Posts Tagged: Epsilon

Apr 15

SendGrid: Employee Account Hacked, Used to Steal Customer Credentials

Sendgrid, an email service used by tens of thousands of companies — including Silicon Valley giants as well as Bitcoin exchange Coinbase — said attackers compromised a Sendgrid employee’s account, which was then used to steal the usernames, email addresses and (hashed) passwords of customer and employee accounts. The announcement comes several weeks after Sendgrid sought to assure customers that the breach was limited to a single customer account.

sg1On April 9, The New York Times reported that Coinbase had its Sendgrid credentials compromised, and that thieves were apparently using the access to launch phishing attacks against Bitcoin-related businesses. Sendgrid took issue with the Times piece for implying that SendGrid had incurred a platform-wide breach. “The story has now been updated to reflect that only a single SendGrid customer account was compromised,” Sendgrid wrote in a blog post published that same day.

Today, Sendgrid published another post walking that statement back a bit, saying it now had more information about the extent of the intrusion thanks to assistance from data breach investigators:

“After further investigation in collaboration with law enforcement and FireEye’s (Mandiant) Incident Response Team, we became aware that a SendGrid employee’s account had been compromised by a cyber criminal and used to access several of our internal systems on three separate dates in February and March 2015,” wrote David Campbell, Sendgrid’s chief security officer.  Campbell continues:

“These systems contained usernames, email addresses, and (salted and iteratively hashed) passwords for SendGrid customer and employee accounts. In addition, evidence suggests that the cyber criminal accessed servers that contained some of our customers’ recipient email lists/addresses and customer contact information. We have not found any forensic evidence that customer lists or customer contact information was stolen. However, as a precautionary measure, we are implementing a system-wide password reset. Because SendGrid does not store customer payment cards we do know that payment card information was not involved.”

Sendgrid is urging customers to change their passwords, and to take advantage of the company’s multi-factor authentication offering. Sendgrid also said it is working to add more authentication methods for its two-factor security, and to expedite the release of special “API keys” that will allow customers to use keys instead of passwords for sending email through its systems.

Sendgrid manages billions of emails for some big brand names, including Pinterest, Spotify and Uber. This reach makes them a major target of fraudsters and spammers, who would like nothing more than to control whitelisted accounts capable of blasting out so much email each day.

In March 2015, U.S. prosecutors indicted three men in connection with the April 2011 compromise of commercial email giant Epsilon. Days after that break-in, customers at dozens of Fortune 500 companies began complaining of receiving spam to email addresses they’d created specifically for use with the companies directly served by Epsilon and its network of email providers.

Apr 11

After Epsilon: Avoiding Phishing Scams & Malware

The recent massive data leak from email services provider Epsilon means that it is likely that many consumers will be exposed to an unusually high number of email-based scams in the coming weeks and months. So this is an excellent time to point out some useful resources and tips that can help readers defend against phishing attacks and other nastygrams.

Don’t take the bait: Many people are familiar with the traditional phishing attack, which arrives in an email that appears to have been sent from your bank or ISP, warning that your account will be suspended unless you take some action immediately, usually clicking a link and “verifying” your account information, user name, password, etc. at a fake site. Commercial emails that emphasize urgency should be always considered extremely suspect, and under no circumstances should you do anything suggested in the email. Phishers count on spooking people into acting rashly because they know their scam sites have a finite lifetime; they may be shuttered at any moment (most phishing scams are hosted on hacked, legitimate Web sites). If you’re really concerned, pick up the phone (gasp!) and call the company to find out if there really is anything for you to be concerned about.

Links Lie: You’re a sucker if you take links at face value. For example, this might look like a link to Bank of America, but I assure you it is not. To get an idea of where a link goes, hover over it with your mouse and then look in the bottom left corner of the browser window. Yet, even this information often tells only part of the story, and some links can be trickier to decipher. For instance, many banks like to send links that include ridiculously long URLs which stretch far beyond the browser’s ability to show the entire thing when you hover over the link. The most important part of a link is the “root” domain. To find that, look for the first slash (/) after the “http://” part, and then work backwards through the link until you reach the second dot; the part immediately to the right is the real domain to which that link will take you.  Want to learn more cool stuff about links? Check out this guy’s site and you’ll be a link ninja in no time.

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Apr 11

Epsilon Breach Raises Specter of Spear Phishing

Security experts are warning consumers to be especially alert for targeted email scams in the coming weeks and months, following a breach at a major email marketing firm that exposed names and email addresses for customers of some of the nation’s largest banks and corporate brand names.

Late last week, Irving, Texas based Epsilon issued a brief statement warning that hackers had stolen customer email addresses and names belonging to a “subset of its clients.” Epsilon didn’t name the clients that had customer data lost in the breach; that information would come trickling out over the weekend, as dozens of major corporations began warning customers to be wary of unsolicited email scams that may impersonate their brands as a result.

Among Epsilon’s clients affected are three of the top ten U.S. banks – JP Morgan Chase, Citibank and U.S. Bank — as well as Barclays Bank and Capital One. More than two dozen other brands have alerted customers to data lost in the Epsilon breach (a list of companies known to have been impacted is at the bottom of this post).

Rod Rasmussen, chief technology officer at Internet Identity and the industry liaison for the Anti-Phishing Working Group, believes that the Epsilon breach will lead to an increase in “spear phishing” attacks, those that take advantage of known trust relationships between corporations and customers by crafting personalized messages that address recipients by name, thereby increasing the apparent authenticity of the email.

“I think this is going to make a big difference in spear phishing, where you may not be targeting an individual, but you know that that person has a bank account with US Bank and recently stayed at Disney,” Rasmussen said. “You now can automate spam based on things people have actually done, so your missive that they need to log into your phishing site is much more affective. You can also correlate across your data to see all the services someone is using, phish them for a user/password on something innocuous, and then re-use the same password for the bank they use, since there’s such rampant password re-use out there.”

Crooks used very similar spear phishing methods to steal customer contact information from dozens of email marketing firms late last year, as first reported in detail. In the wake of that assault, data spills at other email marketing firms like SilverPop have prompted disclosures from clients such as TripAdvisor and

Neil Schwartzman, executive director of the Coalition Against Unsolicited Commercial Email (CAUCE) and a former executive at email service provider ReturnPath, said his organization plans to release a document later today spelling out security measures that providers should be taking, such as encrypting customer data.

“There are best practices that the major of the industry should have implemented a year ago, but never did, and it’s just disgusting and reprehensible that they haven’t done this stuff yet,” Schwartzman said. “I’ve talked to people in other industrial sectors who said if my external auditors found out we were treating customer data this way, we’d be in serious trouble.”

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