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Why the Adobe Hack Scares Me -- And Why It Should Scare You
From: Audrey McNeil <audrey () riskbasedsecurity com>
Date: Wed, 20 Nov 2013 23:28:56 -0700


If you're one of those folks who believed that "it will never happen to
me," when it comes to identity theft, the hack of Adobe's internal database
isn't just bad news -- it's scary. It is increasingly inevitable that every
business will suffer some kind of data breach -- and that each of us will
be a victim of identity theft, possibly as a result of one of those
breaches. Suddenly, just being careful about your own information is no
longer enough to keep yourself safe.

If there is one universal truth about identity theft, it's that you'll
never know how bad it is until long after you've been put in danger (if you
ever really know). The Adobe hacking situation just illustrates the growing
problem with identity theft and how ordinary people are often the real
targets of hackers who target big companies.

It all started when Adobe reported the breach of more than 3 million
customers' information (including password-identifying information), then
upped the number to 38 million. Last week it got a whole lot worse when an
outside company found the data of some 152 million Adobe customers on a
site frequented by cybercriminals. That could mean that the Adobe hack is
the largest in history.

But if that wasn't bad enough -- and make no mistake, it's bad enough,
given how many people commonly reuse passwords across accounts and choose
to use unsafe passwords like "password" -- Adobe spokeswoman Heather Edell
confirmed to Reuters that "source code to several software titles" was
stolen in the breach. So far, Adobe has only disclosed that the hackers
took source code for its Cold Fusion (a web development application) and
Acrobat (the program that builds .pdf documents), though it's been reported
that at least Photoshop and Reader were similarly accessed.

The obvious issue for Adobe with the theft of its source code is that their
expensive products can now more easily be pirated. But beyond that, as
previous hacks have shown, the cybercriminals who slithered away with their
source code and their user database can use it to make much more than mere
mischief -- especially as almost anyone who uses the Internet likely uses
at least one Adobe product.

To understand how this kind source code theft could affect a company's
customers, one need look no further than the challenges faced by RSA, a
cybersecurity company whose database was breached in 2011. That breach
resulted in the theft of source code related to their SecurID product --
the little electronic tokens that cough up a new passcode every time you
try to log into an account. Though RSA announced they caught the
cyberintruders in April 2011, it wasn't until June that they publicly
admitted the hackers compromised their source code and replaced millions of
tokens for its 25,000 customers.

In the meantime, at least one of RSA's customers, Lockheed Martin,
experienced a breachmade possible with the hacked tokens.

It's worth pointing out that the RSA hack reportedly originated from a
problem with Adobe Flash that the hackers exploited after getting an RSA
employee to open an infected Microsoft Excel file, and the Adobe hack
reportedly used an exploit in its own Cold Fusion program. Finding more
exploits like these are just one way that hackers could use the source code
to commit even larger crimes and wreak even greater havoc. In the Adobe
hack, the bad guys know which programs specific users have, making it even
easier to engage in phishing to get people to download malware disguised as

And despite the risks, Adobe is still being circumspect about what exactly
was taken and what problems customers could face from the damage inflicted
on the company -- not that Adobe is unique in their circumspect
disclosures. Compared to many other companies, Adobe is being enormously
transparent. A new ThreatTrack Security survey indicates that as many of 6
in 10 data breaches that are discovered are not publicly reported.

In this case, Adobe is sending snail mail to users like me (and emails to
others) warning that my data might, or might not, have been compromised
weeks ago. But, in the meantime, even Facebook has used the hackers'
database to determine which email and password combos apply to their users'
accounts and locked those accounts down until they can be verified.

The truth is that we don't know exactly what the hackers spirited out of
Adobe and what they can do with that data -- and it's possible that Adobe
doesn't yet know, either. It's possible that we won't know much of it for a
while, if ever.

So what should you do? Be really careful with what files you open right
now, with what links you click and even with what emails you read (if you
don't have pictures blocked). Make sure you have and are running the most
up-to-date antivirus software that also scans for malware.

Also, change your passwords -- right now. Don't use the same password for
different accounts, especially for your financial and email accounts. Never
use the word "password" or any other word found in the dictionary, which
are really easy for hackers' programs to guess. Instead, in addition to
letters, use numbers, symbols and punctuation marks to make your password
harder to decipher. For financial accounts and email accounts (which can be
used to reset passwords on other accounts), insist on two-factor
authentication (a password and another form of identification determined by
your email provider).

A data breach like this one can lead to identity theft, which takes a huge
toll on your credit. You can spot identity theft early by using a credit
monitoring service for a fee, or you can use Credit.com's Credit Report
Card to monitor your credit scores on a monthly basis for free. Any sudden
drop in your scores could signal identity theft.

And, obviously, look twice at any email purportedly from Adobe encouraging
you to download updates or new versions of the software.
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