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The Wall Street Journal delivered quite the scoop last week, sitting down (virtually, at least) with John Binns, the 21-year-old American expat who claims to be behind the massive T-Mobile data breach that compromised the personal details of more than 50 million people. The breach is the “third major customer data leak that T-Mobile has disclosed” in just the past two years, according to the Journal.
Binns claims to have accessed T-Mobile’s system using tools available to the general public that allowed him to scan T-Mobile’s “known internet addresses using weak spots” and then accessed “stored credentials” that gave him entry into “more than 100 servers.” Binns accomplished all of that in just a week, prompting him to characterize the second-largest mobile carrier in the U.S.’s security as “awful.” - WSJ
While the prevalence and skill of cyberhackers means that nearly any organization is at risk of a breach, this latest T-Mobile episode comes with some basic lessons for companies seeking to protect sensitive information:
- Acknowledge that the threat of hacking is real, no matter the size of the company, and allocate appropriate resources to evaluate cyber defenses—including conducting network vulnerability assessments
- Train personnel to keep passwords and other access credentials off of computer systems so that a breach can be contained instead of granting hackers digital keys to the entire network
- Engage in regular data audits that timely assess the need to retain sensitive data and deletes information as appropriate. Much of the T-Mobile data Binns stole “were from prospective clients or former customers long gone”—data that T-Mobile should have jettisoned when it no longer served the original purpose for collection.
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