The article that was in the Guardian on Friday, gives us a few issues. You see, I have been looking at several issues in the tech world and I overlooked this one (there is only so much reading that can be done in a 24 hour range and it is a big planet). You see the article ‘Yahoo faces questions after hack of half a billion accounts’ (at https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2016/sep/23/yahoo-questinos-hack-researchers) gives us the goods from the very beginning. The quote “Yahoo’s admission that the personal data of half a billion users has been stolen by “state-sponsored” hackers leaves pressing questions unanswered, according to security researchers“, is one I would go with ‘and the evidence?‘, which gives us all kinds of related connections. The quote “Jeremiah Grossman, head of security strategy at infosec firm SentinelOne, said: “While we know the information was stolen in late 2014, we don’t have any indication as to when Yahoo first learned about this breach. This is an important detail in the story.”” is only one of a few issues at the heart of the matter. You see, when we look at the issues that are the plague of these start-up firms (Yahoo and Sony), we should think that they are start-up firms or they are massively negligent. In both cases their routers allowed for the transfer of massive amounts of data. As they are the same size in start-up (sorry, sarcasm prevails), we need to wonder how a few hundred million packages fall between the cracks of vision of whatever security element their IT has. We could wait until someone states that there is no security on that level and the race is truly on then!
This whilst additional support as seen stated by Chris Hodson, EMEA chief information security officer at enterprise security firm Zscaler, when we read: ““With no technical details included in Yahoo’s report about how the data was exfiltrated, just that it was, it’s impossible to assess credibility of the ‘state sponsored’ claim“, a statement I agree, but in addition, I also wonder why we aren’t seeing any reference or initial response from the FBI that this was from North Korea. It fits the time frame doesn’t it? First a dry run on Yahoo and the actual heist was Sony. Or perhaps some players are figuring out that North Korea was never an element and that someone clever enough found a flaw and hit both Yahoo and Sony. The quote “both from the date of the hack, almost two years ago, and from the first appearance of the dumped data on the dark web almost two months ago where it was being sold by a user named “Peace of Mind””, the speculation comes to mind: ‘perhaps this person is the second owner and this person is reselling acquired data’, which would make sense in several capitalisic ways. The article also enlightens what I believe to be a callous approach to security: “The breach also highlights a strong problem with “security questions”, the common practice of letting users reset passwords by answering questions about their first house or mother’s maiden name. Yahoo did not encrypt all the security questions it stored, and so some are readable in plaintext. While it may be irritating to have to change a stolen password, it is somewhat worse to have to change a stolen mother’s maiden name.” The insensitive disregard is clear when the security question is not encrypted and mum’s maiden name is given in plain text, adding to the personal data the thieves borrowed (long-term). Now, we know that there are in these situations several questions, and not all are really about privacy sensitive based data (like a favourite pet), but consider the 2013 movie ‘Now You See Me‘ Consider the dialogue in the New Orleans Show scene:
Jack Wilder: How could we, Art? We don’t have your password.
Henley Reeves: We’d need access to information we could never get our hands on.
Daniel Atlas: Yes, security questions, for instance, like, I don’t know, your mother’s maiden name or the name of your first pet.
Merritt McKinney: Where would we get that information, Art? You certainly would never tell us.
A movie gives us the danger to our goods a year before this data is stolen and nobody presses the alarm bell? The only part that would be even funnier if this was a Sony movie, but no, it was Summit Entertainment who brought this gemstone! Now, we know that life is not a movie, yet the fact that this part is stored as plain text, perhaps not the best solution! In addition as IT developers tend to be lazy, how many other firms, especially those who are a lot smaller, how are they storing this data? Also in plain text?
You see, I have seen parts of this issue too often. Too many firms have no real grasp of non-repudiation and go through the motions so that they seem (read: present themselves) to be about security, yet not really security driven. Because if the client doesn’t want it (many are too lazy), they have opted for it and they are in the clear. Yet when we see that the security questions are in plain text, questions should be asked, very serious questions I might add!
