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Verizon Bug Communications Privacy Security

Simple Bug Exposed Verizon Users' SMS Histories 60

Posted by Soulskill
from the nsa-never-needed-to-ask dept.
Trailrunner7 writes "A security researcher discovered a simple vulnerability in Verizon Wireless's Web-based customer portal that enabled anyone who knows a subscriber's phone number to download that user's SMS message history, including the numbers of the people he communicated with. The vulnerability, which has been resolved now, resulted from a failure of the Verizon Web app to check that a number entered into the app actually belonged to the user who was entering it. After entering the number, a user could then download a spreadsheet file of the SMS activity on a target account. Cody Collier, the researcher who discovered the vulnerability, said he decided right away to report it to Verizon because he is a Verizon customer and didn't want others to have access to his account information. 'I am a Verizon Wireless customer myself, so upon finding this, I immediately looked for a way to contact Verizon. I wouldn't want my account information to exposed in such way,' Collier said via email."
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Simple Bug Exposed Verizon Users' SMS Histories

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  • by michelcolman (1208008) on Tuesday October 22, 2013 @05:26AM (#45198567)

    Most of the time, when somebody discloses a vulnerability like that in a responsible way, the result is a bunch of angry letters from lawyers accusing the reporter of hacking into the system, demanding damages to be paid, etcetera.

    Apparently that didn't happen in this case, so this really is a news story!

  • How can it be? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by scsirob (246572) on Tuesday October 22, 2013 @05:37AM (#45198619)

    How is it possible that large organizations such as Verizon fail to include or test even the most trivial security checks before they bring their websites online? If I were any more cynical I'd suspect they are sloppy on purpose so they do not have to be bothered by our friends of the NSA. "It's self-service, fetch whatever you need!"

    • by Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) on Tuesday October 22, 2013 @05:49AM (#45198653)

      How is it possible that large organizations such as Verizon fail to include or test even the most trivial security checks before they bring their websites online?

      Because you think the size of an organization or the level of sensitivity of the data it handles are a guarantee of professionalism? How quaint.

      Newsflash: big corps, health care providers, governments... have 1 competent and responsible employee for 100 hacks in their employ. That's if they don't outsource their services god knows where, where they have no visibility on who does what and how. If you think your data is safe with big concerns, you're deluding yourself.

      • by Thanshin (1188877)

        Newsflash: big corps, health care providers, governments... have 1 competent and responsible employee for 100 hacks in their employ.

        At first I was scared of being one of the hacks. Then I was scared I might be the one competent employee. Then I understood that was just an estimation and that the real ratio in a specific corporation could be +-1/100.

      • Re:How can it be? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Joining Yet Again (2992179) on Tuesday October 22, 2013 @06:20AM (#45198771)

        Newsflash: big corps, health care providers, governments... have 1 competent and responsible employee for 100 hacks in their employ.

        And you know what the worst thing is? Everybody thinks they're the 1 competent employee.

        • Not me! I'm one of the hacks! I don't know how to fix computers, and I'm also alergic to WIFI so I have to work from home, and can only use a smartphone during business hours -- Doctor's orders.

          That's my story, and I'm sticking to it!

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Users don't care about security. Everybody uses Whatsapp, that pile of shit with more holes than Swiss cheese. Functionality is more important than security. Time-to-market is more important than security. You can tell people that every call they make is recorded, every SMS datamined, every location tracked. They do not care, because it never hurts them. The privacy apocalypse just doesn't happen. If more than a very small number of people are ever negatively affected by a privacy breach, then the laws will

      • Re:How can it be? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by l3v1 (787564) on Tuesday October 22, 2013 @06:22AM (#45198781)
        "Functionality is more important than security."

        For average users, quite true. Non-average users, or ones that really want to keep their communications secret, also know that, and they don't use those services. That's why it makes so many people angry that the communications of masses of people are watched, probably 99.999% of the time totally unnecessarily. of course, there's the good old catch-22 as well, since if they wouldn't watch the common channels, criminals wouldn't need to find better ways to communicate. So, as always, the majority of innocent people get hassled for the hope that the lives of the few criminals become harder. Well, a false hope (you all know Newton's 3rd law, right?), but still a hope.
        • This definitely rates the I word for Verizon's implementation of the feature - especially since, when I went over my quota of data with AT&T one night at 2am while I slept, both CS and TS said they couldn't give me even header data so I knew who/what was sucking my B/W dry. Too much or too little information, never the right amount.

          You threw in this line:

          the majority of innocent people get hassled

          I think the word you're looking for is a very small minority, not majority. Verizon has nearly 100 million users of their network. Your sentence impli

        • since if they wouldn't watch the common channels, criminals wouldn't need to find better ways to communicate

          Depends on how you define "better ways" to communicate for criminals. It may be a simple solution, but have you ever heard of the old say "if you want to hide a leaf hide it in a forest"? In other words, they do not need to use other ways of communication but rather disguise their communication in the 99.999% you are talking about.

