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Man charged in Acxiom cracking case

Consumer database giant fingers FTP server in attack

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Website security in corporate America

A 24-year-old man appeared in court last Friday charged with cracking the systems of one of the world's largest consumer database companies.

Daniel J Baas, from Milford, Ohio, is alleged to have illegally accessed and copied information stored at consumer database giant Acxiom last December while working for its partner, Cincinnati-based data-mining firm Market Intelligence Group.

Following his 1 August arrest, Baas has also been charged with "unauthorised use of property" in breaking into Market Intelligence's systems in August 2002. Additional charges are pending, the Cincinnati Post reports.

Baas is being held in custody. He is due to face a grand jury indictment on 18 August. Market Intelligence fired Baas in June, the Cincinnati Enquirer
reports.

Anatomy of a hack

In a statement, Arkansas-based Acxiom admitted that its systems had been comprised through an insecure FTP server.

"Not all Acxiom clients nor all clients using this FTP server were affected, and only a small portion of all the information Acxiom processes for our clients was accessed. No breach of Acxiom's corporate security firewall occurred," the statement said.

"The files that were accessed contained a wide variety of client information, some of which was personally identifiable and some of which was not. Most of the data was non-sensitive, and some of the data was encrypted."

Worryingly, Acxiom only learnt of the unauthorised access when it was contacted by Ohio law enforcement officers involved in Baas' arrest earlier this month.

Acxiom states the incident is the first the company has faced. It is full of apologies. However, its statement only goes part way to reassuring the numerous individuals whose data it held that their information is safe. Acxiom's statement that "law enforcement officials have provided us with no indication that any individuals have been harmed by this unlawful intrusion" is positive but inconclusive.

Acxiom clients include 14 of the 15 biggest credit card companies, seven of the top ten auto manufacturers and five of the top six retail banks.

The company also analyses consumer databases for multinationals such as Microsoft, IBM, AT&T and General Electric. ®

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