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Equifax receives a £500,000 fine for its 2017 data breach


Equifax receives a £500,000 fine for its 2017 data breach. Equifax is a widely popular consumer credit reporting agency that had a major data breach last year. Apparently, there were a lot of UK residents whose data was leaked by the company, so the UK regulator fined the company with £500,000.

This is the maximum fine that’s allowed by the Data Protection act in the UK. This might seem a small amount for a company that’s worth around $16 billion. But it’s a sign that the UK and maybe even other countries are not taking data breaches lightly.

A similar fine was imposed on Facebook due to the massive Cambridge Analytica scandal, a problem that was quite similar to this, although at a much larger scale. Equifax had a data breach which ended with the exposure of around 145 million people all over the world between May and July 2017.

The information leaked included PII, credit card information, driver license details, social security numbers, addresses, as well as phone numbers, dates of birth and names. As you can see, it was a massive leak and something that lowered the company’s trust quite a bit. The situation appeared because the company didn’t patch an Apache Struts 2 vulnerability on time, even if patches were released by the company.

Is it possible for UK regulators to fine US companies?

The UK ICO agreed that the £500,000 amount is ok for this type of situation. The ICO states that even if this is an US company, the data of many UK citizens was leaked as well, in fact around 15 million people from that were based in the UK, so that’s an extremely high number of people with their data affected.

Around 19993 of them had their driving license numbers, phone, date of birth and name exposed. 637430 of those people had their phone numbers, date of birth and name exposed and 15 million people had only their dates of birth and names exposed. 15000 UK residents also had their addresses, password and username, credit card numbers, spending amounts and account recovery questions stolen as well. As you can see, the issue was severe and there was a need for someone to take action.

The breach was possible due to multiple Equifax failures

The aforementioned Apache Struts 2 vulnerability was only one of the many problems that the company had to deal with. Another thing to note is that the company kept the news of this breach hidden for around a month after they discovered it internally. 3 senior executives from Equifax were able to sell $2 worth of shares, even if the company denies this.

Now that we have GDPR, there are more stringent data protection regulations and the £500,000 amount is still quite low. Based on the GDPR rules, the fines would be a lot higher, up to 20 million euros or 4% of the global revenue.

Equifax stated that they are fully cooperating with the ICO, although they are disappointed in the penalty and the findings as well. They can appeal the penalty though, even if they didn’t do that until this point!


Photo by Chris Lawton on Unsplash

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UK Fines Facebook over Cambridge Analytica Scandal


UK Fines Facebook over Cambridge Analytica Scandal. The UK has hit Facebook a fine of $645,000 for the Cambridge Analytica Scandal. It was revealed earlier this year that they had harvested the personal data of millions of profiles without the user’s consent and used it for political purposes. It is estimated that 87 million users were affected.


The fine has been enforced by the UK’s Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) and was calculated using a pre-GDPR formula for data breach fines. Using the UK’s old Data Protection Act to fine Facebook, rather than GDPR they can only give a maximum penalty of £500,000, which is equal to what the social media giant earns every 18 minutes.


GDPR rules dictate a maximum fine of 4% of annual global turnover, which would be $1.6 billion. Unfortunately the the GDPR regulation wasn’t in place when the Cambridge Analytica story broke, coming into force in May 2018.


The UK investigation concluded that Facebook’s APIs had been allowing developers access to users information without them providing proper consent, for a long period of time between 2007 and 2014. Once they realized this loophole existed and patched it up, they did nothing to investigate the data compromised or ensure it was deleted.


[FACEBOOK] should have known better and it should have done better… We considered these contraventions to be so serious we imposed the maximum penalty under the previous legislation. The fine would inevitably have been significantly higher under the GDPR

Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham said in a statement


Facebook has said they are reviewing the ICO’s findings and stated they “respectfully disagree” with some of the report, but admit they should have done more to protect users data. They also added that they found no evidence that British users profile information was shared with Cambridge Analytica.

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Libssh Security Flaw leaves thousands of servers vulnerable to hijacking

Libssh Security Flaw leaves thousands of servers vulnerable to hijacking

Libssh Security Flaw leaves thousands of servers vulnerable to hijacking. A security flaw in libssh leaves thousands, and potentially more, servers vulnerable to an attack. Libssh is a multiplatform C library which allows users to remotely execute programs, transfer files, manage public keys and use a secure and transparent tunnel.


The security flaw, discovered by Peter Winter-Smith from NCC Group, allows a hacker to bypass the authentication process on the servers and gain access to the system without having to enter a password.


An attacker can do this by sending the SSH server “SSH2_MSG_USERAUTH_SUCCESS” message instead of the “SSH2_MSG_USERAUTH_REQUEST” message that a server usually expects and which libssh uses as a sign that an authentication procedure needs to initiate.


The libssh system will treat this message to mean the authentication has already taken place and allow the attacker access to the server. The flaw (CVE-2018-10933) was released in January 2014 in release 0.6.0.


It’s estimated that the vulnerability currently affects at least 3000 servers, however this is based on a small search and the scale of the problem is not yet known. There were concerns that the popular version control site for developers to work collaboratively on projects, GitHub, was affected but they have released a statement denying this. Github claims the way they use libssh means they are not vulnerable to this exploit.


“We use a custom version of libssh; SSH2_MSG_USERAUTH_SUCCESS with the libssh server is not relied upon for pubkey-based auth, which is what we use the library for,”

a GitHub security official said on twitter


The security flaw is only on the server side, meaning users who have a libssh based SSH client installed on their computer will be safe from potential attackers looking to exploit this vulnerability.


While there are currently no public exploits available for the vulnerability, they are easy to put together so these are likely to pop up online in the coming days and weeks.

The team at libssh released versions 0.8.4 and 0.7.6 yesterday to handle this bug.


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Ad Clicker Disguised as a Google Photos App has been Hosted on Microsoft Store.

Ad Clicker Disguised as a Google Photos App has been Hosted on Microsoft Store

Ad Clicker Disguised as a Google Photos App has been Hosted on Microsoft Store.


A malicious app called “Album by Google Photos” was found to be hosted on the Microsoft store. The app was pretending to be part of Google Photos, but was in fact an ad clicker that generates hidden adverts within the Windows 10 Operating System.


The ad clicker app seemed credible to users because of its name, and also the fact it claimed to be created by Google LLC, Google’s actual Microsoft store account is Google Inc, but it looks unsuspecting to users. Microsoft came under some criticism for not realising the app was actually malicious software since the user reviews did highlight that the app was fake, with plenty of 1* reviews. One review states “ My paid Anti-malware solution detected several attempts to download malware by this app. Watch out”. The App was first released on the Microsoft store in May.


What did the application do?


The “Album by Google Photos” app is a Progressive Web Application (PWA), which acts as the front end for Google Photos and includes a legitimate login screen. Hidden in the app bundle is also an ad clicker which runs in the background and generates income for the app developers.


The app connects to ad URLS, and the ads were very similar to what users would see from typical adware, including tech support scams, random chrome extensions, fake flash and java installs and general low-quality sites.


Microsoft haven’t commented how this app managed to pass the Microsoft review process before ending up on the store.  This is somewhat concerning since it could mean other malicious apps of a similar nature have flown under the radar and are still infecting user’s computers. We are waiting for Microsoft to comment on the issue.

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