Read New Net Technologies CTO Mark Kedgley’s letter to the editor in the latest issue of Retail Systems.

In this letter, Mark addresses the issue of the eBay cyber attack this year, stating that retailers must up their game when it comes to security best practices. The simple fact is that every business is at risk at all times and defences and change detection mechanisms must be implemented now.  

Dear Editor,

News that online marketplace eBay is forcing users to change their passwords after a cyber-attack compromised its systems early this year, shows that all retailers need to up their game when it comes to the operation of security best practices.

Traditional, basic IT security measures are no longer sufficiently effective, and in 2014, it is no longer forgivable if a breach occurs due to corner-cutting on what should be considered minimum standards of security.

For example, every website that requires customer details to be stored for on-line accounts represents a potential risk. Standard best practice for the handling of customer data is to encrypt user data, but even then because there are only so many methods for encrypting data, it is possible to decrypt passwords through iteration and reverse engineering.

In this example, eBay report that the breach has been perpetrated through the use of employee access credentials to the customer database concerned, though it is not clear whether this was an ‘inside man’ hack or an external criminal that has acquired the necessary usernames and passwords. It highlights why security best practitioners call for a layered approach to procedural and technological defenses. Force users to regularly change passwords but even then monitor user activity for unusual patterns of behavior. Only provide access to data on a strict needs must basis, and only ever provide users with ‘lowest privilege necessary’ access. Don’t just rely on anti-virus, use file integrity monitoring too.

Website providers need to recognize that threats are more effective than ever and there can be no shortcuts when implementing measures to protect customer data.

In this instance, the big risk to the public is where individuals have re-used the same email address/username and password for other website accounts. This would provide anyone in possession of their eBay account details with access, not just to eBay, but any other website where the same username and password has been used.

For website users, take data security seriously. Have a range of passwords for services, and make sure that the password is longer than 6 characters and is as unique as possible by using punctuation symbols and numbers; consider self-salting these to provide some extra strength.

The simple fact is that every business is at risk at all times and defenses and change detection mechanisms must be implemented now.

Mark Kedgley, CTO, New Net Technologies


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