Security

Tripadvisor site coughs to card data breach for a potential 800k users

Viator: Veni, vidi, rapui

TripAdvisor has suffered a data breach at its Viator tour-booking and review website.

An estimated 1.4 million Viator customers are potentially affected by the compromise, which the firm admits may have exposed payment card data.

The compromise also potentially aired the email address, password and Viator "nickname" associated with accounts. Viator only became aware of the breach after investigators looking into incidents of credit card fraud made the link that victims were also users of its site.

Viator has called in security experts to find out the extent of the breach. In the meantime it has begun notifying customers about the security problem, as a statement by the travel outfit explains.

On September 2, we were informed by our payment card service provider that unauthorized charges occurred on a number of our customers' credit cards. We have hired forensic experts, notified law enforcement and we have been working diligently and comprehensively to investigate the incident, identify how our systems may have been impacted, and secure our systems.

While our investigation is ongoing, we are in the process of notifying approximately 1.4 million Viator customers, who had some form of information potentially affected by the compromise.

In particular it has begun alerting "880,000 customers whom we currently believe may have had their payment card information (encrypted credit or debit card number, card expiration date, name, billing address and email address), and possibly their Viator account information (email address, encrypted password and Viator 'nickname') compromised". A further 560,000 customers whose Viator account information may have been affected (email address, encrypted password and Viator “nickname”) are also due to get a heads-up.

Customers are urged to monitor their card activity and report any fraudulent charges to their credit card company – standard advice in such cases.

Viator (Latin for traveller) is offering free identity protection services, including credit monitoring, to its US customers.

Whodunnit and howdunnit?

The cause of the breach, much less who might be behind it, is currently undisclosed and quite possibly unknown at this stage of the ongoing investigation. How crooks decrypted "encrypted" credit or debit card numbers exposed by the breach is also unclear and the suspicion must be that this information was not as strongly protected as it ought to have been. Security experts reckon Viator's notice points towards a possible flaw in its mobile application but this remains unconfirmed.

"According to the breach reports, credit card data and other personal data was also compromised and exposed from e-commerce and mobile related applications," said Voltage Security veep, Mark Bower. "Security requirements in PCI DSS requires basic protection of card data, but meeting compliance does not protect a company from breach risks."

The public notification about the breach probably means that further card losses are unlikely, according to Malwarebytes security researcher Chris Boyd.

"Stolen data doesn’t tend to get stockpiled for too long because the people sitting on it know it’s only a matter of time before someone, somewhere notices and has the card cancelled," Boyd explained in a blog post.

"Additionally, there doesn’t appear to have been a massive file posted online yet containing data related to the compromise - while that doesn’t mean there isn’t one, it’s a slim branch of hope to hold onto as we await more information on this latest high-profile attack." ®

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