August may be known for summer vacations and relaxing by the beach, but in the world of hackers, it was a month of action-packed cyber escapades. As the digital realm grows, so does the audacity of those who breach the walls of data security. In this blog post, I will take you through the breaches that unfolded in the hot days of August. From electric cars to language learning apps, we’ve got it all covered. Let’s dive in.
Tesla recently reported a data breach affecting over 75,000 of its employees to insider misconduct, according to an official statement. The electric vehicle manufacturer, headed by Elon Musk, stated in a data breach report submitted to Maine’s Attorney General that a thorough investigation determined two former employees had disclosed personal information belonging to more than 75,000 individuals to a foreign media organization.
Tesla’s data privacy officer, Steven Elentukh, stated in the report that “the investigation uncovered that two former Tesla employees wrongfully obtained and shared this information, contravening Tesla’s IT security and data protection protocols by providing it to the media outlet.”
The sensitive data included personally identifiable details such as names, addresses, contact numbers, employment records, and Social Security numbers of 75,735 past and current Tesla employees. The report also revealed that the two ex-employees had transmitted this data to the German newspaper Handelsblatt, which assured Tesla it would refrain from publishing the information and adhere to legal restrictions concerning its use.
In May, Handelsblatt had previously reported a significant breach at Tesla, disclosing various internal documents, known as the “Tesla Files,” totaling 100 gigabytes of confidential information. These documents included employee personal data, customer banking information, proprietary production details, and customer grievances regarding Tesla’s Full Self-Driving (FSD) functionalities. Remarkably, the leak even contained Elon Musk’s Social Security number.
Tesla responded by initiating legal action against the individuals believed to be responsible for the data breach, leading to the confiscation of their electronic devices. Additionally, the company obtained court orders to prevent these former employees from further accessing, sharing, or using the data, with potential criminal consequences for violations.
This incident follows a previous report in April by Reuters, which revealed that Tesla employees had shared sensitive images recorded by customer vehicles, including invasive pictures and videos captured by car cameras, over the period from 2019 to 2022.
In January 2023, a data breach of Duolingo resulted in the exposure of 2.6 million users’ data on a hacking forum. This has created an opportunity for malicious actors to execute targeted phishing campaigns using the compromised information. The dataset consists of public login and real names, along with confidential details, such as email addresses and internal data related to the Duolingo platform, which can be exploited in cyberattacks.
The data was acquired by exploiting a publicly available application programming interface (API), which had been openly shared since at least March 2023. Researchers had been posting on social media and public platforms about the ease of using this API, which ultimately led to the data breach. The API permits anyone to input a username and receive JSON output containing the user’s publicly accessible profile data. Importantly, it also facilitates the input of an email address into the API to confirm its association with a valid Duolingo account.
The presence of email addresses in the dataset raises significant concerns as it can be exploited in phishing campaigns, which can have detrimental effects on individuals and organizations. It is vital to note that while the inclusion of real names and login names is part of a user’s Duolingo profile, the presence of email addresses is not considered public information.
Companies often downplay the significance of scraped data, as much of it is already publicly accessible, even if its compilation is not straightforward. However, when public data is combined with private information, such as phone numbers and email addresses, it amplifies the risk associated with the exposed data and may potentially breach data protection regulations. Facebook encountered a significant breach in 2021 when an “Add Friend” API flaw was exploited to link phone numbers to Facebook accounts for 533 million users. Subsequently, the Irish Data Protection Commission (DPC) imposed a fine on Facebook for this mishandling of scraped data.
I will say, it is also pretty concerning that the API, which led to the Duolingo data breach, is still openly accessible on the internet, even after reports of its misuse were forwarded to Duolingo in January. This puts Duolingo users at risk and highlights the need for companies to take data protection seriously. While companies may downplay the significance of scraped data, the potential for harm is significant, and it is crucial to address these issues proactively to ensure that personal information remains secure.
On August 14, 2023, an unofficial platform known for providing redirect and invitation links to Discord servers, Discord.io, suffered a significant data breach. The hacker “Akhirah” exposed the breach, which has compromised the personal information of more than 760,000 users.
The stolen data from the breach includes usernames, Discord IDs, email addresses, and passwords that have been salted and hashed. While the password encryption offers a degree of protection, the potential for decryption remains a looming threat, underscoring the immediate need for users to bolster their security. Discord.io urges users to change their passwords to mitigate the impact of the breach.
Discord.io has taken the unprecedented step of indefinitely suspending its operations in response to the breach. Visitors to the Discord.io website now encounter a message detailing the seriousness of the breach. The company is being transparent about the compromised data fields, aiming to provide affected users with clarity regarding the information exposed and what remains secure in the wake of this incident.
“We have canceled existing premium subscriptions, and we will be reaching out to affected users individually. As of now, we have not been contacted by those responsible for the breach, nor have we initiated contact with them. To our knowledge, the database has not been made public at this time.” – Discord.io
In an interview with the hacker Akhirah, he expressed a desire for Discord.io to eliminate malicious content from their platform and communicate with him to resolve these issues, without seeking retribution or a reward.
This data breach follows a similar trend in the cybersecurity landscape. Just recently, the LetMeSpy Android Spyware Service also announced its permanent shutdown following a successful breach by a hacker who gained access to user data.
SEIKO NPC Corporation, a long-established Japanese semiconductor manufacturer founded in 1975 with approximately 12,000 employees, has officially recognized the possibility of a data breach.
