from the more-'security-mediocre-practices'-from-the-biggest-name-in-ID-protectio dept
LifeLock has never been the brightest star in the identity fraud protection constellation. Its own CEO -- with his mouth writing checks others would soon be cashing with his credentials -- expressed his trust in LifeLock's service by publishing his Social Security number, leading directly to 13 separate cases of (successful) identity theft.
Beyond that, LifeLock was barely a lock. It didn't encrypt stored credentials and had a bad habit of ambulance-chasing reported security breaches in hopes of pressuring corporate victims into picking up a year's worth of coverage for affected customers. This culminated in the FTC ordering it to pay a $12 million fine for its deceptive advertising, scare tactics, and inability to keep its customers' ID info safe.
It's LifeLock's ambulance chasing that's getting it into trouble again. Rather than verify the details of a recent breach, it began sending notices to customers informing them about possibly exposed info at entirely the wrong service.
Last week, LifeLock and several other identity theft protection firms erroneously alerted their customers to a breach at cloud storage giant Dropbox.com — an incident that reportedly exposed some 73 million usernames and passwords. The only problem with that notification was that Dropbox didn’t have a breach; the data appears instead to have come from another breach revealed this week at social network Tumblr.
This isn't completely LifeLock's fault. It did send out a false alarm and finger the wrong platform, but its information came from a third party: CSID. Brian Krebs approached the identity monitoring firm to determine how it had arrived at the wrong conclusion. It appears it's
turtles misinformation all the way down. CSID president of product and marketing Bryan Hjelm confirmed his company was suffering some "reputational concerns" after wrongly naming Dropbox, rather than Tumblr, as the source of the breach. But he still felt his company was doing a bang-up job in the ID protection department, despite utilizing questionable sources.
He told me that CSID relies on a number of sources online who have been accurate, early indicators of breaches past. One such actor — a sort of cyber gadfly best known by his hacker alias “w0rm” — had proven correct in previous posts on Twitter about new data breaches, Hjelm said.
In this case, w0rm posted to Twitter a link to download a file containing what he claimed were 100M records stolen from Dropbox. Perhaps one early sign that something didn’t quite add up is that the download he linked to as the Dropbox user file actually only included 73 million usernames and passwords.
In any case, CSID analysts couldn’t determine one way or the other whether it actually was Dropbox’s data. Nonetheless, they sent it out as such anyway, based on little more than w0rm’s say-so.
The problem with this bogus alert is that every step of it was automated. CSID admits it never checked out w0rm's claim by manually verifying the data dump contained what w0rm said it contained. It simply generated its alert, which was then picked up by others, like LifeLock, that rely on it for breach identification/notification. The automation continued as LifeLock sent auto-generated messages to its customers. The only manual part of this process occurred at the end user level when Dropbox customers began altering their login credentials to protect themselves from a nonexistent breach. Meanwhile, the real breach went ignored.
It's often said that humans are the weakest link in the security chain, but this incident shows that a little human intervention would have gone a long way towards heading off bogus breach notifications that made an unaffected company look like it was hiding something from its users.