What Companies Can Do to Protect Themselves in the Face of Yet Another Massive Data Breach

by BakerHostetler
Contact

Last week it was reported that a small group of Russian computer hackers illegally obtained an unprecedented quantity of internet credentials, including 1.2 billion username and password combinations, and over 500 million unique email addresses. The compromised companies have not yet been identified, but it is believed that the information came from over 420,000 websites. While the size of this particular breach is unparalleled, news of yet another data security breach does not come as much of a surprise. What is concerning, however, is how unsophisticated and common the tactics used were, and the number of companies that still remain vulnerable to such attacks.

The Russian crime ring reportedly, at least in part[1], used what is known as the SQL injection (“SQLi”) method, a very well-known hacking technique. SQL is a computer language that is used to send queries to databases. It is used, for example, in username and password fields on websites. The coding in these fields commands the website’s database to search for the stored username and password; if both match, the website allows the user access. The problem with this type of SQL coding is that it can be difficult to prevent a site visitor from inputting information other than usernames and passwords. An attacker can therefore “inject” malicious code into the input boxes that allow the hackers to download entire databases of information. The risk of SQLi has dramatically risen with the proliferation of automated tools, which allow hackers to attack many websites at once with ease, instead of having to manually enter malicious code into each site.

Source: VeraCode, http://www.veracode.com/security/sql-injection

Certain forms of SQLi attacks are common and preventable, and the FTC has brought complaints against companies for failing to guard against this type of attack.  Companies should look to prior enforcement actions and consent decrees to ascertain the FTC’s ever-evolving “gold-standard” security standard expectations, but effectively guarding against SQLi attacks is certainly one of the FTC’s expectations.

Additionally, depending upon the state, companies with compromised websites may be required to report the breach under data breach reporting laws.  For example, Florida and California recently amended their breach notification laws to include username and password combinations in the definition of personally identifiable information that, if breached, would need to be reported to users.

Best Practices

Prevention

The good news for companies is that this common attack is preventable.  SQLi vulnerability begins during the website development stage, where website security is often not sufficiently addressed.  The security company Veracode advises companies to take simple precautions during the development phase to prevent SQLi attacks, such as:

  1. Adopt an input validation technique in which user input is authenticated against a set of defined rules for length, type, and syntax and also against business rules;
  2. Ensure that users with the permission to access the database have the least privileges;
  3. Make sure that a database user is created only for a specific application and this user is not able to access other applications;
  4. Remove all stored procedures that are not in use; and
  5. Show care when using stored procedures since they are generally safe from injection. However, be careful as they can be injectable.

Source: VeraCode, http://www.veracode.com/security/sql-injection

Response

Additionally, companies who believe they may have been compromised by the most recent SQLi attack would be advised to do the following in response:

  1. Conduct a forensic investigation into the database, to determine what, if any data, have been breached;
  2. Understand the full scope of the data that was stolen;
  3. Compare the compromised data to the types of data protected by your state’s data breach and notification laws;
  4. If required to report the data breach and notify consumers under state law, report the breach within the statutorily designated time period; and
  5. Anticipate and plan for the possibility of plaintiffs’ suits and FTC enforcement actions.

Implementing these preventative measures can both dramatically decrease vulnerability to hackers, and protect a company from suit and/or FTC enforcement action in the event of a breach.


[1] Since the breaking of this story, it has been reported that a large percentage of the credentials could have been obtained from previous large-scale data breaches, such as Adobe, LinkedIn, RockYou.com, and eBay. http://www.cnn.com/2014/08/07/opinion/wisniewski-hack-passwords/

 

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

© BakerHostetler | Attorney Advertising

Written by:

BakerHostetler
Contact
more
less

BakerHostetler on:

Readers' Choice 2017
Reporters on Deadline

"My best business intelligence, in one easy email…"

Your first step to building a free, personalized, morning email brief covering pertinent authors and topics on JD Supra:
Sign up using*

Already signed up? Log in here

*By using the service, you signify your acceptance of JD Supra's Privacy Policy.
Privacy Policy (Updated: October 8, 2015):
hide

JD Supra provides users with access to its legal industry publishing services (the "Service") through its website (the "Website") as well as through other sources. Our policies with regard to data collection and use of personal information of users of the Service, regardless of the manner in which users access the Service, and visitors to the Website are set forth in this statement ("Policy"). By using the Service, you signify your acceptance of this Policy.

