack, but also how an effective RFID receiver kit can be constructed for less than £50.

“Even though the self-build RF receiver did not achieve the same results as commercial equipment – it does illustrate that eavesdropping is not beyond the means of the average attacker.” says Hancke.

Read the full PDF report here

And then protect yourself against unauthorised ‘contactless’ eavesdropping here

A decade of database hacking?The UK banking sector appears pretty confident in its assertions that ‘contactless’ technology is 100% secure from unauthorised access, and similar claims are also made in respect of Britain’s e-passport.  The argument goes something like this; without an ability to cross-reference information that has been ‘skimmed’ from a contactless device with a user profile that is held within a central database – then the data obtained by the ‘skimmer’ is meaningless.  It’s a reasonable argument, one that makes sense and ought to offer us a very real measure of confidence in ‘contactless’ banking.  However, with the announcement that Sony’s PlayStation has fallen victim to a serious hacking incident, leaving users vulnerable to ID theft, some may wonder just how many customer databases elsewhere have been compromised in recent years?

The results of a very ‘quick and dirty’ trawl through certain internet news portals, looking for examples of database hacking, makes for unsettling reading.

But do keep in mind there’s no need to worry unduly about contactless crime; as a number of products are already available that will allow any concerned carrier of RFID-enabled cards or passports to shield their data. For instance RFID Protect in the UK, offers a wide range of ‘anti-skim’ shielding products.

So here’s a snapshot of some newsworthy hacks – or data losses – over the past decade.

28 February 2014: Suffolk hacker charged with accessing U.S. Federal Reserve servers

Four months following his arrest in Suffolk, England by UK law enforcement agencies, Lauri Love has been charged with gaining unlawful access to U.S. Federal Reserve and military computer servers.  He is further accused of widely disclosing sensitive information about individuals who use these systems; such as access names, email addresses and telephone details.

Although the extent of the data breach is not yet clear, the hacker appears to have deployed a “sequel injection” hacking technique and his transgression is considered serious enough to warrant a potential 10 year prison sentence.

Evidence has emerged that the hacker may have worked alongside three co-conspirators to infiltrate other systems; such as the U.S. Missile Defence Agency, NASA and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.


13 February 2014: Hackers gain access to over 2,000 customer accounts

UK supermarket giant is “urgently investigating” a significant data breach, which has seen over 2,000 customer accounts hacked by a third party.  BBC sources suggest that users’ passwords and email addresses were compromised; the details of which have been posted online in an attempt to acquire store vouchers unlawfully.

Tesco has issued a public statement of reassurance and claims it has contacted all customers who may have been affected by this security breach.

Cross-referencing customer information from other successful (and unrelated) hacking incidents elsewhere appears to have been central to the breach.


12 January 2014: Hackers steal the personal information of at least 70 million customers from high-street retailers over the festive season

American luxury specialty department store, Neiman Marcus, has admitted that it has also fallen prey to a massive cyber attack – which began with Target’s December 19 disclosure that some 40 million payment card numbers had been stolen.

On Friday January 11 2014, a spokesperson for The Target Corporation issued a statement to the effect that, “…this data breach was worse than initially thought.”

A subsequent investigation has established that hackers successfully stole the personal information of at least 70 million customers; including names, mailing addresses, telephone numbers and email addresses.

70 million customers – in a word, staggering!


23 April 2013: UK Police Forces apologise after staff data sent to a private security firm

Cambridgeshire, Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire police forces issued formal apologies to over 1,000 staff after mistakenly releasing their personal details to G4S (a private security contractor). A spokesperson for the three police forces explained that the breach occurred during negotiations with G4S, concerning the potential to outsource certain office functions.

G4S confirmed that any files containing sensitive date had now been deleted, and the police authorities issued apologies to those staff affected.

David Craig from the union Unison said: “Many of the members of staff affected are understandably angry and will be reviewing their individual position following any determination by the ICO at the appropriate time.”

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has made a firm commitment to investigate this matter.


29 August 2012: Cambridge University hacked

The University of Cambridge has announced it will investigate serious hacking claims linked to certain software systems on campus.  Media sources have revealed that several university departments and ‘secure’ databases were unlawfully accessed by hacking outfit ‘NullCrew’.  There is a growing suspicion that NullCrew has ties with hacking network ‘Anonymous’ and its action at Cambridge University has in some way been an attempt to support the WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.


16 November 2011: Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) hacked

Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) released a statement regarding an incident of unauthorized access to a campus computing server. The VCU server housed files with the personal information on more than 175,000 current and former faculty, staff, students and affiliates. Servers supporting a VCU system uncovered suspicious files on one of its servers. During forensic investigation, subsequent analysis then showed the intruders had compromised a second server – thru the first server attack – which contained data on 176,567 individuals.

Data items included either a name or eID, Social Security Number and, in some cases, date of birth, contact information, and various programmatic or departmental information.


