Best Buy, Delta, Sears Hit by Third-Party Chat Widget Breach

Potentially hundreds of thousands of customers across multiple vendors are being impacted by a breach at [24]7.ai that occurred last September but wasn't reported to vendors until last month.

[24]7 ai breach timeline

Multiple firms have reported that their customers were put at risk due to a breach from third-party services vendors [24]7.ai, which provides a chat widget used by the impacted sites.

Among the companies that have publicly reported that their customers may be have been impacted by the breach are Best Buy, Delta Airlines and Sears Holdings. Delta and Sears both revealed they were victims of the [24]7.ai breach on April 4, while Best Buy admitted to being a victim on April 5.

"[24]7.ai discovered and contained an incident that was potentially affecting the online customer payment information of a small number of our client companies, and affected clients have been notified," [24]7.ai wrote in a statement. "The incident began on Sept. 26, and was discovered and contained on Oct. 12, 2017."

It's currently unclear how many customers the breach may have impacted, though both Sears and Delta have provided preliminary estimates. Sears estimates that "less than 100,000" of its customers were impacted, while Delta has stated that "several hundred thousand" customers might be at risk. Best Buy is still in the process of determining the impact.

"Since we were notified by [24]7.ai, we have been working to determine the extent to which Best Buy online customers’ information was affected," Best Buy stated. "As best we can tell, only a small fraction of our overall online customer population could have been caught up in this [24]7.ai incident, whether or not they used the chat function."

Risk

Delta, Best Buy and Sears were all using [24]7.ai's customer service chat widget. Customers use the widget to interact with customer service personnel, which can result in end users inputting payment card as well as other personal data.

"We understand malware present in [24]7.ai's software between Sept. 26 and Oct. 12, 2017, made unauthorized access possible for the following fields of information when manually completing a payment card purchase on any page of the delta.com desktop platform during the same timeframe: name, address, payment card number, CVV number, and expiration date," Delta stated.

Delta has also provided a thorough timeline for the cyber-security incident. Though the breach occurred in 2017, Delta stated that [24]7.ai did not inform its customers until March 28 about the data breach. Delta reported that out of an abundance of caution, it removed the chat tool from its website on March 29 and, following an investigation, alerted its customers beginning on April 4.

Although the breach has been confirmed, it's not clear if attackers have done anything with the stolen data. For its part, [24]7.ai stated that it notified law enforcement about the breach and is working with its clients to determine if any of their customer information was accessed. 

"While we believe we have identified with some precision the transactions that could have been impacted, we cannot say definitively whether any of our customers’ information was actually accessed or subsequently compromised," Delta stated.

Third-Party Risk

The breach of [24]7.ai is another example of how third-party technologies represent a risk to organizations, which is not a new concern. In 2016, eWEEK reported that third-party risks were linked to 63 percent of all data breaches. 

Third-party scripts have been implicated in multiple website vulnerabilities in recent years, including a JavaScript flaw found on the sites of credit reporting agencies Equifax and TransUnion in October 2017. More recently, on Feb. 11 the Browsealoud text-to-speech accessibility extension used by government websites was found to have been breached by attackers, who used it to inject an unauthorized crypto-currency mining script.

There are several steps that organizations can take to mitigate third-party cyber-risks—in a 2017 slide showeWEEK outlined 10 ways enterprises can limit their exposure.

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at eWEEK and InternetNews.com. Follow him on Twitter @TechJournalist.

Sean Michael Kerner

Sean Michael Kerner

Sean Michael Kerner is an Internet consultant, strategist, and contributor to several leading IT business web sites.