Hackers breached the security of a website operated by US confectionery giant Hershey Company and may have made off with customers' names, birthdates, street and email addresses, and site passwords.
In an email sent to customers last week, Hershey said an unauthorized individual accessed the site and changed a baking recipe for one of its products. The company said it found no evidence any other recipes on the website were affected, but it couldn't rule out the possibility that hackers stole personal data taken when customers create accounts on the site.
“We have no indication that any of this consumer information was compromised,” Hershey's email stated. “However, given the nature of this incident, we are acting out of an abundance of caution and informing you that this server was accessed. We are also outlining some steps to help you ensure your security whenever you use the Internet and email.”
Hershey joins a huge roster of other organizations that have suffered website security breaches that jeopardize the privacy of its visitors. Other companies recently compromised include Sony, Groupon India, email marketer Silverpop, gossip website Gawker, and at least a dozen others.
The rash of security lapses underscores the misplaced trust many people place in the websites they visit. More often than not, these sites have no good reason to store a user's birthdate and street address, and yet visitors dutifully surrender such information. The breaches also demonstrate the liability companies face when they later lose their customers' personally identifiable information, often as a result of easily preventable security vulnerabilities, such as SQL-injection holes and cross-site scripting bugs.
The Reg strongly recommends users withhold as many personal details as possible and use secondary email addresses that are reserved specifically for that website. ®