There is one more side to all this, the Guardian raises it with: “what happens to the company’s multi-billion dollar merger with Verizon now? Kevin Cunningham, president and founder at identity company SailPoint, argues that the breach should already be priced in“, we then see the issues of thoroughness raised from Verizon, but in all this, the data theft does not makes sense. You see, if my speculation is true and “Peace of Mind” is the first sales iteration, was this ID the only customer? If so, how come that the sale took this long, the timeout between the event in 2014 and the optional sale a few months ago is weird, as accounts change so quickly, the power and value is in quick sales. To put it in perspective, selling the data to 10 people for a total of 5% of the value is safer then awaiting for one person getting 70% of the value 90 days later. This is a movers and shakers world, the 90 day person is a perhaps and these people are about the ‘cash now’. The market stall people! So in this an 800 day customer implies that there might have been ulterior reasons. Which one(s) I can only speculate on, and I prefer not to do that at present. Now, in that side, it is of course possible that this was ‘state-sponsored’ and it was sold on to keep the wolves at bay, but that too is speculation with absolutely no data to back the speculation up.
Verizon might have taken a calculated level of risk in acquiring Yahoo, yet if the data transgression was never divulged, would this be a case of fraud? The US has the “benefit of bargain” rule, so there could be a decent case of represented and actual value. In addition if we allow for Special damages from a legally recognizable injury to be held to be the cause of that injury, with the damage amounts to specificity. If the data theft would have been known, the value of the firm would have been a lot lower.
Unless this was clearly disclosed to Verizon (I actually do not know), Verizon might have a case, which would be disastrous for Yahoo.
If we consider the news from July at NBC (at http://www.cnbc.com/2016/07/25/verizon-to-acquire-yahoo.html), the setting is not just “Microsoft, Yahoo and AOL lag far behind and have lost market share“, there is no guarantee that those hit by the hack will remain in their Yahoo setting. Google has made it far too easy for people to switch over. The effort made in the past to transfer towards Google could inspire those people to switch to Google, import their mails and start with little or no loss at all. Which means that it is not impossible that Verizon after the merger remains a one digit digital marketing group, something I feel certain Verizon never counted on.
So where is this going?
There are two sides to this, not only is this about cyber security, or the lack thereof. The fact that Verizon has no unlimited data and those with Yahoo accounts who had them will now see their prices go up by a lot (when is this not about money?). Verizon has a 100GB shared option at $450 a month, which is beyond ridiculous. In Australia, iiNet (an excellent provider) offers 250GB for $60 a month and in the UK British Telecom offers a similar plan for no more than £21 a month (which is about $35), considering that BT is not the cheapest on the block, I have to wonder how Verizon will continue, when people have to switch, because their music apps (radio and so on) drain their data account at 6-8GB per day (a harsh lesson a friend of mine learned). Meaning that Verizon is actually a disservice to open internet and free speech. As I see it, free speech is only free if the listener isn’t charged for listening, or better stated, when certain solutions are locked to be not via Wi-Fi, meaning charged via bandwidth. So the accounts were one side, the amount of data breeches that we are seeing now (on both the Verizon and Yahoo side) imply that not only are they too expensive, they aren’t as secure as they are supposed to be and in addition, cyber laws are blatantly failing its victims. Having your data in plain text at $450 a month seems a little too unacceptable, merely because the odds to keep your fortune in Las Vegas tend to be better than this.
