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Web host breach may have exposed passwords for 6,000 clients

Names, addresses and phone numbers also at risk

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Layered Technologies has been targeted by malicious hackers who may have stolen passwords and other personal details on as many as 6,000 of its clients, the Texas-based web host provider warned. It is advising customers to change login credentials for all host details submitted in the past two years.

The Monday evening breach was executed by attacking an off-the-shelf application integrated into the company's support desk that manages help tickets submitted by customers, according to Layered Technologies President Todd Abrams. It remains unclear if the intruders actually took the information, but the attack had the potential to expose names, addresses, phone numbers, email addresses and server login details for five to 6,000 clients.

"Based on the log entries I'd say it's very unlikely they took a copy of the database," Abrams said. "It's not like a two-second download." He said the company wanted to err on the side of caution by asking all customers to change all passwords.

Payment details are stored in a separate system, so credit card credentials were not exposed unless a customer had opened a help ticket and included them in it, according to Abrams. Similarly, scanned IDs that some customers are required to submit when renting a server were also not routinely stored in the help-desk system. he said.

The perpetrators accessed the database by attacking an application known as Cerberus. According to this page on Secunia, at least 11 vulnerabilities have been documented in various Cerberus tools, only one of which carried a "highly critical" severity rating. It was unclear what version of Cerberus Layered Technologies Layered Technologies uses.

(In Greek Mythology, Cerberus is the three-headed dog who stood guard over Hades. So why would marketers name a support desk app after a vicious canine responsible for tormenting damned souls trying to escape their frigid confines?)

The attack on Layered is part of a growing trend in cybercrime in which hackers target a single web host rather than the thousands of individual sites that that rely on it for service. In May, Brinkster.com required customers to change their login credentials after discovering many of them may have been compromised. Other hosts who have been penetrated include PlusNet and IPOWER.

Layered Technologies claims to be "one of the five largest global providers of on-demand hosting and utility computing solutions" and provides dedicated and managed server hosting services to small and medium-sized businesses. The company has "launched a series of initiatives to enhance and to protect," some of which are being implemented immediately, it said without elaborating. ®

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