Mat Honan was hacked. The nightmare unfolded minute by minute, a sequence of security failures daisy-chaining their way into a disaster. But there was a single point of entry: Apple's willingness to hand over the keys to his account to anyone with the last four digits of his credit card number and home address.
What happened to me exposes vital security flaws in several customer service systems, most notably Apple’s and Amazon’s. Apple tech support gave the hackers access to my iCloud account. Amazon tech support gave them the ability to see a piece of information — a partial credit card number — that Apple used to release information. In short, the very four digits that Amazon considers unimportant enough to display in the clear on the web are precisely the same ones that Apple considers secure enough to perform identity verification. The disconnect exposes flaws in data management policies endemic to the entire technology industry, and points to a looming nightmare as we enter the era of cloud computing and connected devices.
It reminds me of how air crashes occur. In isolation from one another, storms, structural flaws and tired or incompetent personnel are rarely enough. But together, in just the right sequence, it all goes horribly wrong.
The worst part: Wired attempted the same social engineering technique today, and it still won them control of iCloud accounts.
Previously: Yes, I was hacked. Hard. [Emptyage.com]