1 November 2011: UK local councils – a history of misplacing our private data

A new report makes the disturbing claim that some 132 authorities are implicated in over 1,034 individual instances of private data loss since 2008.  The report has revealed that, “…at least 244 laptops and portable computers, 98 memory sticks and 93 mobile devices went missing between 2008 and 2011.”

In light of this development, The Information Commissioner (ICO) reminded the 132 councils involved of their obligations under the Data Protection Act (2003), i.e. to keep private data secure.

Only 55 incidents were reported to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) and just 9 people were ousted as a consequence, according to those councils which responded.


15 June 2011: Citibank & International Monetary Fund (IMF) hacked

Last week’s data breach at Citibank, which is said to have compromised the personal details of up to 200,000 consumers, was followed on Monday by a reported hack at the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Serious incidents at two of the world’s most high-profile financial institutions within a matter of days of one another has once again highlighted the need for new legislation to govern online financial services and ensure authentication is in place.


14 June 2011: National Health Service (NHS) UK database hacked

Computer hackers have penetrated NHS systems, triggering fears that the security of highly sensitive patient records is at risk. The hackers are part of the same online gang that recently hacked into electronics giant Sony, accessing the images of a million users.  The self-styled ‘pirate ninjas’, known as Lulz Security, sent a warning to the NHS that its computer networks were vulnerable to cyber attack. In an email to health staff, hackers gave evidence of some of the passwords, saying: ‘While you aren’t considered an enemy – your work is of course brilliant – we did stumble upon several of your admin passwords.’

The hackers added: ‘We mean you no harm and only want to help you fix your tech issues.’


21 May 2011: Lockheed Martin Corporation in near-miss hacking episode

Lockheed Martin Corp., the U.S. government’s top information technology provider, released a statement to the effect that it detected and thwarted, “a significant and tenacious attack” on its information systems network in May 2011.  The statement continued stating that Lockheed’s information security personnel, “…are working around the clock to restore employee access to the “information systems network” targeted in the May 21 attack.” Bethesda, Maryland-based Lockheed, the Pentagon’s No. 1 supplier by sales and the world’s largest aerospace company, has kept the “appropriate U.S. government agencies” informed of its actions, it added.


27 April 2011: Sony’s PlayStation hacked

We have discovered that between April 17 and April 19, 2011, certain PlayStation Network and Qriocity service user account information was compromised in connection with an illegal and unauthorized intrusion into our network.  Although we are still investigating the details of this incident, we believe that an unauthorized person has obtained the following information that you provided: name, address (city, state/province, zip or postal code), country, email address, birthdate, PlayStation Network/Qriocity passwords and login and handle/PSN online ID. It is also possible that your profile data, including purchase history and billing address (city, state, zip), and your PlayStation Network/Qriocity password security answers may have been obtained. If you have authorized a sub-account for your dependent, the same data with respect to your dependent may have been obtained. While there is no evidence that credit card data was taken at this time, we cannot rule out the possibility. If you have provided your credit card data through PlayStation Network or Qriocity, to be on the safe side we are advising that your credit card number (excluding security code) and expiration date may also have been obtained.


20 April 2011: Children’s Place says customer database hacked

(Reuters) – Children’s Place Retail Stores Inc said its customer database has been hacked, and clients were sent an unauthorized email directing them to a website where they were asked to enter their credit card numbers for a software upgrade. The company notified customers about the hacking on Tuesday evening through an email. “Our third party email service provider has informed us that only email addresses were accessed and no other personal information was obtained,” the company said in the email. “The Children’s Place would not ask you, in an email, to update any software or for other highly sensitive personal information,” the email said. The Secaucus, New Jersey-based company has been leaning heavily on e-commerce sales to boost business.


18 April 2011: European Space Agency hacked

A hacker has claimed to have breached the European Space Agency, gaining access to and publishing online what appears to be 200 usernames, passwords and email addresses related to the organisation, along with details on root servers and databases.


14 April 2011: WordPress hacked

Open source blogging website suffered a hack attack on its servers, prompting the company behind the popular content management system to issue a warning about passwords. In a brief note from Automattic, it said that an intruder broke into and gained access to multiple servers and the source code that powers blogs for its VIP customers, including CNN, CBS, Flickr and TED. This attack follows a distributed-denial-of-service attack that knocked WP offline last month.


13 April 2011: Barracuda Networks Embarrassed By Database Hack

Hacked security company Barracuda lost email addresses of employees, channel partners and sales leads. Security software producer Barracuda Networks was hit by a SQL injection attack launched on April 9 while the company’s own Barracuda Web Application Firewall was offline for scheduled maintenance, Michael Perone, Barracuda Network executive vice president, wrote on the corporate blog. The attacker uncovered email addresses of select Barracuda employees with their passwords as well as name, email address, company affiliations and phone numbers of sales leads generated by the company’s channel partners. Barracuda does not store any financial information in that database. “The bad news is that we made a mistake,” Perone said.


