Hacker Adds New York Times To Long List Of Targets - InformationWeek

InformationWeek is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them.Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.


Hacker Adds New York Times To Long List Of Targets

A 21-year-old hacker gains access to the newspaper's corporate intranet and its source database. It's the latest in a long list of companies whose security problems have been exposed by hacker Adrian Lamo.

Self-professed "security researcher" Adrian Lamo, 21, has struck again, this time accessing a database holding the personal information of 3,000 New York Times employees, as well as accessing personal information for big-name contributors such as Jimmy Carter, Rush Limbaugh, and Robert Redford.

Lamo surfed in from the Web, scanned the Times' internal network, found an open server, and shortly found seven more. By viewing header information in an auto-responded E-mail, he found references to servers on the internal network and was able to hack into the database. He viewed the personal information and logged himself in as an administrative assistant.

It remains unclear whether the Times could be held liable for the security breach that let Lamo access private information, including Social Security and home phone numbers--information the victims assumed would be secure. "The Times is probably in the clear here, because Adrian Lamo didn't misuse the data. He just went public with the security problems," privacy researcher Richard Smith says. Lamo contacted the Times through a reporter at security Web site SecurityFocus.com.

Lamo, however, could face criminal charges for unauthorized network and system access--something he's well aware of. "I ask people to look at the totality of the actions and draw their own conclusions," he says. But Smith says that Lamo "needs to be real careful with these kinds of demos. Even with the best of intentions, he still poked around on someone else's computer."

Lamo says it was fairly easy to snoop on the Times network, pointing to lax security policy. "For some reason, companies like to authenticate people with things like last name and the last four digits of Social Security numbers. It probably reduces calls to the help desk, but it's not a good practice, especially when you have Social Security numbers lying around in another part of the network."

A New York Times spokeswoman says the newspaper filled the security holes that allowed Lamo entry onto its private network, and the incident is still under investigation. She wouldn't confirm whether or not the Times plans to file a criminal complaint.

To date, Lamo has been lucky: None of his previous targets--WorldCom, Microsoft, Yahoo, AOL, or [email protected] in law enforcement. In fact, a WorldCom spokeswoman thanked Lamo for bringing the flaw to the company's attention and subsequently helping WorldCom's internal security fix the situation.

Brad McKenzie, director of the national penetration test team with Internet Security Systems Inc., which performs security-assessment tests for clients, says his team is successful roughly 90% of the time when trying to hack into a network. He has his own theory as to why companies don't call law enforcement. "They want to get the event behind them. A major and public security breach is a nightmare, and if you have a court case, that drags it on."

While Lamo says his actions help people, he's not convinced they will lead to improved Internet security for most businesses. Says Lamo, "Will companies see this and all of a sudden wake up to the need of better security? I'm not so sure."

We welcome your comments on this topic on our social media channels, or [contact us directly] with questions about the site.
Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
The State of IT & Cybersecurity Operations 2020
The State of IT & Cybersecurity Operations 2020
Download this report from InformationWeek, in partnership with Dark Reading, to learn more about how today's IT operations teams work with cybersecurity operations, what technologies they are using, and how they communicate and share responsibility--or create risk by failing to do so. Get it now!
10 Cyberattacks on the Rise During the Pandemic
Cynthia Harvey, Freelance Journalist, InformationWeek,  6/24/2020
IT Trade Shows Go Virtual: Your 2020 List of Events
Jessica Davis, Senior Editor, Enterprise Apps,  5/29/2020
Study: Cloud Migration Gaining Momentum
John Edwards, Technology Journalist & Author,  6/22/2020
Register for InformationWeek Newsletters
Current Issue
Key to Cloud Success: The Right Management
This IT Trend highlights some of the steps IT teams can take to keep their cloud environments running in a safe, efficient manner.
White Papers
Twitter Feed
Sponsored Live Streaming Video
Everything You've Been Told About Mobility Is Wrong
Attend this video symposium with Sean Wisdom, Global Director of Mobility Solutions, and learn about how you can harness powerful new products to mobilize your business potential.
Sponsored Video
Flash Poll