September 12, 2013
Vodafone Hack Attack Exposes 2 Million Customers
Enid Burns for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
Vodafone Germany revealed on Thursday that it was the target of an attack in which hackers gained access to the personal information of approximately 2 million customers. According to Vodafone, records on the company's internal network database were accessed by someone with insider knowledge.
The carrier issued a statement in German notifying its customers about the breach. The attack was discovered by Vodafone and stopped immediately, according to the carrier.
Due to the nature of the breach, which occurred on an internal network, the company believes that someone inside - or with inside information - carried out the infiltration. "This attack was only possible with high criminal energy, insider knowledge and found hidden deep in the company's IT infrastructure," the statement reads.
The company also says that a suspect has been identified and a search is currently underway. Authorities did not disclose whether the suspect was an employee or someone operating from outside of the company.
Vodafone Germany estimates that the hackers gained access to master data of as many as 2 million customers. It is believed that the database contained customer information such as name, address, date of birth, gender, sort code and account number. The company set up a page where customers can log in to find out whether they are affected by the breach, Bloomberg News reports.
"It is certain that the perpetrator had no access to credit card information, passwords, PIN numbers, mobile phone numbers or data connection," Vodafone assured its customers.
BBC News reports, however, that the hackers did gain access to customers' bank account numbers. An independent security expert said in the Vodafone statement that it is not possible for the perpetrator to use the stolen data to directly access the bank accounts.
Given the amount and type of information that was stolen, Vodafone has warned its customers to be on guard for phishing attacks in the near future. Customers are warned about fake emails looking to retrieve more information such as passwords and credit card information. Vodafone also warned of phone calls in addition to email, where the criminals could use social engineering to glean more information that could potentially be used to compromise a customer's financial accounts.
"Vodafone therefore advises its customers to take extra care when possible telephone or email inquiries in which they are asked to hand over personal information such as passwords or credit card information," the statement said. "Furthermore, customers should check their bank statements regularly and contact your bank immediately in case of irregularities."
This is not the first time a mobile carrier has been the target of hackers. Hackers were able to steal information on 8.7 million cell phone accounts when South Korean carrier KT Corp was compromised last year. Two individuals were eventually arrested in that case.
While Vodafone is officially headquartered in England, Germany is one of its largest markets. The German arm of the company accounted for about 18 percent of sales in the fiscal year that ended March 31, according to Bloomberg. Vodaphone is currently in the process of acquiring Kabel Deutschland Holding AG, Germany's largest cable company. The deal is said to be valued at $10.2 billion.