4 April 2011: JPMorgan, Kroger Database Hacked

Personal information about some JPMorgan Chase & Co and Kroger Co customers was exposed as part of a data breach at a large online marketing vendor. The data breach included some email addresses of JPMorgan Chase customers and names and email addresses of Kroger customers, the companies said in separate statements on Friday. Epsilon, a unit of Alliance Data Systems Corp, said on Friday that a person outside the company hacked into some of its clients’ customer files. Some of Epsilon’s other clients include Verizon, Blackstone Group LP’s Hilton Hotels, Kraft, and AstraZeneca.


31 March 2011: IEEE member database hacked

Over 800 members’ credit card details exposed. A hacker stole the credit card details of over 800 members of the IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) last December, according to its law firm.  A team of IEEE-appointed forensic investigators “concluded that a file containing customer credit card information had been deleted on or about November 17, 2010”, the institute’s law firm told the Attorney General of New Hampshire in February.  The forensic team believed that 828 members’ credit card numbers, associated names, expiration dates and security numbers may have been accessed.


29 March 2011: Australia PM Julia Gillard’s computer ‘hacked'(original article Written by BBC News)

The government was alerted to the security breach by a US intelligence tip-off, Sydney’s Daily Telegraph said. It is reported that several thousand emails may have been accessed from the computers of at least 10 ministers. The Australian authorities have refused to confirm or deny on the reports. The cyber attacks are believed to have targeted the Australian Parliament House email network, the less secure of two networks used by MPs. Among the computers allegedly breached were those belonging to Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd and Defence Minister Stephen Smith.


24 March 2011: TripAdvisor database hacked – email addresses compromised

If you have ever rated something on TripAdvisor, you may be in for a nasty surprise in your inbox in the coming weeks. Last weekend, hackers penetrated the TripAdvisor member database and stole up to 20 million records. In a statement issued by TripAdvisor on their site, the only information they say was impacted involved email address. TripAdvisor does not store credit card information or other financial data and passwords are said to be secure. As a precaution, it may still be safe to change your TripAdvisor password and anywhere else you used that same password.


24 March 2011: Have cybercriminals hacked Visa/Mastercard 3-D Secure?

You’re probably familiar with the 3-D Secure system of card security for online transactions – aka Verified by Visa (for Visa) and SecureCode (for MasterCard) – but now a security researcher is reporting that cybercriminals may have found a way around the online transaction security. According to former Washington Post security researcher Brian Krebs, a dashboard panel in a cracking utility he accessed online has a tab labelled `Arcot.’ “Arcot Systems is the company whose software powers the authentication system used by MasterCard’s SecureCode and Visa’s Verified by Visa programs”, he says in his latest security blog. “What’s interesting is that the thieves could defeat these security systems by gathering personal data on victim card holders, which they appear to have done here”, he adds. Krebs goes on to note that the panel, like others used in tandem with Zeus – for example, Jabberzeus – is also is set up to alert the botmaster via Jabber instant message when a new set of credentials is stolen. Infosecurity notes that this is a potentially serious development, as the 3-D Secure passphrase system was developed to authenticate online users’ payment card transactions. If the technology has been subverted by hackers in an automated package/service in this way, there could be serious consequences for online card security.


21 March 2011: Hacked security firm leaves Aussies vulnerable

Hundreds of thousands of cryptographic tokens used by Australians who bank online, governments, airline staff and other large companies vulnerable to a potential hack attack.


21 February 2011: Hackers Penetrate Nasdaq Computers

Hackers have repeatedly penetrated the computer network of the company that runs the Nasdaq Stock Market during the past year, and federal investigators are trying to identify the perpetrators and their purpose, according to people familiar with the matter. The exchange’s trading platform—the part of the system that executes trades—wasn’t compromised, these people said. However, it couldn’t be determined which other parts of Nasdaq’s computer network were accessed. Investigators are considering a range of possible motives, including unlawful financial gain, theft of trade secrets and a national-security threat designed to damage the exchange.

“So far, [the perpetrators] appear to have just been looking around,” said one person involved in the Nasdaq matter. Another person familiar with the case said the incidents were, for a computer network, the equivalent of someone sneaking into a house and walking around but—apparently, so far—not taking or tampering with anything.

A spokesman for Nasdaq declined to comment.


11 January 2011: UConn Customer Database Hacked

UConn is warning thousands of customers who bought items on it’s website that their personal information may have been exposed in a data security breach. A hacker obtained access to the database containing billing information for 18,000 customers. The website is used by people to buy sports gear from the UConn Co-op. The information at risk includes customers’ names, addresses, email, telephone number, credit card number, expiration date and security code, according to the university. The database is run by an outside vendor, which contacted the Co-op about the security breach. It is still unclear how many accounts were actually accessed, UConn said in a release. The Co-op instructed the vendor to take down the database, and has notified authorities, the release stated. Customers who purchased items in the Co-op with a credit card, or students to bought text books or made purchases in the store are not at risk. Those affected were notified by the Co-op, and a process has begun to arrange for credit protection for those customers, the university said.


