Red alert over cyber attacks

 
Oliver Smith
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As EBay admits 200m accounts have been exposed to hackers

BUSINESSES are increasingly under siege by cyber criminals, with the number and severity of attacks dominating boardroom agendas, leading experts warned last night.

EBay yesterday said hackers had stolen emails, home addresses, phone numbers, birthdays and encrypted passwords between late February and early March in a data breach that may have affected a “large number” of accounts. It has 145m active accounts and more that are dormant. The firm urged its users to change their passwords.

“The thing is that passwords aren’t really the issue. You can’t easily change your home address, your name or your date of birth, and that is the data being stolen in these attacks,” McAfee’s EMEA technical chief Raj Samani told City A.M. “Without a shadow of a doubt cyber security is now at the top, or within the top three, of every boardroom agenda.”

EBay’s shares fell as much as 3.3 per cent to $50.3 (£29.77) in trading on the Nasdaq before recovering to $51.88 after the company reassured investors that there was no evidence its online payment service, PayPal, had been affected.

“For the time being, we cannot comment on the specific number of accounts impacted,” EBay spokeswoman Kari Ramirez said. “However, we believe there may be a large number of accounts involved.”

Last year hackers stole 40m card numbers and 70m customer records from US retailer Target.

Just last month, Aol told its tens of millions of email account holders to change their passwords after it said an attack had compromised about two per cent of its accounts.

“We’ve come to this realisation that we are in a post-prevention world, we have the security but hackers will inevitably bypass it. Really it is now the tools to detect and respond to attacks that are the most important. It’s a fundamental shift in the conversation, and has happened in the past 18 months,” online security firm Blue Coat’s information security chief Brian Conto said last night.

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