It's not at all surprising any longer to hear about companies leaking data, or losing it to hackers, so the other day's news that 19,000 customers' credit-card information had been stolen from AT&T wasn't particularly interesting. However, some more information has come to light, showing this wasn't a run-of-the-mill credit-card theft. David Lazarus in the SF Chronicle discovered that the hackers didn't immediately go and try to max out the credit cards, they used the stolen info as the basis for an elaborate phishing attack in an attempt to gather more information -- such as Social Security numbers and dates of birth -- from their victims. A lot of credit-card theft remains a relatively low-level crime, where thieves will just try to buy stuff as long as they can. But these hackers eschewed those short-term gains, instead trying to get enough information to commit more serious identity theft, something that could have much longer-lasting and detrimental effects. The used the stolen information to make the email they sent to victims look much more credible than the average "DEAR SIR, Pleease be updating in your PayPal akount informations" message. Given people's growing suspicion of emails, even legitimate ones, it's an interesting tactic, and one that could become more common.
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