The 2007 security hall of shame

Bad breaches, ghastly gaffes and five people we'd like to forget

How bad was 2007 for breaches, vulnerabilities and similar mayhem? On the bright side, it was better than 2008 is forecast to be. With more of every sort of meltdown predicted -- more criminalization of the hacker community, more Web-application attacks, more phishing, more spamming, more zero-day attacks and more virtualization-related threats -- we're happy to tell you that you are likely to look back on 2007 as the peaceful old days.

What, that doesn't cheer you up? Hmm. All right, then -- wallow in previous misery with a quick look back at some of the notable security events of 2007. Just remember: It's all in the past now ... it's all in the past now ...

A brace of breaches: 2007's five worst

In a league of its own: The TJX Companies. The 2006 data breach news landscape was dominated by the compromise at the Department of Veterans Affairs, but this year commercial interests took the (booby) prize -- in particular, retailer TJX. The breach it disclosed in January (several months after the fact) was the biggest ever involving payment card data.

TJX itself claimed that over 45.6 million cards belonging to customers were compromised in an intrusion that went undetected for over 18 months; however, several banks suing the company claim the actual number is 94 million cards, a vast majority of them issued by Visa. The breach prompted numerous lawsuits and calls for stronger data protection laws -- and, unfortunately, engendered a spate of fraudulent card use.

Despite its scope, some believed that analyst firm Forrester Research was overestimating when it predicted early in the saga that the breach could end up costing TJX US$1 billion over the next few years. But nearly 11 months after the breach was disclosed, that number no longer seems so outlandish: By TJX's own estimates, the company has already spent or set aside close to US$250 million for costs stemming from the incident.

The UK's VA: HMRC misplaces records on 25 million kids In November, the UK's HM Revenue & Customs managed to achieve VA-level snafu status when it disclosed that it lost computer disks containing personal information on 25 million juvenile benefit claimants. The disks, which were not encrypted, disappeared in transit to the country's National Audit Office and included bank details and national ID numbers. Analyst firm Gartner predicted the processes of closing accounts and establishing new ones to protect against potential fraud resulting from the breach could end up costing British banks in the region of US$500 million.

The system was broken brokered: Fidelity National Information Services Personal information on over 8.5 million individuals was compromised when a senior database administrator working at Certegy Check Services, a subsidiary of Fidelity National, illegally downloaded the data and sold it to brokers. Fidelity National, which is separate from the better known Fidelity Investments, initially said that only 2.5 million records had been compromised when it first disclosed the breach in July. A few weeks later, it quietly upped the number to 8.5 million in filings with the US Securities and Exchange Commission. According to the company, the stolen data appears to have been resold primarily for direct marketing purposes and not for ID theft or other sorts of fraud.

Some honor among thieves: TD Ameritrade Holding Brokerage firm Ameritrade disclosed in September that someone had broken into one of its systems and stolen contact information such as names, addresses and phone numbers belonging to its more than 6.2 million retail and institutional customers. However, Social Security numbers and account numbers that were also stored in the same database appeared, according to the company, to have been left untouched. The stolen data was apparently used for the purposes of sending stock-related spam.

Creatures from the hack lagoon: Monster.com Names, e-mail addresses, mailing addresses, phone numbers and resume IDs belonging to an estimated 1.6 million job seekers were accessed from Monster.com's resume database in August. Though widely described as a hacking, what actually happened was that information was accessed by attackers using legitimate user names and passwords -- were most likely stolen from professional recruiters and human resource personnel using Monster.com to look for job candidates. No Social Security numbers or financial data was compromised in the breach.

Join the PC World newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Jaikumar Vijayan

Computerworld
Show Comments

Essentials

Microsoft L5V-00027 Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard Desktop

Learn more >

Lexar® JumpDrive® S57 USB 3.0 flash drive

Learn more >

Mobile

Lexar® JumpDrive® S45 USB 3.0 flash drive 

Learn more >

Exec

HD Pan/Tilt Wi-Fi Camera with Night Vision NC450

Learn more >

Audio-Technica ATH-ANC70 Noise Cancelling Headphones

Learn more >

Lexar® JumpDrive® C20c USB Type-C flash drive 

Learn more >

Lexar® Professional 1800x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards 

Learn more >

Budget

Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?