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Pet supply retailer PetCo.com plugged a hole in its online storefront over the weekend that left as many as 500,000 credit card numbers open to anyone able to construct a specially-crafted URL.

The pet site was vulnerable to the same kind of SQL injection vulnerability that lead to an FTC complaint against the fashion label Guess, in a case that settled earlier this month.

Twenty-year old programmer Jeremiah Jacks discovered both holes. Jacks say news media interest in the Guess case prompted him to check a few other large e-commerce sites for similar bugs. He chose PetCo.com because a competing e-tailer had been vulnerable last year, "so I was wondering about other pet sites," says Jacks.

Jacks used Google to find active server pages on PetCo.com that accepted customer input, then simply tried inputting SQL database queries into them. "It took me less than a minute to find a page that was vulnerable," says Jacks. "Any SQL injection hacker would be able to do the same thing."

He says the database contained 500,000 credit card entries, and that he could have accessed corresponding customer names and address, as well as entire orders. "Everything was in there... It exposed their whole database," says Jacks.

PetCo spokesman Shawn Underwood confirmed the hole, but would not say how many credit card numbers had been at risk. He added that he was uncertain whether customer names and other information could have been tied to those numbers. Under a state law that takes effect Tuesday, a online leak of credit card numbers with corresponding names triggers mandatory notification to California customers.

"Now we're going though every page and making sure that everything is locked down," says spokesman Shawn Underwood. "Our biggest concern is that the problems is fixed, but we want to make sure that nobody went in prior to him and got this information."

SecurityFocus notified PetCo of Jacks' discovery on Thursday, and the company immediately blocked access to the vulnerable Web page. The company issued a statement Sunday saying it closed the hole permanently, and had hired a computer security consultant to assist in an audit of the site. Jacks also cooperated with the company, which has found no evidence that anyone prior to Jacks exploited the vulnerability.

The ease with which he located another major leak of customer data underscores the difficulty of securing e-commerce storefronts, which often run on code that's been customized, or written from scratch, says Jacks. "It's not something that's waiting for Microsoft to issue a patch, or something like that."

The FTC case that settled a week and a half ago charged Guess with deceptive trade practices. An SQL injection vulnerability on Guess.com made some 200,000 credit card numbers accessible, despite assurances in the company's privacy policy that such data was only stored in an encrypted form.

PetCo's privacy policy is less specific, promising only, "At PETCO.com our customers' data is strictly protected against any unauthorized access."

"I'm sure we thought it was," says Underwood.

© SecurityFocus

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

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