20 December 2010: English Defence League donor details ‘stolen’ after database hacked

Police are believed to be investigating the security breach, which also included the far-Right groups’s payment system being illegally accessed, The Daily Telegraph can disclose. Amid fears of violence toward members, the EDL said it will support vulnerable people. They also urged members to change their online shopping details after concerns were raised that they would be published on the internet. Officials were forced to email supporters after the incident, which is understood to have occurred in recent days, apologising for the “attack”.


13 December 2010: McDonald’s: Customer Database Hacked

McDonald’s Corp. says some of its customers’ private information was exposed during a data breach. The company said Monday that a third-party was able to get past security measures and see into a database of its customer information that included e-mail, phone numbers, addresses, birth dates and other specifics that they provided when signing up for online promotions or other subscriptions to its websites.


12 December 2010: Gawker Commenter Database Hacked

If you’ve ever commented on one of the Gawker Media sites, you might want to change your password. According to Mediaite, Gawker’s commenter database has been hacked. The database is home to about 1.5 million usernames, emails, and passwords. Gawker originally denied that there had been a breach. “No evidence to suggest any Gawker Media’s user accounts were compromised, and passwords encrypted anyway,” tweeted Gawker editorial directer Scott Kidder. However, Kidder eventually confirmed the hack.”Our user databases do indeed appear to have been compromised,” he said in a note on the site. “The passwords were encrypted. But simple ones may be vulnerable to a brute-force attack You should change the password on Gawker (GED/commenting system) and on any other sites on which you’ve used the same passwords. Out of an abundance of caution, you should also change your company email password and any passwords that might have appeared in your email messages.”


9 December 2010: Cyberattacks against MasterCard, Visa, PayPal

Hackers launched cyberattacks yesterday against MasterCard, Visa, PayPal, a Swiss bank, Swedish prosecutors, Sarah Palin and others deemed an enemy of WikiLeaks and its jailed founder, Julian Assange. Calling themselves “Anonymous,” the hackers, who previously waged war against the Church of Scientology, overloaded the target Web sites with “denial of service” attacks. “If we let WikiLeaks fall without a fight, then governments will think they can just take down any sites they wish,” one hacker told The Guardian newspaper of Britain.


31 August 2009: UK Parliament Website Hacked

A hacker broke into the database of the UK Parliament website by exploiting an SQL injection vulnerability. The incident reveals very poor and questionable password security practices on behalf of the website administration. The security hole on was discovered by a Romanian greyhat hacker going by the online handle of “Unu,” who has made a habit of testing high profile websites for similar bugs. The website’s database is called parliament_live; fortunately, it cannot be accessed directly from a remote host. What is more disconcerting though is what a peak into the database table housing the website’s administrative accounts revealed. First of all, the passwords are stored in plain text, which is a major security oversight. Secondly, the passwords are very weak from a security perspective, many being identical to the username they are associated with and almost all of them being common words. One of the accounts called “fullera” is likely to belong to Alex Fuller, who, according to his LinkedIn profile page, is currently employed as a senior web producer for the UK Parliament. Two other accounts that have captured our attention are called “reida” and “moss,” but we are unable to confirm if these belong to Mr. Alan Reid, Liberal Democrat MP, and Mr. Malcolm Moss, Conservative MP.


11 September 2009: RBS WorldPay downplays database hack reports

RBS WorldPay and a hacker are at loggerheads over the seriousness of a supposed breach on websites run by the payment processing firm. Security shortcomings – since blocked – on RBS WorldPay website exposed confidential information, including admin passwords and the contact details of partners, according to blog posts by Romanian hacker Unu. The grey-hat hacker previously exposed similar problems on the websites of the UK parliament and HSBC France, among many others. As before he published screenshots to back up his latest claims. RBS WorldPay initially responded to our inquiries by saying that the reported SQL injection attacks mounted by Unu were thrown against test websites. All the dummy data involved was fictitious and in no way confidential, so there was no breach.


16 July 2009: Five NHS Trusts slammed by ICO for breaching Data Protection Act

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has issued more warnings to NHS bodies after five Trusts have been found to breach the Data Protection Act, with one trust leaving patient notes on a bus. The latest warnings join a long list of data protection warnings by the NHS, as the ICO once again warned hospital trusts about the importance of data security. In February, three trusts were hit with enforcement action within two weeks. Five trusts – Royal Free Hampstead, Chelsea and Westminster, Hampshire Partnership, Surrey and Sussex, and Epsom and St Helier — have signed formal undertakings to process personal data legally in future, the ICO said on Tuesday. NHS knuckle-rapped for lax data protection


10 June 2009: T-Mobile confirms customer records taken

T-Mobile has now confirmed that a hacker, known as “Pwnmobile,” gained unauthorized access to its records and that the stolen data Pwnmobile posted online is authentic. A spokesman for the wireless giant said,  “…regarding the recent claim, we’ve identified the document from which information was copied, and believe possession of this alone is not enough to cause harm to our customers.”


