Thursday, August 7, 2014

Russian Hackers Steals 1.2 Billion Internet User Information

shutterstock_103378814A U.S. security firm has uncovered what appears to be the largest Internet security breach in recent memory, conducted by a group of Russian hackers.

According to Milwaukee-based firm Hold Security, which conducted an 18-month investigation into the breach, the online gang stole 1.2 billion username and password combos, as well as more than 500 million email addresses.

The hackers pulled off the data heist, which ultimately scooped up 4.5 billion records, using unsuspecting systems of botnet network victims (in this case, computers with viruses that allowed a single operator to control a large group of affected systems) to test websites for SQL vulnerabilities. When a vulnerability was discovered, the hackers were then able to execute SQL injections, enabling them to send malicious commands to a website and steal its data, including usernames and passwords.

The group managed to steal information from 420,000 web and FTP sites, Hold Security said.

"Accounts are hacked and credentials are stolen every day; however, the number of credentials reportedly stolen is at a massive scale,"

This is a huge wake-up call to consumers and companies that attackers are going after personal and work accounts in order to impersonate our online personas.

Hold Security's blog post, which details the data breach, also promotes its own services. However, an independent security expert hired by The New York Times confirmed its findings.

"Your data has not necessarily been stolen from you directly, It could have been stolen from the service or goods providers to whom you entrust your personal information, from your employers, even from your friends and family."

The Russia-based cyber gang is comprised of a dozen men in their 20s who began as amateur spammers by buying information on the online black market back in 2011. Ironically, the hacking revelation has come during the Black Hat computer-security conference in Las Vegas, which takes place from Aug. 2 to 7.

The said Hold Security is trying to develop an online tool to help individual users identify whether or not they were impacted by the data breach. Those who use the Internet for online banking and shopping will likely be the most troubled by the company's report. As for businesses, they are advised to immediately run a check to see if their websites are vulnerable to SQL injections.

"If you haven’t updated your password recently, now would be the time," Malwarebytes Labs "Make sure it’s a strong password containing capital and lowercase letters, numbers and special characters. Also, don’t use the same username and password combo for every site. This is especially true for sites that have personal information like the site to your bank or credit card."