NewsJuly 13, 2017 @ 12:30 PM

Third-Party Contractor Exposes Verizon Customer Data

An Israeli company working for Verizon in a third-party capacity left critical customer data for 14 million subscribers completely exposed in an unprotected Amazon cloud container. The data had no encryption and was available to anyone who knew the URL of the file.

Well-known security researcher Chris Vickery, director of cyber risk research at UpGuard, discovered the files. It took Verizon more than a week to secure the files after Vickery notified the company of the breach in late June, ZDNet reported.

Call Center Logs Exposed

The company, Nice Systems, is a well-known purveyor of tools designed to help organizations avoid financial crimes, maintain compliance and drive customer engagement. It has 25,000 customers in about 150 countries and pulled in revenue of over $1 billion last year, according to the ZDNet article. Verizon uses Nice to monitor and improve its customer service.

The exposure was a byproduct of customer call center monitoring. If a customer called Verizon support, a log file was created. These log files contained the customer’s name, cellphone number, account personal identification number (PIN) and other private data. A threat actor could use a customer’s PIN to either hijack the phone account directly or interfere with two-factor authorization methods by changing account settings to redirect information.

Vickery also identified a segment of French-language files related to the same types of call center logs for Paris-based Orange Communications. Verizon and Orange are competitors in Europe. Storage of Orange’s customer data in this manner would violate of the European Union’s (EU) General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which will go into effect in May of next year.

Third-Party Risks to Customer Data

Verizon said in an official statement that the “overwhelming majority of information in the data set has no external value.” The statement also assured customers that there had been “no loss or theft of Verizon or Verizon customer information.”

This situation illustrates the risks associated with third-party contractors. Although the data was improperly stored by a Nice Systems employee, Verizon will have to face the music if customers take action in response. It is incumbent on an enterprise to make sure the actions of third parties do not harm the company.

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Larry Loeb

Principal, PBC Enterprises

Larry Loeb has written for many of the last century's major "dead tree" computer magazines, having been, among other things, a consulting editor for BYTE magazine and senior editor for the launch of WebWeek. He wrote for IBM's DeveloperWorks site for seven years and has written a book on the Secure Electronic Transaction Internet protocol. His latest book has the commercially obligatory title of Hack Proofing XML. He's been online since uucp "bang" addressing (where the world existed relative to !decvax), serving as editor of the Macintosh Exchange on BIX and the VARBusiness Exchange.