CCBill knew of credit database breach in March

Left its clients in the dark

Now we know why CCBill was so terrified of taking verbal questions from a live reporter, and insisted instead on receiving faxed questions to which it could reply with canned responses.

As far back as March the company had warning that they were running an insecure CGI with their entire merchant database, including FTP/SSH logins and passwords, exposed to easy exploitation.

Anti-CC fraud outfit CardCops notified the company in a memo dated 13 March 2001 that one of their sources in the carding community had heard of the glitch.

CCBill silently removed the weak CGI, crossed their fingers, and hoped for the best. The company did not warn its clients that their servers could now be rooted effortlessly and their customers' credit details downloaded for posterity, to be traded in IRC.

And while CCBill merchants may not capture and store credit card data, many merchants use more than one processor, many of which do capture CC data. We can be confident that a great number of these Web sites have given up vast files full of consumers' personal and credit details, CardCops President Dan Clements points out.

The fact that the March warning came from outside the company should have alerted them that they had already been compromised, a painfully obvious conclusion even in the absence of further evidence such as reports of credit card abuse.

But the company covered up the breach, which only became public this week when an Ohio SP discovered IRC bots running on several of their customers' servers, and in each case the victim was a CCBill client whose machine had been accessed with the proper logins and passwords.

These servers weren't hacked in the sense that a security mechanism had been overcome; they were accessed illegally by a person or group who simply logged in as administrators. It's now safe to assume that all of CCBill's merchants have been exploited, and that any and all customer account details they store are in the possession of some malicious third party.

And this is the chief consequence of security through obscurity. Had CCBill notified all its clients immediately after learning of the original breach, it's quite possible that a number of them could have avoided exploitation. At this late date, however, all of CCBill clients have to assume the worst. There's been plenty of time for every single one of their Web servers to be exploited.

Almost two years ago we reported on CCBill's slack security practices and inflated claims to high levels of data safety. We have to assume that in all this time they haven't had a proper security audit, but are merely passing wind about their security consciousness to give their clients a false sense of safety.

If you're a CCBill merchant, then you're owed a detailed explanation far more thorough than the canned soft-pedal tripe the company issued on Thursday. We hope you'll demand it.

And if you're a customer of a CCBill merchant, then you'd better find out if they capture and store CC data on their server. It doesn't appear that the credit harvest from this breach has been abused yet, so there's time to cancel your card if you think you might be at risk. ®

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