Attacks/Breaches
10/20/2008
06:40 PM
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Hackers Steal Money From French President Sarkozy's Bank Account

An investigation is under way and the bank in question could face sanctions if it's found to be responsible, French officials said.

French President Nicholas Sarkozy has joined the growing list of famous people victimized by cybercriminals.

Online thieves stole a small amount of money from Sarkozy's bank account after having obtained his personal banking details, France's La Journal du Dimanche reported Sunday.

A French government spokesman told Le Monde that an investigation is under way and that the bank in question could face sanctions if it's found to be responsible.

Le Monde quoted a source close to the investigation saying that those responsible probably did not know they were misusing the French president's account. It said that Sarkozy's account information was used to open one or more mobile phone subscriptions.

The unnamed source characterized the attack as classic hacking. Neither report reveals how Sarkozy's information was obtained. Possibilities include weak security on the part of Sarkozy's bank, a leak from within the bank, a successful phishing attack against Sarkozy or someone with access to his computer, or successful subversion of Sarkozy's computer using malware, to name a few.

Sarkozy is said to have filed a complaint about the incident last month.

"What's interesting is how the cybercrooks managed to steal the password to access what should have been a secure account," observes Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant at security firm Sophos, in an online post. "This latest incident highlights the fact that no one is safe and that everyone should take the necessary precautions to avoid ending up in the same boat as Sarkozy and so many others."

Last month, Republican vice presidential candidate and Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin's Yahoo Mail account was hacked and made public when someone guessed a security question and was allowed to change the account password.

Earlier this month, a Tennessee grand jury indicted David C. Kernell for hacking Palin's account. He faces a maximum of five years in prison, a $250,000 fine, and three years of supervised release if convicted.

In 2004, Paris Hilton's T-Mobile Sidekick address book was hacked. The following year, the teen found to be responsible was sentenced to 11 months in a juvenile detention facility.

Often such incidents arise from the actions of insiders. Last year, 27 hospital workers were suspended for looking at actor George Clooney's medical records without authorization.

Earlier this year, two State Department contract workers were fired and one was disciplined for accessing the passport files of three presidential candidates at the time, Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton, John McCain, and Barack Obama.

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The cybersecurity profession struggles to retain women (figures range from 10 to 20 percent). It's particularly worrisome for an industry with a rapidly growing number of vacant positions.

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