Following a data breach which allowed attackers to access the full payment card details of 3,814 customers from hotel booking website Worldview Limited, the company was fined £7,500 and the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) issued a warning that organisations must ensure their websites are protected against SQL injection - one of the most common online attacks.
The data was accessed after the attacker exploited a flaw on a page of the Worldview website to access the company's customer database. Although customers' payment details had been encrypted, the decryption key was stored with the data. This allowed the attackers to access the customers' full card details, including the three digit security code needed to authorise payment.
Paul Ayers, VP EMEA at data security expert Vormetric, commented in an email to SCMagazineUK.com, “As this case crucially demonstrates, unmanaged encryption keys can pose a critical risk to data – and a real risk to an organisation's lifeblood. Encryption keys are an indispensable element in the delivery of IT services – protecting your web communications, critical IP, legally protected data and much, much more. As such, they need to not only be stored securely but also be tracked, managed and reported on with strong separation of duties.”
The weakness had existed on the website since May 2010 and was only uncovered during a routine update on 28 June 2013. The attackers had access to the information for ten days. The company has now corrected the flaw and invested in improving its IT security systems.
Worldview Limited would have received a £75,000 penalty but the ICO was required to consider the company's financial situation.
Simon Rice, ICO group manager for Technology, said in a public statement: “It may come as a surprise to many in the IT security industry that this type of attack is still allowed to occur. SQL injection attacks are preventable but organisations need to spend the necessary time and effort to make sure their website isn't vulnerable. Worldview Limited failed to do this, allowing the card details of over three thousand customers to be compromised.
“Organisations must act now to avoid one of the oldest hackers' tricks in the book. If you don't have the expertise in-house, then find someone who does, otherwise you may be the next organisation on the end of an ICO fine and the reputational damage that results from a serious data breach.”
Ayers adds: “With targeted attacks aimed directly at getting to the wealth of information companies typical store at the database level on the increase, poorly implemented encryption solutions in their entirety can put sensitive data at risk of accidental compromise or malicious insider attack. Encryption needs to fit seamlessly and unobtrusively into an organisation's infrastructure, but the simple fact of the matter is that it must be managed in a coherent and integrated way. As the ICO highlights, too many businesses continue to make simple mistakes that needlessly put their reputation and business future on the line.”