Feeds

Luxury hotel sues email-thieving blackmailer

Subpoenas Yahoo! for his name

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk

Underscoring a weak link in the security chains of even the world's biggest companies, a luxury hotel chain is subpoenaing Yahoo in an attempt to learn who breached its computer network and accessed sensitive emails sent to company employees.

In a federal lawsuit filed last week, Thompson Hotels said the unknown hacker accessed one or more employee email accounts and caused them to forward incoming messages to a free account offered by Yahoo. To cover his tracks, the miscreant used the addresses marissacortes@rocketmail.com in an apparent attempt to masquerade as an actual Thompson Hotels employee named Marissa Cortes.

A day after breaching Thompson's system, someone sent an email from the same Rocketmail address to a Thompson principal and pretended to be a Thompson employee.

"That email taunted plaintiff about defendant's receipt of the unauthorized information, attempted to embarrass key employees of Thompson, and contained an implied threat to further disseminate the stolen emails to the public to the detriment of Thompson," the complaint, which was filed in US District Court for the Southern District of New York, alleged. "Indeed, in an attempt to embarrass Thompson, defendant sent the material it stole from Thompson to at least one third party."

The episode shines a bright light on shoddy security practices that are common in many large companies. Email systems all to often make it painfully easy to forward sensitive emails to outside email accounts, as was evidently the case here. What's more, company policies frequently permit workers to post employment details on sites such as LinkedIn and Facebook. As this Google search demonstrates, this information is easily accessible to anyone.

Of course, it's possible that the perpetrator is a Thompson Hotels insider who already knew the names of employees working there. But the publishing of detailed employer information, as Cortes, the impersonated Thomson Hotels employee, continues to do (see second entry in the above Google search), is potential goldmine for people engaging in social engineering.

The suit accused the unknown defendant with a violation of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. Attorney Daniel L. Brown, who filed the suit on behalf of Thompson Hotels, declined to discuss the action except to say that Yahoo has already been subpoenaed in an attempt to learn who used its free Rocketmail email service to register the account. ®

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

More from The Register

next story
SMASH the Bash bug! Apple and Red Hat scramble for patch batches
'Applying multiple security updates is extremely difficult'
Apple's new iPhone 6 vulnerable to last year's TouchID fingerprint hack
But unsophisticated thieves need not attempt this trick
Hackers thrash Bash Shellshock bug: World races to cover hole
Update your gear now to avoid early attacks hitting the web
Oracle SHELLSHOCKER - data titan lists unpatchables
Database kingpin lists 32 products that can't be patched (yet) as GNU fixes second vuln
Who.is does the Harlem Shake
Blame it on LOLing XSS terroristas
Researchers tell black hats: 'YOU'RE SOOO PREDICTABLE'
Want to register that domain? We're way ahead of you.
Stunned by Shellshock Bash bug? Patch all you can – or be punished
UK data watchdog rolls up its sleeves, polishes truncheon
Ello? ello? ello?: Facebook challenger in DDoS KNOCKOUT
Gets back up again after half an hour though
prev story

Whitepapers

A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Beginner's guide to SSL certificates
De-mystify the technology involved and give you the information you need to make the best decision when considering your online security options.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.