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Salesforce.com has been caught with its pants down after phishers persuaded an employee to hand over customer contact details.

In a letter to customers yesterday the, er, customer relationship management (CRM) software vendor admitted that it had been hit by a number of dodgy phishing and malware attacks.

Salesforce said that one of its employees had been taken in by a phishing scam that led to a customer contact list being copied after the worker naively handed over a password.

The San Francisco-based firm, which has offices in Europe, Latin America, Japan and Australia, insisted that the embarrassing incident had not originated from an application or database "security flaw" at Salesforce.

It said that confidential details leaked via the scam included "first and last names, company names, email addresses, telephone numbers of salesforce.com customers, and related administrative data belonging to salesforce.com".

However, Salesforce, which claims to have nearly a million subscribers, failed to quickly spot that sensitive data had been exposed. Some of its customers were consequently taken in by a separate phishing scam.

A small number of customers were fooled into believing that the email they had received had come directly from Salesforce because it looked like a genuine invoice from the CRM firm.

At that point Salesforce said it realised there was a serious problem and contacted the police.

It said: "Our support and security teams have been working with the small group of affected customers to enhance their security and with law enforcement authorities and industry experts in an effort to trace what occurred and prevent further attempts."

But that wasn't the end of the saga - Salesforce then admitted that it had again been attacked just a few days ago by a "new wave" of malware and phishing attempts, targeted at a large number of its customers.

Salesforce said it was taking action by beefing up "awareness, education and technologies" at the firm to reduce further attacks, as well as undoubtedly hoping to restore trust with its customers. ®

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