FBI says lax security at Nasdaq helped hackers

Exclusive: Lax security at Nasdaq helped hackers | Reuters.

A federal investigation into last year’s cyber attack on Nasdaq OMX Group found surprisingly lax security practices that made the exchange operator an easy target for hackers, people with knowledge of the probe said. The sources did not want to be identified because the matter is classified.

The ongoing probe by the Federal Bureau of Investigation is focused on Nasdaq’s Directors Desk collaboration software for corporate boards, where the breach occurred. The Web-based software is used by directors to share confidential information and to collaborate on projects.

…investigators were surprised to find some computers with out-of-date software, misconfigured firewalls and uninstalled security patches that could have fixed known “bugs” that hackers could exploit. Versions of Microsoft Corp’s Windows 2003 Server operating system, for example, had not been properly updated.

This story is interesting on several fronts. First, we find out that when the FBI is brought into a criminal breach investigation, it evaluates the victim organization’s information security posture, i.e. is the organization following best practices? While this may be obvious, one might want to know what the FBI’s definition of best practices is.

Second, this leak could have a chilling effect on organizations’ willingness to report cybercrimes to the FBI. On the other hand, the breach laws in most states will most likely still compel organizations to report breaches.

Overall though, I believe the compounded loss of reputation from disclosing a breach and the disclosure of lax information security practices will increase organizations’ motivation to strengthen the latter to reduce the risk of the former.

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