Customer Data Stolen from

By Lisa Vaas  |  Posted 2007-09-14 Print this article Print

TD Ameritrade Database"> TD Ameritrade was tipped off to the breach within the past few weeks. After customers complained that they were receiving stock-related spam at e-mail addresses given to the brokerage, the company investigated and discovered that unauthorized code had been injected onto its systems, allowing a third party to retrieve customer data, the spokeswoman told eWEEK. The thief—or thieves—managed to get their hands on contact information including e-mail addresses, names, phone numbers and physical addresses. They also managed to dig out information on customers trading activities, including the number of trades placed by clients in a given time period.
Until TD Ameritrade wraps up its investigation—now in progress in conjunction with the FBI, the FCC and forensics specialists—security experts are putting forth two potential scenarios for how the hack was done. One method, proposed by Dave Marcus, security research and communications manager at McAfee Avert Labs, is that the thieves used a slew of approaches, including "old-fashioned hacking."
Read here about how theU.S. Consulate Web site in Russia was breached. "Based on TD Ameritrades statements the attackers most likely used old fashioned hacking, social engineering and a cocktail of malicious software including password-stealing Trojans and bots to pilfer the customer data," he said in a statement. Cluley proposed an alternative path through which the thieves might have entered the brokerage: via unpatched systems connecting to TD Ameritrades network, whether they belonged to employees, contractors or the copy machine repairman. "Too many companies allow photocopier repairman to plug into their networks," he said. "You have to prevent guests, contractors [and] remote users" from connecting, and infecting, a network, he said. "It could have been, not an employee who got infected, but maybe someone who was simply a guest—somebody doing contract work or repairing the copy machine, who needed to download a patch for the copy machine, or who wanted to surf something or check their e-mail." Its that scenario—users or visitors plugging into a network and coughing up whatever viruses, Trojans or other nastyware their unpatched systems have caught—that NAC (Network Access Control) vendors have been using to try to sell their wares. Such products, whether hardware- or software-based, seek to enforce security policy by restricting systems that dont have up to date anti-virus signatures, are missing security patches or whatever other shortcomings they have vis-à-vis security policies. "I dont believe [TD] Ameritrade dont have firewalls and AV and dont understand the importance of security patches," Cluley said. "Maybe they need to do a little more to ensure that all those were compliant and only users who need to access the database [can]. … This is a wake-up call to go beyond [anti-virus software] and to secure and control [security] better with things like NAC," Cluley said. Check out eWEEK.coms Security Center for the latest security news, reviews and analysis. And for insights on security coverage around the Web, take a look at eWEEKs Security Watch blog.

Lisa Vaas is News Editor/Operations for and also serves as editor of the Database topic center. Since 1995, she has also been a Webcast news show anchorperson and a reporter covering the IT industry. She has focused on customer relationship management technology, IT salaries and careers, effects of the H1-B visa on the technology workforce, wireless technology, security, and, most recently, databases and the technologies that touch upon them. Her articles have appeared in eWEEK's print edition, on, and in the startup IT magazine PC Connection. Prior to becoming a journalist, Vaas experienced an array of eye-opening careers, including driving a cab in Boston, photographing cranky babies in shopping malls, selling cameras, typography and computer training. She stopped a hair short of finishing an M.A. in English at the University of Massachusetts in Boston. She earned a B.S. in Communications from Emerson College. She runs two open-mic reading series in Boston and currently keeps bees in her home in Mashpee, Mass.

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