Data leaks at Stratfor and Care2 mark the end of a year riddled with data theft

2012 aheadWas 2011 the year of the data leak? Could be, but it is hard to tell.

From my vantage point writing daily about the most important stories in information security, data theft may not have been the most important story of 2011, but it certainly impacted more regular people and raised their awareness about the problem of all of their data being “in the cloud”.

I shared my thoughts on this today with John Moe on Marketplace Tech Report from American Public Media in the United States.

Marketplace logoYou can listen to my thoughts on 2011 alongside John Moe, Jonathan Zittrain, Susan Crawford and Danah Boyd in this four minute podcast.

(30 December 2011, duration 4:00 minutes, size 1.9 MBytes)

While Anonymous/LulzSec dominated the data breach headlines, what became clear was that more and more organizations are collecting data about us and doing a poor job of protecting that information.

Compliance rules like HIPPA/HITECH, PCI and others are not really having their intended impact as health records, credit cards, passwords, birth dates and more were all stored insecurely on often woefully unpatched systems. logoThe number of records stolen was enormous. Sony alone was hacked more than 20 times and lost over 100 million records.

The bulk email marketing company Epsilon leaked names and email addresses from some of the world’s most trusted brands like Best Buy, Marks & Spencer, Marriott Rewards, Walgreens and Chase Bank.

South Korean social media users were hit hard when Cyworld and Nate were compromised (both owned by SK Communications) and hackers made off with more than 35 million records.

Like video games that aren’t related to Sony? Chances are your data was leaked when the Steam user forums were breached or when Square Enix was hit twice in 2011.

Citibank credit cardCitibank credit cards users had card information compromised affecting more than 200,000 people as well as customers of handmade cosmetics company Lush.

Of course the biggest story at the end of 2011, wrapping up the year of unsecured data has been the attack Anonymous made on Stratfor.

Stratfor, a company focused on security intelligence services, was attacked by Anonymous who have allegedly acquired 75,000 addresses, credit cards and names of their customers and then posted them publicly.

Sadly it seems companies still aren’t learning the lesson of protecting their customers information, even after all of these headlines and millions of dollars in lost reputation to the companies involved.

It was brought to my attention that’s website was hacked revealing usernames and passwords for the sites nearly 18 million users.

Naked Security reader Bob emailed us to point out that Care2 is storing passwords insecurely.

Care2 logoRather than storing passwords as a salted cryptographic hash that would not reveal their customers passwords if stolen (or make it much more difficult) they are storing them either in plaintext or in a reversible format.

According to the companies own FAQ about the data breach “Q. What can I do to recover my password?
A. Visit Enter your user name or email address in the green box titled “Forgot your password or log-in name?” Your password will be emailed to you.”

Care2 FAQ

Really!? After the attackers made off with all of your customer information you still are following the same insecure practices that put your customers information at risk in the first place?

Where does this leave us? Think carefully about who you share personal information with, and before doing so carefully weigh whether they need that information or not.

And for the sake of all of your digital presence use unique passwords for every site you access. There are great tools to help you like Keepass or LastPass.

To quote American folk singer Pete Seeger “When will they ever learn? When will they ever learn?”.