So now consider the sponsor, the people behind the screens on both the corporate and hacking side. So let’s take a look
Here the need for security is essential, yet there is clear indication that those aware of spreadsheets (read: Board of Directors) are in equal measure naive and blatantly unaware that data security is essential and not the $99 version in this case. The cost of secure data is ignored and in many cases blatantly disregarded. The Yahoo case is inferior to the Verizon data transgressions that have been reported in this year alone. It is so nice to read on how the health industry is hit by organised crime, yet the amount of theft from their own systems is a lot less reported on. I find most amusing the text that the Verizon Data Breach Investigation Report shows: “Yes. Our vulnerability management solutions identify and fix architectural flaws in POS and other patientfacing systems“, “Yes. Our identity and access management solutions prevent the use of weak passwords, the main cause of data breaches in the healthcare industry” and “Yes. Our intrusion detection and threat-management solutions help detect and mitigate breaches more quickly, limiting the damage caused” (at http://www.verizonenterprise.com/resources/factsheet/fs_organized-crime-drives-data-theft-in-the-healthcare-industry_en_xg2.pdf), I reckon that a massive overhaul of their own systems has a slightly higher priority at present. In addition there is no information on how secure the Verizon Data Cloud is. It doesn’t matter who provides it (as I see it), and I reckon we see that iteration hit the news the moment we learn that the UK Ministry of Defence Cloud gets tweaked to another server that is not under their control. It is important to realise that I am NOT scaremongering, the issue is that too many players have kept the people and corporations in the dark regarding monitoring options, intrusion detection and countermeasures, with the cloud, any successful intrusion has the real danger that the data hack is more complete and a lot larger in data loss. Moreover, Microsoft and Microsoft employees have one priority, Microsoft! Consider that any Microsoft employee might not be as forthcoming with Cyber transgressions, no matter what agreed upon. After the agreement, any internal memo could sidestep a reportable transgression. It is a reality of corporate life. In this, until the proper military staff members get trained, the Ministry of Defence (read: as well as GCHQ to some extent) will be catching up through near inhumane levels of required training, which gets the Ministry burnout issues soon enough.
No matter how small, these attacks (yes plural) required serious hardware and access to tools that are not readily available. So whomever involved, they are either organised crime, or people connected to people with serious cash. This all gets us a different picture. I am not stating that some hackers work for reasons other than ideological. The rent in mum’s basement and hardware needs to be paid for, if not that, than the electricity bill that will be in excess of $130 a month. It might be trivial to mention, yet these little things add up. Hardware, electricity, storage, it gives the rising need of a sponsor for these hackers. There is no way to tell whether this is ideological (to show it can be done), technological (selling the flaws back to the makers of the solution), or criminal (to sell the acquired data to a competitor or exploiter). We can assume or speculate, but in reality, without additional evidence it is merely a waste of words.
So even if we know the name of the sponsor, this hopefully shows that the need to divulging information on data transgression has been way too light. In the past there was a ‘clarity’ that it was onto the firm to give out, but as they seemingly see it as a hazard to their wealth, too many victims are kept in the dark and as such, the financial danger to those victims is rising in an unbalanced way. If you would doubt my words, consider the article at http://www.geek.com/games/sony-psn-hack-is-only-the-4th-largest-data-breach-of-all-time-1390855/, which was set in June 2009. Geek is not the news cycle you might desire, but the summary is fine and confirmable. The hack to the Heartland Payment Systems January 20th, 2009 might be one of the more serious ones, the 130 million records was more complete and could have a more devastating effect on the US population then most others. From my point of view, a massive shift to proactive data security should have been law no later than 2010, I think that we can safely say that this never happened to the extent required, which is another nice failure of the political parties at large and as such, this could get a lot uglier soon enough. The article also shows a massive Sony failing as there have been 6 large breaches in 2011 alone, so the Sony hack of 2012 shows to be a continuing story of a digital firm who cannot get their act together. That was never in question, in combination with the latest revelations, there is the added pressures that this cannot be allowed to continue and these firms need to start being held criminally negligible for transgressions on their systems. Just like in torts regarding trespass, it should be actionable perse. In addition, the hackers should be held in that same way, with the bounty changed to no less than double digit jail with no option for parole. The mere realisation that there is a high price for these transgressions might be the only way to stop this and in this age should not be a distinguishing factor, so any teenager hoping for an adventure with a nice pay package could end up not getting laid until they turn 30. The last part is unlikely to be a reality ever, but the fact that this is where we should have been going needs to be stated, for the mere reason that a shown failure of nearly a decade is no longer an option to ignore, not when the stakes are getting to be this high.