Feeds

Teen data on Myspace compromised

Hack allows 'private' entries to be made public

Build a business case: developing custom apps

A security hole in the popular MySpace social networking site allowed users to view entries marked "private", a crucial protection for users aged under 16, according to weekend reports.

Though the site is said to have fixed the problem, it was said by news reports to have been active for months. Nobody at MySpace was immediately available for comment.

The explosion of social networking sites has caused significant worry for parents and politicians over how to protect children from sexual advances over websites. The amount of information that young people reveal about themselves coupled with the opportunities for deception by sexual predators has led to concerns that the sites can be dangerous.

Leading social networking site MySpace introduced private profiles as a security measure. Earlier this summer, MySpace owner News Corporation introduced new rules to protect teenagers.

The profile of anyone under 16 was changed so that it was automatically set to "private", a status that users could previously choose, but which was not compulsory. Users over 18 attempting to contact users under 16 now have to type in the child's actual first and last name or email address in order to initiate contact, a move designed to protect children from unsolicited advances.

A piece of code has now been revealed which users claim can allow access to private profiles. Information about the hack became widely publicised through news site Digg.com last weekend, and reports this week claim that the problem has been fixed.

There are much earlier reports of the existence of the hack, though, which suggest that profiles have been being hacked for months. A post by a user called AtariBoy on the site Geeklimit.com in April detailed a hack which claimed to access users' private profile details.

"Many myspacers use CSS [cascading style sheets] to hide their comments, friends list and blog links," wrote AtariBoy. "These elements are not deleted tho [sic] and are still available publicly to anyone. You can view them by one of two methods below."

The site was said this week to have fixed the problem, though some users of the hack reported subsequently that it still worked and private profiles were still accessible.

"In the UK, the vulnerabilities alleged could amount to a breach of the Data Protection Act," said Struan Robertson, editor of OUT-LAW.COM and a technology lawyer with Pinsent Masons.

The Data Protection Act says "appropriate technical and organisational measures" must be taken to prevent unauthorised access to personal data held by organisations.

"For any site, the technical measures that are appropriate will vary depending on the type of data held and the harm that might result from a security breach," Robertson said. "There is best practice guidance in the UK for sites used by children and, if the allegations are true, it may be that MySpace fell short of the standard expected."

The Home Office taskforce's "Good practice guidance for the moderation of interactive services for children" refers to the Data Protection Act provisions and notes: "If data systems are vulnerable to hacking, or operated by people outside the control of the service operator, there is the potential that the security of users' personal data could be at risk."

If the Act's security principle were found to have been breached, a person who suffered as a result could be entitled to sue in the UK for compensation for distress.

See: guidelines from The Home Office taskforce on child protection on the internet (35 page/191KB PDF)

Copyright © 2006, OUT-LAW.com

OUT-LAW.COM is part of international law firm Pinsent Masons.

Build a business case: developing custom apps

More from The Register

next story
Assange™: Hey world, I'M STILL HERE, ignore that Snowden guy
Press conference: ME ME ME ME ME ME ME (cont'd pg 94)
Premier League wants to PURGE ALL FOOTIE GIFs from social media
Not paying Murdoch? You're gonna get a right LEGALLING - thanks to automated software
Online tat bazaar eBay coughs to YET ANOTHER outage
Web-based flea market struck dumb by size and scale of fail
Amazon takes swipe at PayPal, Square with card reader for mobes
Etailer plans to undercut rivals with low transaction fee offer
US regulators OK sale of IBM's x86 server biz to Lenovo
Now all that remains is for gov't offices to ban the boxes
XBOX One will learn to play media from USB and DLNA sources
Hang on? Aren't those file formats you hardly ever see outside torrents?
Class war! Wikipedia's workers revolt again
Bourgeois paper-shufflers have 'suspended democracy', sniff unpaid proles
prev story

Whitepapers

Endpoint data privacy in the cloud is easier than you think
Innovations in encryption and storage resolve issues of data privacy and key requirements for companies to look for in a solution.
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.
Solving today's distributed Big Data backup challenges
Enable IT efficiency and allow a firm to access and reuse corporate information for competitive advantage, ultimately changing business outcomes.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.