AntiSec's Dump Of Law Enforcement Data Includes Personal Data Of Thousands

Published info contains more than 2,500 SSNs, 15,000 dates of birth, 8,000 passwords, and 45,000 personal addresses, study says
What types of information are exposed when Anonymous and affiliated hacker groups publish your organization's data? A research team has done a careful study of AntiSec's most recent dump of data from law enforcement agencies -- and for the individuals whose data was involved, the news is not good.

Identity Finder, a maker of identity protection and data leak prevention tools, this week released a detailed analysis (PDF) of the 10-GB confidential data cache of 70 U.S. law enforcement agencies that was published recently by the AntiSec movement.

The study confirms claims by AntiSec stating that the cache contains "hundreds of private email spools, password information, address and Social Security numbers, credit card numbers, snitch information, training files, and more."

Identity Finder used its DLP tools to analyze the published data, which contains information regarding officers, informants, and law enforcement investigations, according to the company. Using its data analysis tools, Identity Finder found 2,719 Social Security numbers (1,923 unique); 15,798 dates of birth, including duplicates; 8,214 passwords, including duplicates; 45,764 postal addresses, including duplicates; eight credit card numbers; 53 driver's license numbers; 89,589 telephone numbers, including duplicates; and 1.5 million email addresses, including duplicates.

"The 1,923 Social Security numbers were one of the biggest concerns because they could be correlated with full names, addresses, and dates of birth," says Todd Feinman, CEO of Identity Finder. "With that information, a hacker can open up a credit card account, or even steal a tax refund."

The data appears to be the same sort of information that attackers might find if they dumped any average worker's computer, Feinman says. It includes a variety of file types, including PDF, PowerPoint, Word, email, and Web server files.

"Of course, it contains information about law enforcement investigations, but in terms of file types, it's fairly typical of what you'd find on the average person's work computer," Feinman says. "We even found 22 pieces of malware that had infected them."

But the way AntiSec exposed the data is very different than the way most cybercriminals compromise data, Feinman observes. "When a cybercriminal steals data, they usually keep it to themselves or sell it to another party," he says. "Your exposure is limited. But in this case, the data is posted to the the whole Web, so any jerk on the Internet can do identity theft."

If movements such as AntiSec continue to attack in this way, they could change the face of enterprise security, in general -- and identity theft, in particular, Feinman suggests. "Some of these law enforcement agencies were relatively small, which shows that any company could be a target," he says. "And the way the data was dumped, there wasn't much separation between sensitive data and public data, which is different than you'd see in a financially motivated attack."

Feinman recommends that organizations take an inventory of the sensitive data they have and get rid of any data they don't need. "We're seeing more customers using our 'shredder' feature now," he says. "If you aren't going to use it, there's no reason to keep it around."

Data leak prevention can help an enterprise identify sensitive data and secure it, but not all DLP products work the same way, Feinman observes. While some reside at the gateway and monitor traffic going in and out of the enterprise, Identity Finder focuses on the endpoint and encourages the end user to decide whether their data should be stored, shredded, or encrypted, he says.

Have a comment on this story? Please click "Comment" below. If you'd like to contact Dark Reading's editors directly, send us a message.

Editors' Choice
Jai Vijayan, Contributing Writer, Dark Reading
Kelly Jackson Higgins 2, Editor-in-Chief, Dark Reading