Breached Bitcoin Bithumb bosses blame bod's BYOD

Humans still the weakest link

South Korean cyber-cops are probing a hacking attack on Bithumb, one of the world's biggest Bitcoin exchanges.

Miscreants were able to get hold of personal information – email addresses, names, and cellphone numbers – of roughly 32,000 Bithumb users, or three per cent of the exchange's user base. The website is a pretty big deal: it handled two trillion won ($1.7bn) in Bitcoin transactions in 2016.

These stolen personal details were used to drain some people's online digital wallets, with one person losing the equivalent of 10 million won ($8,600) in seconds, the Kyunghyang Shinmun reported this week. Apparently, the crooks phoned Bitcoin holders pretending to be Bithumb bosses, and convinced some of their marks to hand over one-time passwords granting access to their money stores.

The Korea Internet & Security Agency is investigating the information superhighway robbery while a class-action lawsuit is expected to be filed against Bithumb. It is understood an employee's personal home PC was infiltrated by hackers and used to extract users' records. In a statement, Bithumb insisted its internal systems were not compromised.

The security breach is believed to have occurred in February of this year, discovered on June 28, and the authorities were alerted the very next day. Now people are being told to change their passwords as a precaution, and have been assured they will be reimbursed if any of their cyber-dosh has gone missing – plus about 90 bucks each in compensation for having their personal info carelessly spilled. A spokesperson for Bithumb declined to comment further.

David Kennerley, director of threat research at Webroot, said the hack on Bithumb shows that employees can still be an organization's weakest link when it comes to security.

"The fact that access appears to have been initiated by initially compromising an employee's personal PC is a very worrying development – highlighting huge failings on so many levels, from an employee education and training standpoint, all the way to administrative and technical controls, to monitoring and enforcement," said Kennerley.

Pete Banham, cyber resilience expert at Mimecast, added that firms need to revise their security policies to accommodate the introduction of bring-your-own-device (BYOD) – particular computers that are also used at home.

"This cryptocurrency heist is a prime example of why firms need to think about the sensitive information employees have access to in a remote working world," Banham advised. "Assume home PCs are or will be compromised when designing your data protection strategy.

"Ongoing security training needs to be balanced with effective data loss prevention techniques that can identify sensitive data leaving an organisation." ®

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