        • by tibman (623933)

          Yikes. It sounds like you are saying criminals (the smart ones) are the ones using secret comms. I would argue that it's the smart non-criminals using secret comms to protect themselves from criminals. For example, do you feel comfortable putting your credit-card info into a form on a non-ssl site? I doubt it. You use secret communication to protect yourself from criminals, because you are not stupid.

    • by jamesh (87723)

      How is it possible that large organizations such as Verizon fail to include or test even the most trivial security checks before they bring their websites online?

      What did you just see?

    • Backdoors are complex to setup and hide; frontdoors are easyer and can remain unnoticed for very long sometimes.

    • by gstoddart (321705)

      How is it possible that large organizations such as Verizon fail to include or test even the most trivial security checks before they bring their websites online?

      Because security takes time and costs money, and because there's absolutely no real laws compelling corporations to make any effort to do this properly.

      How is it possible there isn't a law requiring them to safeguard your personal information and large penalties if they fail to do so? They can mostly just say "oops, sorry" with no penalty so why b

    • Trust me, the banks are just as bad.

    • by fatphil (181876)
      But how could it possibly be hacked, they put client-side javascript code in to ensure that the hidden field containing the account number couldn't be modified!?!?!?
  • relief (Score:1, Flamebait)

    I am so relieved that an experienced organization like Verizon is riding to the rescue on Obamacare.
    • by Cwix (1671282)

      Harvey the nerd, or Harvey the partisan troll. It is up to the reader to decide.

      What exactly does this story have to do with obamacare?

      Please do the world a favor and grow up.

      • by fatphil (181876)
        The story is to do with Verizon and their compentencies.

        One of the things Verizon's competence has just been specifically sought after for is Obamacare - that's in the news, at least here in Europe. Do you not have newspapers where you're from?
        • by tibman (623933)

          You still have newspapers? We have billionaire's blogs that are distributed as hard-copies.

    • I thought Obama said they brought in "top IT talent" to fix the problem? Is Verizon know for their websites working flawlessly under high load?

      It also makes me think that, why did Obama only now bring in the "top IT talent". He should have started with them to begin with.

      Oh, well.

  • by flowerp (512865) on Tuesday October 22, 2013 @05:50AM (#45198665)

    The customer pays Verizon to offer a communication service, not a data retention and wiretap service. Thanks.

  • ...he reported it Verizon because he is a customer himself.
    Not like, you know, because it is the right thing to do.
  • by Dave Emami (237460) on Tuesday October 22, 2013 @06:54AM (#45198883) Homepage
    "Learn about this one weird bug that Verizon doesn't want you to know!"
  • by transporter_ii (986545) on Tuesday October 22, 2013 @07:13AM (#45198955) Homepage

    Not a bug, but a feature. It was added to make it easier for the NSA to put all of its "metadata" to easy use.

  • Verizon brought in to "fix" the health care exchange at healthcare.gov HHS brings in Verizon to help HealthCare.gov [usatoday.com]. Their record does not seem to bode well.
  • They've been asked to help fix [usatoday.com] ObamaCare.
  • By far the fastest way to talk with a real person on Verizon's phone site is to start liiking at phone models. A little box will appear asking of you want to talk to a sales representative. Click yes and they can then help you for other stuff, or at least know what to do.

  • by Yebyen (59663) on Tuesday October 22, 2013 @09:50AM (#45200061) Homepage

    When I called Verizon customer service to see if they could send me a log of my text messages, I was informed it would cost me $50 and a letter from my lawyer to their Law Enforcement Response Team (LERT). I am glad to see that just anyone could get that information without any lawyer, $50, or even proving who they are.

    Is this facility still available for paying customers of Verizon Wireless, to view their own text message history without the need for a team of lawyers?

    I've just tried it on my account, it looks like it is available to the person who is paying my bill but not to myself (the Account Member gets basically no special privileges other than using the phone and viewing aggregate usage statistics to avoid going over the account limits.)

    It would have been nice if Verizon had advised me of this service, rather than stonewalling me and telling me to get a lawyer

  • This really is security 101. Actually it's not even security 101, it's programming 101. You always assume the information fed to you is potentially invalid and qualify it.

    How in their right mind could anyone at Verizon not check to see if the account id was legit? This is not a simple oversight. This is gross incompetence, or else it was intentionally left this way.

    Don't these companies do security audits?

  • by SpaceLifeForm (228190) on Tuesday October 22, 2013 @12:58PM (#45202523)
    Both involved access via web where the web app failed to do proper validation. Apparently Verizon actually handled this well.
  • Criminals

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