Did LinkedIn fail to follow "industry standard" information security practices? That's the charge leveled against the business-oriented social networking site in a class action lawsuit filed last week in U.S. District Court.
With that in mind, here are nine facts related to LinkedIn and the question of "industry standard" security practices:
1. Breach Facts Remain Scarce
Here's what's known about the breach: hashes for 6.5 million LinkedIn users' passwords were uploaded to a hacking forum earlier this month by a hacker who requested help with cracking the passwords. Interestingly, no easy passwords appeared to be part of the upload, and there were no duplicates, suggesting that the attacker had already cracked those and edited down the list of uploaded passwords.
In light of those facts, Tal Be'ery, the Web security research team leader at Imperva's Application Defense Center, thinks that the number of breached accounts is at least 10 million.
[ Are legislators' efforts to craft breach notification standards a waste of time? Read Senators Float National Data Breach Law, Take Four. ]
2. Don't Expect Class Action Lawsuit To Succeed
3. Data Breaches Can Be Difficult To Detect
At this point, LinkedIn has yet to provide any details about how many accounts were affected, or how the attacker managed to grab a password database--or databases--containing information on millions of accounts. It appears that LinkedIn didn't know that it had been hacked until the passwords showed up on the password-cracking forum. That's led to charges that LinkedIn's security practices weren't sufficiently robust. For comparison's sake, however, FBI officials have said that in the course of cybercrime investigations, they often turn up evidence that businesses have been breached, but remained unaware of that breach until the bureau informed them.
4. "Standard" Security Approaches Are Often Weak
Of course, what that suggests is that many businesses' standard approaches to information security involve poor standards. Oftentimes lacking are specific processes for avoiding and dealing with data breaches, although a recent study did find that businesses in the United States are getting better at handling breaches.
5. No Business Is 100% Breach-Proof
Even with the most advanced security program, however, experts say that data breaches should always be treated as a "when, not if" proposition. "If an adversary wants to get into your network, they're going to do it--it doesn't matter how much technology you use. Eventually you're going to lose," said Jerry Johnson, CIO at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, speaking via phone. Of course, the LinkedIn breach could also have been caused by a trusted insider, against which many security defenses simply wouldn't work.
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