On August 10th, the company posted a data breach notification on its website. However, cybersecurity experts only recently became aware of the breach after the ransomware group BlackCat featured SEIKO on its data leak platform.
SEIKO did not provide specific details but referred to the cybersecurity incident as a “potential” data breach.
According to SEIKO, “On July 28th of this year, the company experienced a potential data breach. It appears that unauthorized individuals or parties gained access to at least one of our servers.”
ALPHV/BlackCat Ransomware, now taking credit for the breach, shared several files on their data leak platform as evidence. Among these files was what appeared to be a copy of Yoshikatsu Kawada’s passport, a director at SEIKO’s well-known Watch Corporation subsidiary.
After an external cybersecurity expert examined the incident, SEIKO determined that a breach occurred, and some of the company’s information may have been compromised.
“At present, we are in the process of confirming the precise nature of the information stored on the affected servers. Once our ongoing investigation yields more specific results, we will promptly provide an update,” the company stated. However, no further updates regarding the breach have been made available thus far.
About ALPHV/BlackCat Ransomware:
ALPHV/BlackCat ransomware first emerged in 2021. Similar to other entities in the cybercriminal realm, this group operates a ransomware-as-a-service (RaaS) enterprise, selling malware subscriptions to criminal actors. Notably, the gang employs the Rust programming language.
According to an analysis by Microsoft, threat actors associated with this ransomware were known to collaborate with other prominent ransomware families such as Conti, LockBit, and REvil.
The FBI has suggested that money launderers affiliated with the ALPHV/BlackCat cartel have ties to Darkside and Blackmatter ransomware cartels, indicating a well-established network of operatives within the RaaS sector.
Recently, ALPHV/BlackCat has been notably active among ransomware groups. According to cybersecurity analyst ANOZR WAY, the group was responsible for approximately 12% of all attacks in 2022.
This gang appears to have recently focused its efforts on professional service providers. In mid-May, it claimed responsibility for breaching Mazars Group, an international firm specializing in auditing, accounting, and consulting services.
Clothing and accessories retailer, Forever 21, is in the process of sending data breach notifications to over half a million individuals whose personal information was exposed to unauthorized intruders. The company operates a global network of 540 outlets and has a workforce of approximately 43,000 employees.
A portion of the data breach notification, shared with the Office of the Maine Attorney General, reveals that the company detected a cyberattack on multiple systems on March 20. The investigation unveiled that hackers had sporadic access to Forever 21 systems between January and March of this year and utilized this access to pilfer data.
“The investigation determined that an unauthorized third party accessed specific Forever 21 systems at different intervals between January 5, 2023, and March 21, 2023,” states the notice. “Results from the investigation indicate that the unauthorized third party acquired specific files from certain Forever 21 systems during this timeframe” – Forever 21.
The data breach notice, dispatched on August 29 to 539,207 affected individuals, lists the following potentially exposed data types:
Social Security Numbers (SSN)
Dates of Birth
Bank Account Numbers
Forever 21 Health Plan information
BleepingComputer reached out to Forever 21 to ascertain if the security incident impacted both customers and employees. A spokesperson from the company issued the following statement: “The incident was limited to current and former Forever 21 employees and did NOT affect personal data pertaining to Forever 21 customers.”
In the notice, Forever 21 reports that they have taken steps to ensure that the hackers have deleted the stolen data, implying that the company may have engaged in communication with the attacker. Such actions often occur following ransomware attacks, where the victim negotiates with the hackers to reach a reasonable ransom. However, it is important to note that a ransomware attack on Forever 21 has not been confirmed.
In November 2017, Forever 21 informed its customers of another data breach affecting its payment system, resulting in the compromise of card data from transactions made between March and October 2017.
Italian Banks Temporarily Disabled by Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) Attacks:
Several banks in Italy recently experienced temporary outages due to targeted Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks.
On August 1st, the Agenzia per la Cybersicurezza Nazionale (ACN) announced that it had identified cyberattacks against at least five banks in the country, resulting in a temporary disruption of their services.
The affected banks included BPER Banca (EMII.MI), Intesa Sanpaolo (ISP.MI), FinecoBank (FBK.MI), Popolare di Sondrio (BPSI.MI), and Monte dei Paschi di Siena (BMPS.MI).
According to the ACN, it “detected the resurgence of distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack campaigns carried out by pro-Russian… groups targeting national institutional entities.” The ACN attributed the attacks to the Russian hacking group known as “NoName.”
An employee from one of the affected banks informed Reuters that the bank’s website was taken offline due to a substantial surge in traffic. However, the bank’s mobile app continued to function normally during the attack, and the website was restored after a brief period.
The ACN stated that it provided assistance to all those affected by the DDoS attacks launched by NoName.
What Are DDoS Attacks?
Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks involve malicious actors attempting to disrupt a website by overwhelming its infrastructure with a significant volume of internet traffic. As DDoS attacks saturate a site’s bandwidth, users are unable to access it.
DDoS attacks can be motivated by various factors, but their primary objective is to cause disruption by temporarily taking websites offline. Due to their disruptive nature, DDoS attacks are employed by malicious entities as a means of directly targeting specific individuals or organizations.
Data breaches can have severe consequences for both companies and individuals, including financial loss, reputational damage, and identity theft. As the frequency and sophistication of cyberattacks continue to increase, it is crucial for companies to prioritize data protection and implement robust security measures. By staying vigilant and proactive in their approach to cybersecurity, organizations can minimize the risk of a data breach and protect their customers’ trust.