11 May 2009: UC Berkeley Database Hacked, 160,000 Records Compromised

The FBI is investigating a data breach that occurred when hackers infiltrated a medical database shared by the University of California, Berkeley, and Mills College that contained health-care information and Social Security numbers for more than 160,000 students, alumni and their families. Security experts say the hack could have been prevented by protecting the sensitive medical information stored on easily accessible spreadsheets. News of the data breach came to light Friday after it was discovered that hackers had broken into a medical database UC Berkeley shared with Mills College that contained health-related information for students, alumni and their families.The stolen data included more than 97,000 Social Security numbers, as well as health insurance information and nontreatment medical information, such as immunization records and the names of some of the physicians the victims have seen for diagnoses or treatment. UC Berkeley officials said, however, that personal records, such as patients’ treatments and therapies, were stored on a separate system not affected by the data breach.


30 April 2009: UK hospital loses the medical treatment details of 741 patients

Addenbrooke’s Hospital, in Cambridgeshire was instructed by the Information Commissioners Office (ICO) to overhaul its security in the wake of a massive data loss in 2008.  It transpires that a USB memory stick – (or ‘flash drive’) – containing the unencrypted medical treatment details of 741 patients went missing after, “…a member of staff left it in an unattended vehicle”.  Although the device was subsequently returned to Addenbrooke’s Hospital, its governing body Cambridge University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust was found to be in breach of The Data Protection Act (2003).

The Hospital has made a firm commitment to review its security measures and will seek to protect personal information more effectively in the future.


3 March 2009: Prime Minister’s health records breached in NHS database attack

Personal medical records belonging to Scotland’s rich and powerful – including Prime Minister Gordon Brown and Holyrood’s First Minister Alex Salmond – have been illegally accessed in a breach of a national database that holds details of 2.5 million people. The files contained names, ages, addresses, and occupations of the patients, in addition to medical information such as a list of any current medications and allergies to medicines, according to The Sunday Mail. The records of BBC newswoman Jackie Bird (an earlier version of this story mistakenly referred to her as “newsman”) and former Labour leader Jack McConnell and his culture chief wife Bridget were also accessed.


1 January 2009: Monster’s databases hacked – Data fraud hits job seekers

Monster Worldwide Inc., the popular global website for job hunters, said Tuesday that hackers have broken into its databases and stolen personal data. Monster spokeswoman Nikki Richardson confirmed that sites around the world had been targeted, but said some regions, notably Asia Pacific and eastern Europe, were spared. She said Monster was working with the “appropriate law enforcement agencies” but declined to say in which countries. In the United States, where the company is based, “an investigation is in progress.” Monster operates in 36 countries with millions of users, including 4.5 million in Britain. A statement on said: “We recently learned our database was illegally accessed and certain contact and account data were taken, including Monster user IDs and passwords, email addresses, names, phone numbers, and some basic demographic data.” The breach did not access resumes, social security numbers or financial data, Monster said. The company advised clients to change their password and said it had taken its own “corrective steps.”  The company processes 100 million payment card transactions every month for 175,000 businesses, USA Today daily reported.


23 August 2005: U.S. Military Database Hacked – Air Force Personnel Files For 33,000 Officers And Others At Risk

A suspected hacker has tapped into a U.S. military database containing Social Security numbers and other personal information for 33,000 Air Force officers and some enlisted personnel, an Air Force spokesman said Tuesday. That figure represents about half of the officers in the Air Force, but no identity theft had been reported as of early Tuesday, said Tech. Sgt. James Brabenec, a spokesman at Randolph Air Force Base. The case was under investigation. “We are doing everything we can to catch and prosecute those responsible,” Maj. Gen. Tony Przybyslawski said in a statement. Social Security numbers, birth dates and other information was accessed sometime in May or June, apparently by someone with the password to the Air Force computer system, Brabenec said. On Friday, the people affected were notified of steps they can take to protect their identity, he said.