Information Collection and Use by JD Supra

JD Supra collects users' names, companies, titles, e-mail address and industry. JD Supra also tracks the pages that users visit, logs IP addresses and aggregates non-personally identifiable user data and browser type. This data is gathered using cookies and other technologies.

The information and data collected is used to authenticate users and to send notifications relating to the Service, including email alerts to which users have subscribed; to manage the Service and Website, to improve the Service and to customize the user's experience. This information is also provided to the authors of the content to give them insight into their readership and help them to improve their content, so that it is most useful for our users.

JD Supra does not sell, rent or otherwise provide your details to third parties, other than to the authors of the content on JD Supra.

If you prefer not to enable cookies, you may change your browser settings to disable cookies; however, please note that rejecting cookies while visiting the Website may result in certain parts of the Website not operating correctly or as efficiently as if cookies were allowed.

Email Choice/Opt-out

Users who opt in to receive emails may choose to no longer receive e-mail updates and newsletters by selecting the "opt-out of future email" option in the email they receive from JD Supra or in their JD Supra account management screen.

Security

JD Supra takes reasonable precautions to insure that user information is kept private. We restrict access to user information to those individuals who reasonably need access to perform their job functions, such as our third party email service, customer service personnel and technical staff. However, please note that no method of transmitting or storing data is completely secure and we cannot guarantee the security of user information. Unauthorized entry or use, hardware or software failure, and other factors may compromise the security of user information at any time.

If you have reason to believe that your interaction with us is no longer secure, you must immediately notify us of the problem by contacting us at info@jdsupra.com. In the unlikely event that we believe that the security of your user information in our possession or control may have been compromised, we may seek to notify you of that development and, if so, will endeavor to do so as promptly as practicable under the circumstances.

Sharing and Disclosure of Information JD Supra Collects

Except as otherwise described in this privacy statement, JD Supra will not disclose personal information to any third party unless we believe that disclosure is necessary to: (1) comply with applicable laws; (2) respond to governmental inquiries or requests; (3) comply with valid legal process; (4) protect the rights, privacy, safety or property of JD Supra, users of the Service, Website visitors or the public; (5) permit us to pursue available remedies or limit the damages that we may sustain; and (6) enforce our Terms & Conditions of Use.

In the event there is a change in the corporate structure of JD Supra such as, but not limited to, merger, consolidation, sale, liquidation or transfer of substantial assets, JD Supra may, in its sole discretion, transfer, sell or assign information collected on and through the Service to one or more affiliated or unaffiliated third parties.

Links to Other Websites

This Website and the Service may contain links to other websites. The operator of such other websites may collect information about you, including through cookies or other technologies. If you are using the Service through the Website and link to another site, you will leave the Website and this Policy will not apply to your use of and activity on those other sites. We encourage you to read the legal notices posted on those sites, including their privacy policies. We shall have no responsibility or liability for your visitation to, and the data collection and use practices of, such other sites. This Policy applies solely to the information collected in connection with your use of this Website and does not apply to any practices conducted offline or in connection with any other websites.

Changes in Our Privacy Policy

We reserve the right to change this Policy at any time. Please refer to the date at the top of this page to determine when this Policy was last revised. Any changes to our privacy policy will become effective upon posting of the revised policy on the Website. By continuing to use the Service or Website following such changes, you will be deemed to have agreed to such changes. If you do not agree with the terms of this Policy, as it may be amended from time to time, in whole or part, please do not continue using the Service or the Website.

Contacting JD Supra

If you have any questions about this privacy statement, the practices of this site, your dealings with this Web site, or if you would like to change any of the information you have provided to us, please contact us at: info@jdsupra.com.

- hide
*With LinkedIn, you don't need to create a separate login to manage your free JD Supra account, and we can make suggestions based on your needs and interests. We will not post anything on LinkedIn in your name. Or, sign up using your email address.
Feedback? Tell us what you think of the new jdsupra.com!