I was never too comfortable having my credit card information stored by small and medium businesses.
Here is why: I thought to myself, what kind of information security measures and procedures would a small flower shop take to protect my information? Where are they storing my credit card info? How long do they store it for? Yes there is PIPEDA here in Ontario, but what if they are out of the country or in another province. How do I know they follow the guidelines? I don’t see anything on the website. These are questions I would probably never get the answers to – but I need to order flowers right?
A flower shop’s specialty is flowers, not IT right? The McAfee and GeoTrust badges they show on their website aren’t any comfort to me either. Reason being is it doesn’t speak to the human equation when it comes to information security. An employee can easily copy my number down over the phone or an employee could unwittingly download a piece of malware and their computer could become a mecca for credit card info to whomever controls that piece of malware.
Another situation I wasn’t too comfortable with was when I realized a popular bike rental service here in Toronto was storing my credit card info – I was allowed to log in to their website and edit my information. I can’t leave it blank, but luckily I could fill in random numbers.
In the case where you can’t fill in random numbers and are forced to enter a valid credit card, I recommend getting one of those pay per use credit cards and charge it up with $5. This way, if the online retailer were to be compromised, your credit can’t be affected because the hackers would have the wrong info and a credit card that’s not really tied to your name.
Small and medium businesses are low hanging fruit for anyone in a criminal enterprise. The majority of small and medium businesses don’t have to worry about state sponsored attacks because they have nothing to gain from them, unless its a small boutique shop offering designs in nuclear reactors. Small and medium businesses would have access to credit card and bank account information, which is what would attract many criminal enterprises.
WordPress.com was hacked, it was announced yesterday. They are still conducting an investigation as to the extent of the hack and what data may have been compromised.
They recommend some preliminary measures to take like changing passwords, don’t re-use passwords on different sites and use a password manager.
All of which are good, necessary measures to protect yourself.
This is what I recommend you should do to protect yourself:
1. Change your username and/or email address in addition to changing your password
2. Generate new API keys for Webmaster Tools if you use them.
3. Check your settings to see if there is data you don’t recognize (like links to malicious ads)
4. Be aware of suspicious emails or SMS sent to you in the next few months, especially those asking you to reset passwords. Your phone numbers and e-mail addresses may have been exposed, .
5. If you use the hosted version of WordPress and you use the Jetpack feature you should reset your password as it requires you to create an account on WordPress.com
WordPress.com has calmed a lot of customers down by being transparent about the initial incident in their blog post. Hopefully they continue their communication after they’ve conducted their investigation.
Take note that having on a blog on WordPress.com is different than having your WordPress blog hosted on Go Daddy, Dream Host, Media Temple etc. etc. Read more about the differences between WordPress.com and WordPress.org.
I would check back on the WordPress.com blog and look for any updates.
The comment section also provides good insight as to the customer sentiment and additional details provided by WordPress.
I recently saw a post on Twitter where someone extolled their love for the password manager software they use. They also mentioned the information that was stored in it, the type of information that is the secret sauce to a person’s identity: user names, passwords and banking information.
While I think the use of password management software isn’t entirely a bad idea (as long as you have other defenses in place), I do believe it’s a bad idea announcing WHAT YOU USE to store the recipe for your secret sauce, particularly when it’s on a social networking website, for everyone to see. That’s akin to announcing to the whole world the name and model number of the safe I use at home, what’s stored inside and where it is. But I’m still using a safe, so I’m secure right? No!
Posting critical information like that to a social networking website will make you a likelier target for hackers. It will be easy for them to build a profile of people based on their blog, Twitter and Facebook accounts, then plan a social engineering attack. The attack may come in the form of gaining your trust, then sending you a malicious file for you to execute. A general search of 1Password or Keepass on Twitter, will show you lots of users who are using the software.
While the secret sauce maybe encrypted, if a computer is infected with a trojan horse that has key logging features, the encryption no longer protects you and it becomes a moot point. If you don’t keep your operating system up to date, use anti-virus and a firewall that just makes you even more susceptible to your secret sauce being revealed.
The other question to ask yourself is, where do you store this information? Is that encrypted file on a laptop or desktop? What if the laptop is lost or stolen? Hopefully there is a back up. And a back up of that back up.
Rule of thumb: The more information you reveal about your computer’s defenses, the more vulnerable you become.
What concerns me, is how easily this lack of knowledge is spread via Twitter, and it will give people who aren’t as technically savvy, the wrong idea. I can guarante a lot of people will try out the password manager but forget to do everything else, like update their browser, anti-virus, operating system and install a firewall. If that’s the case, they will have all their eggs in one basket, and be ripe for the picking.
It’s still up in the air as to whether this truly pans out as a legitimate vulnerability. Komodo says XYZ, and Verisign/Symantec says VWX.
It’s not all gloom and doom. People just need to be aware of the websites they are using and if that site is using the certificate type that is vulnerable. If it has that certificate, send a message to the webmasters of the site and to the maker of the certificate asking them to kindly fix it – FAST. And don’t use the site that is affected.
Not all sites are going to be affected mind you. Not all SSL certificates are created equally.
Remember, it’s “your” privacy that’s at risk.