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Boston Globe in clueless security breach

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Two Massachusetts papers - the Boston Globe and the Worcester Telegram & Gazette - have apologised after exposing the credit card details of up to 240,000 subscribers. Most of those affected were Globe readers. Information security breaches by major US corporations are becoming an almost weekly event but the breach involving the two papers, both part of the The New England Media Group owned by The New York Times, was especially boneheaded.

The Telegram & Gazette (T&G) handles the distributes of both papers in the Worcester area. It recycles paper internally for use in wrapping bundles of paper sent out to retailers, all very environmentally friendly. But last Sunday delivery routing slips for an estimated 9,000 bundles of papers in the Worcester area were printed on the back of financial reports containing credit card details of subscribers to both papers (who share the same computer system). The addresses of an estimated 1,100 T&G subscribers who pay by cheque were also exposed.

How this sensitive data turned up in material to be recycled internally instead of been securely destroyed remains unclear, though it seems the material was generated from abandoned credit reporting runs. Richard Gilman, publisher of the Boston Globe said it has taken "increased security" around credit card reporting. The practice of reusing internally recycled material to wrap papers has been dropped. "We regret the disruption and inconvenience that this incident may cause," Gilman said. The T&G publisher issued a similar apology.

So far there are no reports of financial loss linked to the breach, but it's still too early to say for sure whether or not anybody will be hit. The Boston Globe has set up a helpline for concerned subscribers on +1 888 665 2644. Globe and T&G staff have also notified major credit card firms over the breach, supplying them data on potentially affected cards on request. ®

Related links

Subscriber credit data distributed by mistake, from the Boston Globe.

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

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