Security Researcher Brian Krebs has conducted an investigation of a number of identity theft portals active on the internet, where various ne’er-do-wells were able to purchase the personal information (social security numbers and full background check information) of anyone they pleased, including such luminaries as Beyonce, Kanye West and Jay Z and even First Lady Michelle Obama, CIA Director John Brennan, and former FBI Director Robert Mueller.
The service which Krebs honed in on, ssndob.ms, was apparently slurping their data from the primary companies on the “legitimate” side of background checks; Lexis-Nexus, Dun and Broadstreet, and Kroll Security. The ID thieves had penetrated the networks of those companies and added a number of their servers to a botnet. The admins of ssndob then used these computers to grab data from the databases of the companies. They also had control of a number of compromised accounts with conventional access to these databases.
The main impact of the hack is that it proves that so-called “Knowledge-Based Authentication” (KBA), a process where someone’s identity is determined by asking them questions from their history, such as places lived, cars owned, and recent bills paid, is not an effective security measure. Identity thieves have gotten the databases, and will no doubt continue to find access to them, which means that passing a KBA challenge is a trivial task for determined and well connected attackers. However, many of the alternatives such as biometric identifiers, come with their own problems. Establishing Identity is the hard problem of the information age.
Dan Gifford – MCySec Media Manager