18 June 2005: 40 Million Credit Card Numbers Hacked – Data Breached at Processing Center (Washington Post Staff Writers)

More than 40 million credit card numbers belonging to U.S. consumers were accessed by a computer hacker and are at risk of being used for fraud, MasterCard International Inc. said yesterday. In the largest security breach of its kind, MasterCard officials said all credit card brands were affected, including 13.9 million cards bearing the MasterCard label. A spokeswoman for Visa USA Inc. confirmed that 22 million of its card numbers may have been breached, while Discover Financial Services Inc. said it did not yet know if its cards were affected. MasterCard officials said consumers are not held responsible for unauthorized charges on their cards, and that other sensitive personal data, such as Social Security numbers and birth dates, were not stored in the hacked system. So far, no evidence of fraudulent charges has emerged, they said. The breach occurred late last year at a processing center in Tucson operated by CardSystems Solutions Inc., one of several companies that handle transfers of payment between the bank of a credit card-using consumer and the bank of the merchant where a purchase was made. CardSystems’ computers were breached by malicious code that allowed access to customer data, said Josh Peirez, a MasterCard senior vice president. Peirez said MasterCard is certain only that 68,000 of its numbers were taken by the hacker over an unknown amount of time before the breach was discovered. But because the hacker had access to the full database, it is difficult to say how many more numbers may have been taken, he said. He said the breach was not confirmed until about two weeks ago. MasterCard said it has begun notifying banks that issue its cards, which in turn are responsible for notifying cardholders.


26 February 2005:  Bank of America loses a million customer records

A “small” number of backup tapes with records detailing the financial information of government employees were lost in shipment to a backup center, Bank of America said on Friday. The tapes contained information on the customers and accounts of the U.S. government’s SmartPay charge card program, which has more than 2.1 million members and annual transactions totaling more than $21 billion, according to the General Services Administration. Reports have pegged the number of cards affected at 1.2 million. The acknowledgment comes as several other cases of businesses losing consumer information have come to light. Last week, data collection company ChoicePoint announced that it had given information on approximately 150,000 subscribers to about 50 fake business fronts created by fraudsters.


18 February 2003: Credit card database hacked

A computer hacker has gained access to more than 5 million Visa and Mastercard credit card accounts in the US. The two companies said on Tuesday that none of the information obtained, which would include credit card numbers, was used in a fraudulent way.But a UK-based business crime expert warned account holders could still be at risk if their cards were not reissued. Visa and Mastercard said the hacker breached the security system of a company that processes credit card transactions on behalf of merchants.The only way to eradicate the risks would be to reissue all 5 million… cards.


And so it goes on and on…

Find out even more information about what ‘black hat’ hackers may be plotting for the months to come at:

Nevada Attorney General warns of 'contactless' crimewave

A leading smart card shielding company in the States recently announced news that the Nevada Attorney General’s Office had issued a series of daily consumer briefings on the growing concern surrounding ‘contactless’ crime.   If this is true then things are heating up!

Warnings appear to have been linked with America’s 13th Annual National Consumer Protection Week (NCPW). During NCPW, groups across the States share consumer advice, in the hope that individuals will find better ways to protect their privacy and avoid fraud.

A spokesperson from ID Stronghold said, “Thieves can steal this information by using a frequency reader. These readers are inexpensive and easy to obtain. The thief can simply walk next to you and acquire your credit card number and expiration date without any physical contact. While these cards are in your wallet or purse they can transmit your card or passport number and in some states, your digital drivers’ license information when placed near a reader. The information almost immediately appears on a computer screen without you ever knowing about it. Apparently U.S. passports are more difficult to read than cards with RFID chips because they require a password. However, hackers with enough knowledge can see everything on the passport’s front page.”

From the above evidence there seems to be growing concern across America, (not least in Nevada), about a potential RFID crimewave. Against such a backdrop the case for consumers to protect themselves from this type of identity theft is growing stronger by the day.  And whilst it is important to also mention that the makers of RFID enabled devices still maintain that their products are 100% safe from unauthorised access, should you feel the need to buy some RFID sheilding just in case then you can learn more here…

US Department of Defense orders RFID shields

US Department of Defense orders RFID shields

It can now be reasonably argued that November 2010 will mark a significant turning point in the debate surrounding RFID or ‘contactless’ credit, debit, passport and door-access security.  For on Wednesday 29 November, 2010  Secure ID News reported the following news,

“…2.5 million radio frequency shielding sleeves (were delivered) to the Department of Defense to protect the contactless Common Access Card (CAC) from data interception. The FIPS 201-approved, shielding sleeves are distributed via RAPIDS ID offices worldwide with the issuance of new CACs.”

Furthermore, the online journal then went on to state,

“…an option to purchase an additional 1,675,000 sleeves was exercised by the Defense Department for final delivery in January 2011. This order will bring the total number of our sleeves 4.2 million. In September, an order for 200,000 rigid, RF shielding, non-metallic badge holders (was also placed).”

Of course, whilst unauthorised data interception from RFID enabled device is not commonplace – this development would strongly suggest that the potential threat of ‘skimming’ is real and growing by the day.

