Brokerage powerhouse TD Ameritrade revealed on Sept. 14 that cyber-crooks have infiltrated its database of 6.3 million customers and have been sending targeted spam to stolen e-mail addresses.
The companys voice mail is featuring a message from CEO Joe Moglia reassuring callers that no Social Security numbers have been accessed, although a spokeswoman told eWEEK that SSNs are in fact kept on the same database that was breached.
Neither were account user IDs or passwords stolen, Moglia said, even though that information is kept on the same database as the customer information that was taken.
"[Its a] spam issue, but no accounts were touched," Moglia said. "User IDs and passwords [remain] protected. [There is] no evidence that SSNs were ever taken."
Regardless of whether SSNs were taken, security experts warn that TD Ameritrade customers should proceed with extreme caution when approaching their e-mail.
"Ameritrade is being very vocal about things like SSNs and passwords arent stolen. Well, if the hackers are miffed, theyll send out phishing e-mails to [TD] Ameritrade users saying, Hello, good friend here, you may have heard in the news that your details were lost. [To make up for it], wed like to give you free use of Ameritrade for a few weeks. Simply click on this link, then provide your account number and password," said Graham Cluley, a senior technology consultant at Sophos.
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Clicking on the theoretical link would then lead to a site designed to steal log-ins and passwords, of course, he said.
Thats one example of how TD Ameritrade customers could be targeted given the information thats now in the hands of cyber-criminals. Criminals could also now send highly targeted spam armed with a customers e-mail address, contact information, and knowledge that a given person regularly engages in online stock trading.
Pump and dump scam spam would be one likely use of such information. Cluley called this a "huge business" that now runs to some 25 percent of all spam Sophos now tracks—an explosive growth rate, up from 0.8 percent in January 2005.
Cluley pointed to one recent bust in the fight against pump-and-dumpers that came when four men pled guilty to being part of an international gang that used spam to manipulate stock prices, raising more than $20 million from investors. The four are now facing between 5 and 10 years in jail after having spammed investors with bogus news about 15 small companies and then selling off the artificially inflated stock and pocketing the profits.
Another thing the criminals could do with the knowledge of whos doing online stock trading would be to send offers for bogus tools, such as a free tool to track online portfolio that in actuality would be a Trojan that could commit identity theft or hijack a system, for example.
TD Ameritrade has been working with ID Analytics, a provider of identity risk services, to evaluate its customer base to determine if the theft of data has led to identity theft. The firm has to date found none, according to the spokeswoman.