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HSBC plugs hole that exposed site directory

John Lewis Partnership site rather too open for comfort

Website security in corporate America

HSBC has finally fixed a bug that allowed web surfers to browse the directory structure of a supposedly secure website it helps to run.

The John Lewis Partnership card secure website (a joint venture with HSBC) allowed the curious, and potentially malicious, to peek into its underlying structure.

"Great if you were planning a phishing attack and wanted to get a complete site layout and set of assets," as Reg reader Liam notes.

The problem was first drawn to our attention by Reg reader Martin, who came across it when looking at his John Lewis Partnership credit card statement. He told us about the bug back at the start of April.

"I've just tried to look at my John Lewis Partnership credit card statement (operated by HSBC) and was greeted by the directory listing of the website," Martin said at the time. "I doubt there was any very interesting information there, but it shows something is going pretty wrong there." He supplied screenshots to back up his concerns, which we won't republish in case they give miscreants any clues.

The directory problems at the site were one of three information security queries about HSBC we put to the bank early this month. It was able to satisfactorily explain the other two but not immediately deal with the directory browsing, asking for more information, which we didn't immediately have to hand.

It was only when Liam's tip-off came in, prompting fresh inquiries from El Reg, that it zeroed in on the problem.

"Although there is no access to any customer data via this link, there is no reason for the content of John Lewis's website to be available in this format. We are in the process of removing access to the John Lewis Partnership card website from this link," a spokesman for the bank explained.

HSBC has now fixed the bug.

Taken on its own the directory browsing problem is no big deal. But HSBC has had all sorts of problems keeping its e-payments system up and running over recent weeks, for example, to say nothing of the unfortunate incident when it lost customer data in the post or earlier problems in forgetting to renew one of its digital certificates on time.

Recent developments suggest the bank is becoming more committed to making its ecommerce sites more secure, however. The bank has begun using extended validation certs from VeriSign; a welcome step in itself, but of course irrelevant to ecommerce merchants who lost money through its ecommerce processing outages. ®

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