Feeds

FTC probes PetCo.com security hole

Dog's dinner

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

The Power of One eBook: Top reasons to choose HP BladeSystem

Pet supply retailer PetCo disclosed this week that its security and privacy practices are the target of an investigation by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC), which is following up on an e-commerce security gaffe that left as many as 500,000 credit card numbers accessible from the Web earlier this year.

In October the FTC served PetCo with a "Civil Investigative Demand" seeking information and documents on how the company protects private customer information on the PetCo.com e-commerce site, PetCo revealed in its quarterly report Wednesday. "At the present time, the Company is unable to determine whether the FTC will initiate any enforcement action against the Company or the financial impact any such action might entail," the company wrote.

The probe stems from an incident first reported by SecurityFocus last June, when then-20 year-old independent programmer Jeremiah Jacks discovered that PetCo.com suffered from an SQL injection vulnerability that left its database open to anyone able to construct a specially-crafted URL.

SecurityFocus notified PetCo of Jacks' discovery, and the company immediately blocked access to the vulnerable Web page. The company worked over a weekend to close the hole permanently, and said it had hired a computer security consultant to assist in an audit of the site. Jacks also cooperated with PetCo, which said it found no evidence that anyone prior to Jacks exploited the hole.

The PetCo probe is the second FTC investigation to be sparked by the young coder. In February, 2002 Jacks discovered a similar SQL injection hole at the website of fashion-retail Guess that exposed, at Jacks' count, over 200,000 credit card numbers with corresponding names and expiration dates.

Consumer Privacy Issues

Jacks, who lives and works in Orange County, California, cooperated with the FTC as it investigated Guess under its authority to probe "deceptive trade practices" -- the Guess.com privacy policy had claimed that credit card numbers were stored in an "unreadable, encrypted format at all times." The case settled last June, with Guess agreeing to overhaul its information security practices and promising not to misrepresent the extent to which it protects the security of customers' personal information.

The Guess case was only the third time the FTC used its anti-consumer fraud mandate to crack down on e-commerce cybersecurity gaffes -- last year it won a consent decree against Eli Lilly for the inadvertent disclosure of the e-mail addresses of 669 Prozac users, and another one against Microsoft for inflated security claims about the company's Passport identity management service.

News media interest in the Guess case prompted Jacks to check a few other large e-commerce sites for similar bugs, including PetCo.com, he said at the time. He 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," said Jacks. "Any SQL injection hacker would be able to do the same thing."

Jacks said the database contained 500,000 credit card entries, and that he could have accessed corresponding customer names and address, as well as entire orders. A PetCo spokesperson confirmed the hole at the time, but would not say how many credit card numbers had been at risk.

In disclosing the FTC probe, the company's quarterly report doesn't admit to any error, only acknowledging that "a self-proclaimed hacker purportedly obtained unauthorized access to a portion of the Company's website."

PetCo's privacy policy assured visitors, "At PETCO.com our customers' data is strictly protected against any unauthorized access."

Copyright © 2003,

Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications

More from The Register

next story
Secure microkernel that uses maths to be 'bug free' goes open source
Hacker-repelling, drone-protecting code will soon be yours to tweak as you see fit
How long is too long to wait for a security fix?
Synology finally patches OpenSSL bugs in Trevor's NAS
Roll out the welcome mat to hackers and crackers
Security chap pens guide to bug bounty programs that won't fail like Yahoo!'s
HIDDEN packet sniffer spy tech in MILLIONS of iPhones, iPads – expert
Don't panic though – Apple's backdoor is not wide open to all, guru tells us
Researcher sat on critical IE bugs for THREE YEARS
VUPEN waited for Pwn2Own cash while IE's sandbox leaked
Four fake Google haxbots hit YOUR WEBSITE every day
Goog the perfect ruse to slip into SEO orfice
Putin: Crack Tor for me and I'll make you a MILLIONAIRE
Russian Interior Ministry offers big pile o' roubles for busting pro-privacy browser
prev story

Whitepapers

Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications
Learn about the various considerations for defending mobile applications - from the application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Top 8 considerations to enable and simplify mobility
In this whitepaper learn how to successfully add mobile capabilities simply and cost effectively.
Seven Steps to Software Security
Seven practical steps you can begin to take today to secure your applications and prevent the damages a successful cyber-attack can cause.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.