Original source:

UK Government HQAbstract: A UK government-backed report that explores certain security flaws in RFID / contactless technology.  Well worth a read is this…


“It will be the responsibility of RFID users to prevent any unauthorised access to personal information. One concern is a practice that has become known as “skimming”. Since a transponder’s signal can be picked up by any compatible reader, it is possible for RFID tags to be read by unauthorised readers, which could access personal information stored on them. Users can guard against skimming by using passwords. The EPCglobal Class 1 Generation 2 RFID specification enables the use of a password for accessing a tag’s memory. However, these are not immune to “hacking”.

Most RFID systems require a short distance between tag and reader, making it difficult for “rogue” readers to scan tags but this could nevertheless be done in a situation where people are naturally at close range, for example, on a crowded train. The nominal read range of some tags can also be extended by the use of more powerful readers. It is also possible to read part of a tag’s number by eavesdropping merely on a reader’s communication with a tag. Readers, with a much higher power output than tags, can be read at much greater distances.

While some RFID applications might not need communication between tag and reader to be encrypted, others that process personal and especially sensitive personal data will need an adequate level of encryption to safeguard the data being processed. In most cases “skimmers” would also need a way of accessing the external database containing the personal data, but in some cases inferences might be made about someone from information which in itself does not relate directly to him. If a person leaves a store having purchased items carrying RFID tags that have not been disabled, he carries with him a potential inventory of his possessions. This would enable someone with a suitable reader and knowledge of EPC references to discover what items he was carrying at a given time. Sensitive personal data about a person’s illness, for example, might be unknowingly revealed by him via the EPC referring to the medication in his pocket. An insufficiently secure RFID chip could also be “cloned”. By copying personal data stored on the RFID chip of an identification card, a person could for practical purposes steal the identity of the cardholder. If the information on the database (e.g., a fingerprint) is checked only against the information on the card, rather than directly against the person himself, a criminal would not need to access the information stored on the database.”

For more information visit:  RFID Protect

Finally, if you’re in any doubt as to whether or not RFID skimming is a real threat, then perhaps watch the following video evidence.

Video evidence from the United States of America, claiming that RFID enabled devices are vulnerable to skimming, cloning and hacking.

Electronic Pickpocket – YouTube Video
(Approx. 4minutes – n.b: opens in a new window.)

David Beckham - victim of RFID hacking and car jacking!

Going, going, gone – RFID car-jacking!

It’s the stuff of movies. A criminal gang that sets out to steal hundreds of cars, each in under 60 seconds, using the latest in high-tech gadgets to facilitate their heist.   But for David Beckham, Hollywood fiction became a reality when in April 2006 criminals used a simple laptop and RFID scanner to crack the electronic door locks of his BMW X5. Once the locks were cracked they then fired up the ignition and drove away – gone in just 15 minutes!

So how was this possible? After all the RFID industry has gone to considerable lengths to reassure us that ‘contactless’ chips and ‘smart keys’ are 100% secure, and not vulnerable to ‘skimming’.

John Holl, a journalist with Forbes Autos throws some light on the matter saying,

“…Back in 2004, when keyless technology was still new and touted as unbreakable and secure, Dr. Aviel D. Rubin, a professor of computer science at Johns Hopkins University, examined this possibility (with his students). Within three months they had successfully cracked the code embedded within the ignition keys of newer model cars, theoretically allowing them to steal the autos.”

“It was a trial-and-error process,”  Rubin said. “We wanted to see if it could be broken and found out that (surprisingly) it could!”

The technique requires a laptop, an RFID scanner and software capable of probing for encryption weaknesses. It only takes about 15 minutes for the software to explore millions of possible encryption answers, before finding the one that fits with the vehicle’s unique identity.  The thieves then submit an identical code to the vehicle, which allows them to ‘boost’ it.

15 minutes – it’s not long.  About the time it takes to park up, leave your vehicle and order at a restaurant, which seems to be what happened to the Beckhams.  And it just goes to show that no security system is 100% fool-proof, however peace of mind may soon arrive as British company RFID Protect hopes to manufacture RFID shielding sleeves that are specifically designed to protect a vehicle’s ‘smart key’ against unauthorised probing.

Original article at:

NEWSFLASH: Update September 2012

This month sees AutoExpress reporting on a new twist to this story.  It transpires that BMW has at last accepted that there is an issue with its keyless entry systems on cars issued between 2007 and September 2011.  BBC’s Watchdog television programme highlighted a problem with certain models (specifically BMW X5 & X6) in June of this year, and since then a number of high profile cases have come to light.  One story in particular demonstrates the problem that BMW is now facing, because when London-based consultant Eric Gallina had his car stolen from outside his home he couldn’t understand how thieves had taken it.  Mr Gallina still had the two factory-issued master car keys in his possession, and there had been no evidence of vehicle break in (i.e. there was no broken window glass at the crime scene).

AutoExpress reported that Mr Gallina was told by police officers,

“…nine other BMWs with keyless entry had been stolen in the Notting Hill area within the past month and a half.”

