Scottrade had no idea about data breach until the feds showed up

The breach affected around 4.6 million customers' names and addresses

When an organization gets hacked, ideally they'll realize it promptly and warn their users right away. Take crowdfunding site Patreon, which was hacked on Monday and has already informed the world about the problem. Scottrade, an investment brokerage company, is different, and not in a good way.

The company announced Friday that it suffered a security breach over a period of several months from late 2013 to early 2014, affecting approximately 4.6 million customers. But in a statement, Scottrade said it had no idea that the breach had occurred until law enforcement officials told them about it.

Remember: this is a company that is charged with storing real money and managing investments. Let that sink in for a second.

The FBI notified Scottrade of the breach in August but asked that the company hold off on disclosing the attack until it had wrapped up another part of its investigation. The company was cleared to disclose the breach at the end of last week and began informing customers Friday.

To its credit, Scottrade said that it believes attackers obtained only clients' names and street addresses -- not the social security numbers, email addresses and other sensitive data stored in the compromised system. According to the company, the attackers didn't compromise Scottrade's trading platforms, and clients' funds were untouched. 

People who had a Scottrade account prior to February 2014 may have been affected by the breach. Those people who Scottrade knows were affected will be notified of that by email. The company isn't suggesting that users change their passwords, since it believes that they remained encrypted during the attack. 

As is expected in these sorts of cases, Scottrade is offering affected customers a free year of identity theft protection. It's not clear how much good that will do, since the data was taken more than a year ago, but offering that sort of service is something consumers expect from a breach response at this point.  

Looking forward, the company said that it has secured the intrusion point the attackers used to get into its systems, and conducted an internal investigation with the help of an unnamed computer security firm. The company also said that it has further secured its network.

These aren't the only data breaches revealed this week. T-Mobile and Experian said yesterday that 15 million people may have been affected by a mammoth breach that could include data like names, birthdates and Social Security numbers

Incidentally, October is National Cyber Security Awareness Month in the U.S. And now at least 20 million people have had their awareness raised.

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Blair Hanley Frank

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