January 19, 2007
In the same week that TJX Companies reported what could be one of the largest data losses in recent memory, three major financial institutions report that they also may have exposed the personal information of large numbers of customers.
Nordea, a Swedish bank, revealed today that its customers have been swindled for around $1.1 million over the last 15 months in what the company calls the "biggest ever" online bank theft. About 250 of the bank's customers appear to have been targeted by a Haxdoor Trojan that made it possible for criminals to steal account data and login information.
CIBC, a Canadian bank, yesterday reported that it has lost a backup drive that contains personal and financial information on some 470,000 customers. The bank says it has no reason to believe that the information has been stolen, but the drive -- which was lost in transit between two offices -- is still missing.
Moneygram, the Minneapolis-based payment services company, said last Friday that information on 79,000 of its customers was "unlawfully accessed" from its servers via an Internet hack last month. The company called the intrusion "an isolated incident" that only involved customers who made payments to a single biller.
The data losses have dealt a nasty collective blow to the banking and credit industry, which yesterday was digging out from a raft of credit card re-issues necessitated by TJX's revelation that its systems had been hacked and customer accounts pilfered. At least ten banks in Massachusetts reported customer thefts resulting from the intrusion, and experts say they still don't know how bad the breach is.
Meanwhile, in Sweden, the tailor-made Trojan that led to thefts from scores of Nordea customer accounts was dressed up as a "spam fighting" application, and it was probably sent by Russian-organized criminals, authorities say.
Most of Nordea's customers were not running antivirus applications, according to reports. The bank is absorbing the force of the attack on its own -- all of the affected customers have received a refund of their stolen funds. Some of the larger fraudulent transactions were observed and flagged, according to bank officials, but the criminals managed to complete many smaller transactions.
The news was more uncertain in Canada, where CIBC learned of its missing hard drive around the Christmas holiday. The bank held off notifying customers of the loss at first, hoping that the data could be recovered. Finally, however, officials decided to send a letter to clients to let them know about the incident, and to track any subsequent fraudulent activity.
The drive contains "information relating to the process used to open and administer the accounts," according to CIBC officials. The bank is not providing any further information until the investigation is complete.
The situation is similar at Moneygram, where officials report that servers containing bill payment information were violated, though they have no way to tell whether any of the data was compromised or stolen. Customers have been given a free subscription to a credit monitoring service, officials say, and they are working with law enforcement to determine whether the exposed data is being used by third parties.
Moneygram did not say how its servers were violated, but it represented the breach as a one-time event. "We have taken additional security measures to help ensure this type of incident does not occur again," said Vicki Keller, vice president of Moneygram Global Payment Services.
The impact of data losses like these is substantial, experts say. In a study published earlier this month, the Ponemon Institute estimated that each lost customer record costs a company about $182. Other experts say that businesses lose as many as 30 percent of their online customers following a breach.
— Tim Wilson, Site Editor, Dark Reading
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