Apologists for BMW have issued security guidance to owners of these models, although it is not clear whether an actual ‘fix’ for the problem is available at the time of writing.  According to AutoExpress BMW have issued the following advice,

“…[until the fix is available to all models], where ever possible park your car out of sight, in a locked garage, or under the cover of CCTV cameras.”

Easier said than done, and some will wonder whether this guidance from BMW has really been thought through, or goes far enough to address such a serious security flaw?

Original article at:

'Chip and Pin' banking is flawed - pure gold!On Tuesday 28 December, 2010 the Independent Newspaper ran an eye-opening story concerning certain inherent weaknesses with UK ‘chip and pin’ banking.  Their news item by Richard Garner, Education Editor proved so sensational that shock waves are still being felt across the industry even today!

Far from offering customers added security, it now transpires that ‘chip and pin’ may have been launched despite serious flaws with this system of making electronic payments.  Whilst this development does not concern RFID / ‘contactless’ technology as such, nonetheless  some readers may choose to draw parallels with the banking sectors’ insistence (at the time) that their new technology was 100% foolproof.

Here’s what happened – as far as we’re aware…

In short, the UK Cards Association (representing all major credit, debit and charge card issuers in Britain) discovered that a Cambridge University PhD student named Omar Choudary had published a remarkable thesis online.  His student text identified vulnerabilities with the UK ‘chip-and-pin’ system, weaknesses that can be easily exploited by fraudsters.

Needless to say, the UK Cards Association approached Cambridge University asking it to remove hyper-links to Choudary’s thesis and take action to remove this work from the public domain.  However, the University delivered a swift rebuttal; accusing the banksters representative body of “bullying” and “censorship”.

The UK Cards Association Chair, Melanie Johnson insisted that Choudary’s  PhD thesis , “…over steps the boundaries of what constitutes reasonable disclosure by giving too much detail on how the chip-and-pin system could be breached.”

Although a University spokesperson responded saying, “…you seem to think that we might censor a student’s thesis – which is lawful and already in the public domain – simply because a powerful interest group finds it inconvenient”.

The University denies that the student thesis encourages fraud by,  “…giving details of a blueprint for a device which is alleged to exploit a loophole in the security of chip-and-pin technology.”

The rebuttal concluded with the following statement,  “…you complain that the work may undermine public confidence in the payments system.  What will support confidence in the payments system is evidence that the banks are frank and honest in admitting weaknesses when they are exposed and diligent in affecting the necessary remedies.”

So to conclude, it could be reasonably argued that the banking community will spin this story to their advantage; perhaps even suggesting that in switching from ‘chip and pin’ to  ‘contactless’ payments systems this particular security problem will be overcome.   Overcome that is until news reaches UK shores of how RFID skimming is now a major issue for American credit card users.

Learn how to prevent credit card, e-passport and access pass ”skimming’ at:

Richard Garners’ full expose can be found at:

And the full response from Cambridge University can be read here:

On Tuesday 28 December, 2010 the Independent Newspaper ran an eye-opening story concerning certain inherent weaknesses with ‘chip and pin’ banking.

This news item by Richard Garner, Education Editor proved so sensational that shock waves are still being felt across the industry even today. Far from offering customers added security, it now transpires that ‘chip and pin’ may have been launched despite serious flaws with this system of making electronic payments. Whilst this development does not concern RFID / ‘contactless’ technology some readers may chose to draw parallels with the banking sectors insistence that their new technology is 100% foolproof – until there’s a problem, and then the default reaction is to try and silence any dissenting voices.

Here’s what happened – as far as we’re aware.

In short, the UK Cards Association(representing all major credit, debit and charge card issuers in Britain) discovered that Cambridge University PHD student Omar Choudary had published a remarkable thesis online. His student text identifies vulnerabilities with the ‘chip-and-pin’ system that can be easily exploited by fraudsters.

Needless to say, the UK Cards Association approached Cambridge university asking it to remove hyper-links to Choudary’s thesis. However, the University delivered a swift rebuttal; accusing the ‘banksters’ representative of bullying and censorship.

The UK Cards Association Chair, Melanie Johnson insisted that Choudary’s PHD thesis , “..oversteps the boundaries of what constitutes reasonable disclosure by giving too much detail on how the chip-and-pin system could be breached.”

Although a University spokesperson responded saying, “…you seem to think that we might censor a student’s thesis – which is lawful and already in the public domain – simply because a powerful interest group finds it inconvenient,”

The University denies that the student thesis encourages fraud by, “…giving details of a blueprint for a device which is alleged to exploit a loophole in the security of chip-and-pin technology.”

The rebuttal concluded with the following statement, “You complain that the work may undermine public confidence in the payments system. What will support confidence in the payments system is evidence that the banks are frank and honest in admitting weaknesses when they are exposed, and diligent in affecting the necessary remedies.”

Richard Garner’s full expose can be found at: