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Press Release
05 April 2005

Good News:
Hacker Caught

Quick note from Andy (Director of loveandfriends) for members reading this: No need to worry about your data being safe - he only ever got member level access to four profiles that had really weak passwords and it took him a very long time of guessing passwords to do this. :-)  ...PLUS we don't even store your credit card data (you have to submit if fresh every time you pay) so it is impossible for anyone to ever get hold of this through loveandfriends.

During 2004 loveandfriends.com dating site was subject to a hacker attack. The hacker gained control of four members' profiles which were defaced and made several demands on loveandfriends management. 

Whilst not prepared to give in to demands, loveandfriends management attempted dialogue with the hacker and appealed to the hacker's better nature to stop. Providing the hacker stopped no further action would have been taken. Despite this the hacker persisted in attempts to access profiles on the loveandfriends site and continued to make demands and threats.

Working with Scotland Yard's Computer Crime Unit  loveandfriends was able to track the hacker and provide sufficient info to the police that led to the hacker being identified and  subsequently arrested.

The hacker gained control of profiles by using an automatic dictionary attack (of 'likely' passwords) on random profiles. The profiles that were compromised had easily guessable passwords. The hacker did not at any time gain access to the loveandfriends database or webservers.

Andy Maccabe - MD of loveandfriends quotes

Being subject to an attack by someone who claims they are going to put you out of business was quite unpleasant. The hacker made threats that he was going to delete our entire database. I was pretty sure that he was not technically capable of doing this - him not having breached our main computer security - but this did cause our staff a deal of worry. In hindsight my initial suspicion that he was using a relatively simple brute force dictionary attack on certain profiles was confirmed - so there was no real threat to our data. However, although we 'only' directly lost about £200 in terms of lost business from the people whose profiles were compromised - it was the fear of attack and the substantial amount of time spent in tracking the hacker, making extra backups of data, adding more and more security, etc. that was most costly.

We would much rather spend our time making loveandfriends better and better, with more features and better usability - rather than having to turn it into Fort Knox. Hacking and virus related issues are a real and increasing danger for Internet based businesses. Talking to colleagues in the industry it's a common complaint that increasingly we have to spend more of our time on 'security' rather than product development. Scotland Yard's Computer Crime Unit did a good job but need more resources as cyber crimes are on the increase. If the government is serious about wanting to attract eCommerce to the UK they need to divert a chunk of money from the DTI to fighting cybercrime so that the message goes out that UK is not the place to try hacking.

Loveandfriends stresses that members (on loveandfriends and on all other internet sites) should always use strong passwords - as opposed to easily guessable 'weak' passwords. Using easily guessable 'weak' passwords (such as 'jane', 'love', 'london') leaves your data vulnerable to hacking attacks. Although it is unlikely you will be picked on - in this case the hacker managed to access only 4 profiles out of 60,000+ it is always advisable to use 'strong' passwords that combine letters and numbers e.g. 'london2079' or better still 'L2079ondoN'

For more info email andy@loveandfriends.com (or call 0207 937 6263)



 




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