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Reporters Threatened, Labeled Hackers For Finding Security Hole 120

Posted by samzenpus
from the keep-your-mouth-shut dept.
colinneagle writes "Scripps News reporters discovered 170,000 records online of customers of Lifeline, a government program offering affordable phone service for low-income citizens, that contained everything needed for identity theft . Last year, the FCC 'tightened' the rules for the program by requiring Lifeline phone carriers to document applicants' eligibility, which led to collecting more sensitive information from citizens. A Scripps News investigative team claims it 'Googled' the phone companies TerraCom Inc. and YourTel America Inc. to discover all of the files. A Scripps reporter asked for an on-camera interview with the COO of TerraCom and YourTel after explaining the files were freely available online. That did not happen, but shortly thereafter the customer records disappeared from the internet. Then, the blame-the-messenger hacker accusations and mudslinging began. Although the Scripps reporters videotaped the process showing how they found the documents, attorney Jonathon Lee for both telecoms threatened the 'Scripps Hackers' with violating the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA)."
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Reporters Threatened, Labeled Hackers For Finding Security Hole

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 20, 2013 @05:40PM (#43776767)
    That will teach you to use responsible disclosure.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 20, 2013 @05:40PM (#43776773)

    In America, two business principles apply:
    1. It is none of your business when shit hits the fan, and
    2. It is never our fault.

  • No good deed... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 20, 2013 @05:41PM (#43776779)

    goes unpunished.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 20, 2013 @05:46PM (#43776811)

    I'll beat the others to this.

    This is one of the reasons for why being anonymous is important. This lawsuit is stupid, and since they have a video showing the method, it should be easy to throw out the charge.

    Could the reporter have a rebuttal about them taking down the evidence, saying they destroyed evidence pending the lawsuit?

  • by interkin3tic (1469267) on Monday May 20, 2013 @05:49PM (#43776839)
    I honestly can't understand the point of shooting the messenger here. Is it entirely to try to convince their customers (who are likely not very tech savvy) that they have nothing to worry about? I can understand the letter they sent out blaming the reporters for that, but to actually sue them doesn't make sense. Do they actually believe they can spin this to the FCC as the reporters going all James Bond to access files that were reasonably secured? Or is this just a lawyer who is racking up more billable hours, and his clients are too stupid to realize what a waste it is? Is this actually a roomful of executives saying "FUCK THOSE GUYS! Send the lawyers after them! That'll learn the press to google us!"

    I realize these companies have made some seriously bad decisions, and dumb decisions by committee are even worse, but this makes no sense.
  • by intermodal (534361) on Monday May 20, 2013 @05:53PM (#43776869) Homepage Journal

    Call 'em hackers enough time, and people will be distracted by their alleged malice to the point where they forget or don't even believe anymore that the files were literally just out there for anyone to see. It's like leaving a $100 bill on the sidewalk and waiting to see who turns it in at the lost and found so you can call 'em a thief to distract from your own leaving it lying around.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 20, 2013 @05:54PM (#43776879)

    But the reporter can't be anonymous and trustworthy. The press are as full of shit as every other profession, so a reporter needs to put her/his name to it or it's worth as much as an empty cup of coffee. By attaching their reputation (good or bad) to a story they can defend (rightly or wrongly) what the've published.

  • by Moppusan (2837753) on Monday May 20, 2013 @06:04PM (#43776933)
    ...should be a course in Computer and Internet Obviousness (naughty words omitted to make it sound more official, fucking god dammit). And certified as passing this course should be a requirement to be a judge or lawyer in the US with a 6 month renewal term. Any lawyer not holding a certificate should be disbarred post haste and any judge should be removed from his/her seat post haste. Post haste. Haste.
  • by Doug Otto (2821601) on Monday May 20, 2013 @06:07PM (#43776951)
    It's deflection.

    If they were "hacked" then the folks who's data was leaked blame the wily hackers. If they let it stand that the data was just freely available on the web, it's a liability to the telecoms involved; i.e. "it's not our fault, it's THOSE guys."
  • by Frosty Piss (770223) * on Monday May 20, 2013 @06:24PM (#43777065)

    First of all, both these comapnies web sites are identical. Second of all, they look like some 14 year old put them together.

    Look, this is just some sweatshop lawyer who wrote q $200 threatening letter. The threat has no value, and should be ignored.

  • Re:Why use wget? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mrbester (200927) on Monday May 20, 2013 @06:29PM (#43777091) Homepage

    1. wget is just a means to automate. Would you type all the URLs manually?
    2, 3, 4. As insecure as anybody else downloading it. They have no duty of care that publicly available data that shouldn't be publicly available is not publicly available.
    5. A blurred screenshot allows plausible deniability. After all, the blurred bits could be anything. It could even be a completely different page blurred in Photoshop to smear the good name of these dickheads^W fine upstanding members of the community.

    If they have a complete data dump, it is most likely someone else does as well. Someone who is more interested in profiting from shoddy practices.

  • by kasperd (592156) on Monday May 20, 2013 @06:31PM (#43777101) Homepage Journal

    But the reporter can't be anonymous and trustworthy.

    Sometimes the evidence itself is more important than the source. In the particular case, it sounds like the evidence was strong enough that it wouldn't matter which source it came from.

    But the trend with threats and lawsuits against those, who discover security holes, must stop. That trend is a major threat against data security across the entire IT industry.

    People will keep finding security holes. Sometimes you just stumple upon them, without even looking. What are you going to do, once you have found a security hole? Report it and try to get it fixed? Ignore it? Abuse it? If those who do the right thing are going to be the target of threats and lawsuits, that certainly removes incentive to do the right thing. So fewer people will report security holes. And some of those who would have reported it, might instead decide to abuse it.

    If we ever get to the point where doing the right thing is more likely to get you into a lawsuit than abusing the security hole for personal gain is, then the industry is in big trouble.

    Luckily a few companies are taking steps in the opposite direction and are offering cash rewards to those who find security holes. At some point users will have to start taking that into account when deciding what software to trust. But it is a very real problem, when the systems you don't trust are those used by any branch of government. You can't just go somewhere else. And the lack of competition has lead to situations where security concerns are just ignored.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 20, 2013 @06:54PM (#43777247)

    He's parodying certain religious leaders who say this exact same shit about Florida, California, New York, or the US in general.

    Go look up Poe's Law.

  • by Ungrounded Lightning (62228) on Monday May 20, 2013 @06:56PM (#43777257) Journal

    Or you know... people could start writing decent secure code to begin with... :)

    Did you ever write a program? Did it work the first time, doing exactly what it was supposed/specified to do?

    Took a lot of debugging and error correction, didn't it? Even if you are a programming expert.

    Now write a program where "what it's supposed to do" includes "not get cracked and used by any malware, known or unknown, past or future".

    Think you'll get THAT right the first time? Even if you are a security expert?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 20, 2013 @08:06PM (#43777607)

    if by "not get cracked and used by any malware, known or unknown, past or future" you mean
    "not list people's SSN addresses and financial data in a google search result"

    then yes i think i can get that right on the first try.

  • by Sam H (3979) <sam@zoy.org> on Tuesday May 21, 2013 @03:10AM (#43779225) Homepage

    It might take a security expert to write code that works as specified the first time, but it takes a fantastic idiot to put any kind of code in production before it's been debugged and error-corrected.

The world is moving so fast these days that the man who says it can't be done is generally interrupted by someone doing it. -- E. Hubbard

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