Cloud database removed after exposing details on 80 million US households

Cloud database removed after exposing details on 80 million US households. Exclusive: The cache included information on addresses, income levels and marital status.

In a blow to consumers’ privacy, the addresses and demographic details of more than 80 million US households were exposed on an unsecured database stored on the cloud, independent security researchers have found.

The details included names, ages and genders as well as income levels and marital status. The researchers, led by Noam Rotem and Ran Locar, were unable to identify the owner of the database, which until Monday was online and required no password to access. Some of the information was coded, like gender, marital status and income level. Names, ages and addresses were not coded.

The data didn’t include payment information or Social Security numbers. The 80 million households affected make up well over half of the households in the US, according to Statista.

“I wouldn’t like my data to be exposed like this,” Rotem said in an interview. “It should not be there.”

Rotem and his team verified the accuracy of some data in the cache but didn’t download the data to minimize the invasion of privacy of those listed, he said.

It’s one more example of a widespread problem with cloud data storage, which has revolutionized how we store valuable information. Many organizations don’t have the expertise to secure the data they keep on internet-connected servers, resulting in repeated exposures of sensitive data. Earlier in April, a researcher revealed that patient information from drug addiction treatment centers was exposed on an unsecured database. Another researcher found a giant cache of Facebook user data stored by third-party companies on another database that was publicly visible.

“I wouldn’t like my data to be exposed like this. It should not be there.”

Unlike a hack, you don’t need to break into a computer system to access an exposed database. You simply need to find the IP address, the numerical code assigned to any given web page. There’s no indication, though, that the information in this database was accessed by cybercriminals.

For the research, Rotem and Locar partnered with VPNmentor, an Israeli company that reviews privacy products called VPNs and receives commissions when readers choose one they like. In a blog post Monday, the company called on the public to help it identify who might own the data so that it can be secured.

“The 80 million families listed here deserve privacy,” the company said in its blog post.

Rotem found that the data was stored on a cloud service owned by Microsoft. Securing the data is up to the organization that created the database, and not Microsoft itself.

“We have notified the owner of the database and are taking appropriate steps to help the customer remove the data until it can be properly secured,” a Microsoft spokesperson clarified in a statement Monday.

Cloud database removed after exposing details on 80 million US households

The server hosting the data came online in February, Rotem found, and he discovered it in April using tools he developed to search for and catalog unsecured databases. In January, he also found a security flaw in a widely used airline booking system called Amadeus that could allow an attacker to view and alter airline bookings.

The cache of demographic information included data about adults aged 40 and older. Many people listed are elderly, which Rotem said could put them at risk from scammers tempted to use the information to try to defraud them.

 


Related Videos:

 


Related Posts:

How To Build a Website With WordPress…Fast!

Hacker Lauri Love denied bid to get computers back

Google is about to have a lot more ads on phones

Machine learning algorithms explained

Chief Data Analytics Officers, Canada

What does your car know about you? We hacked a Chevy to find out

Security experts say health care industry is prized target for cyber criminals

The dark web represents only a fraction of the rest of the internet

Transforming the world through behavioral insights and scientific thinking

Russia ‘successfully tests’ its unplugged internet

Connected through code, Choose Your Platform!

About the Author: Bernard Aybout

In the land of bytes and bits, a father of three sits, With a heart for tech and coding kits, in IT he never quits. At Magna's door, he took his stance, in Canada's wide expanse, At Karmax Heavy Stamping - Cosma's dance, he gave his career a chance. With a passion deep for teaching code, to the young minds he showed, The path where digital seeds are sowed, in critical thinking mode. But alas, not all was bright and fair, at Magna's lair, oh despair, Harassment, intimidation, a chilling air, made the workplace hard to bear. Management's maze and morale's dip, made our hero's spirit flip, In a demoralizing grip, his well-being began to slip. So he bid adieu to Magna's scene, from the division not so serene, Yet in tech, his interest keen, continues to inspire and convene.