On November 13, reports surfaced detailing a data breach at Friend Finder Networks, an adult dating and entertainment company whose affected properties included Penthouse, Adult Friend Finder and others. The breach exposed over 412 million accounts, including usernames, associated email addresses and passwords, making it the largest breach ever.
Naturally, the release of the usernames and associated emails from users of sex and swinger sites creates enormous individual reputational risks, which could have far-reaching implications for many personal and business relationships. But it also raises the stakes for security professionals everywhere.
Why? Because for cyber criminals, a data breach – especially one this large – is a starting gun. Organized fraudsters and actors will use the news of the Friend Finder breach as bait in the form of phishing emails and social media schemes, designed to compel recipients to provide PII or click on a link. These are dangerous messages, because they expose recipients to financial loss, and possibly their companies to revenue, operational and reputational risks. Following are five key takeaways from the data breach for individuals and businesses:
- The Friend Finder Network Breach Can Tarnish Your Enterprise’s Hard-Earned Reputation
What happens at your company if your executive’s names or personal emails appear among the millions of users compromised in the Friend Finder breach? Odds are, it isn’t good. Deserved, or undeserved, you do not want to see your company name dragged through the mud. And when key executives and other corporate leaders are caught up in the story, it can be very bad for business.
- Your Users Are Not in the Driver’s Seat
Beyond the reputational risk issues it has caused individuals, the Friend Finder breach can impact end-users’ finances, credit ratings, and businesses. The release of over 400 million username-email-password combinations provides cyber criminals with the ability to unlock and take control of user’s accounts on many other sites. Despite all the warnings about the perils of reusing passwords, it is a fact of life that generally, most people are not as disciplined about passwords as they need to be. Now there is a very real chance that cyber criminals, trying the email-password combinations they have obtained from Friend Finder, can take control of actual end user accounts. What is the first thing the criminals will do? Change the password.
- It’s Open Season for Cybercriminals.
All users should expect to see phishing emails trying to leverage the Friend Finder breach in their inboxes. There will be multiple kinds of approaches – “Click here to open a list of Friend Finder users”; “We’ve noticed some activity on your “________” account that could be related to the Friend Finder breach, please click here to change your password now.” Or “Ensure that your name is removed from the Friend Finder Breach List – click here to preserve your privacy.” These emails, and others like them, are simple scams – they are using the urgency that the Friend Finder breach has created to compel end-users to open files or click links. What happens next? Those files or links activate spyware, ransomware, and malware exploits on personal and even possibly on corporate devices.
- Employee Education Can Reduce the Risk of Disaster
Employees must be aware and informed about recent developments in cybersecurity to ensure that they are equipped with the knowledge to avoid risk. The “cybersecurity chain” is only as strong as its weakest link. Cybercriminals know this and will target the people that they believe to be least alert with social engineering schemes and BEC attacks leveraging false domains. Security leaders need to provide resources and information on the most recent security threats and best practices if you intend to implement a comprehensive security strategy.
- Enterprises Must Stay in Front of the Threat
If there is one thing security professionals know it is this: the businesses with the earliest visibility of a threat are best positioned to minimize any associated fallout. It will be bad news when a company executive or key employee appears on the Friend Finder list, so the most proactive companies are not waiting, they are already scouring the surface, deep, and dark web for those exposures. The enterprises that have robust internet threat monitoring programs in place have an advantage. Enterprises that do not yet have those programs in place should take fast action. They should be reaching out to cyber threat monitoring experts and implementing proactive cyber threat detection, analysis, and mitigation. Enterprises that have emphasized proactive, comprehensive cyber monitoring as an essential part of their security and risk management efforts will come out ahead. They are positioned, through strong partnerships and robust processes, to ensure that they know what is happening online quickly.
Final Thoughts: Stand Vigilant
The Friend Finder Network breach is huge. It may not be grabbing the same kinds of headlines as last year’s Ashley Madison breach, but that is probably just a sad statement on our crowded news cycle, and how numb the public has become to these kinds of breaches. Rest assured, the Friend Finder breach has the potential to be many times worse than its predecessors. Although it is tempting, there just is not an option for individuals and corporate security teams to ignore it. To be better protected from cyber criminals tomorrow, everyone has actions they should be taking today.
Greg Mancusi-Ungaro, BrandProtect
Greg Mancusi-Ungaro is CMO at BrandProtect, which provides a comprehensive suite of cyber risk detection, intelligence, and threat mitigation solutions for enterprises. Greg was recently named a Fellow of the Ponemon Research Institute. A passionate evangelist for emerging technologies, business practices, and customer-centricity, Greg has been leading and advising world class marketing initiatives, teams and organizations for more than twenty-five years.