[ISN] Verizon Wireless site gives up customer data

From: InfoSec News (isnat_private)
Date: Fri Sep 07 2001 - 00:00:46 PDT

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    Verizon Wireless site gives up customer data
    By Thomas C Greene in Washington
    Posted: 05/09/2001 at 11:15 GMT
    A poor scheme for logging in to the Verizon Wireless customer support
    Web site using a simple session ID number makes it easy for a
    malicious party to hijack another user's session and examine his
    wireless phone records.
    An example URL shows how simple it would be to manipulate the session
    It's believed that the session ID's are assigned sequentially, so it
    would be short work for someone to develop a little brute-force progie
    to exploit them. Even guessing would probably work reasonably well for
    someone with time on his hands, since the scheme is appallingly
    The flaw was discovered and reported by software engineer Marc Slemko,
    who contacted the company two weeks ago but heard nothing in reply. So
    he posted the information to the BugTraq mailing list this past
    weekend, hoping to get some action from Verizon techies.
    The more public approach seems to have worked like a charm. The
    company is now conducting an investigation into the validity and scope
    of the problem, Verizon Executive Director of Corporate Communications
    Brian Wood told us.
    In the mean time, until the hole is bunged, Slemko recommends that
    customers not access the Web site.
    "Cell phone bills....contain names, addresses, and a complete record
    of calls placed and received, along with the approximate location the
    user was when the call was made," Slemko observes in his BugTraq post.
    "I'm sure I'm not alone in expecting my provider to provide a
    reasonable level of privacy for this data."
    The contact buffer
    We've been wondering why Verizon needed prodding into action on such
    an important matter. Apparently, poor internal communications is to
    blame. As of Tuesday, the company was unable to locate Slemko's memo
    or any record of his original contact.
    "I did not even bother phoning, since trying to explain a problem of a
    technical nature over the phone to first and second and third etc.
    tier customer service reps is just a pointless waste of time that I
    don't have to spare," Slemko told us.
    "I wouldn't doubt that it didn't make its way to the right people.
    Verizon is more forceful than most companies in making it very
    difficult to get in touch with anyone useful. I submitted a detailed
    description -- along with a note-to-incompetents that if they don't
    understand what I'm talking about, they had better escalate it -- by
    using their on-line 'contact us' procedures."
    So it would appear that his memo went directly into the great
    customer-service slush pile, and languished.
    We have to agree with Slemko's characterization of contacting Verizon
    beyond the customer-service-drone level. We experienced a similar
    problem in researching this story, which (having a wide experience
    with this sort of thing) we quickly solved by grabbing a company press
    release off one of the wire services and approaching a contact named
    in it.
    Alternatively, we could have done an Edgar search and got the
    corporate switchboard number. But the Verizon Wireless Web site
    offered nothing but a mass-email account, and a toll-free
    customer-service number, neither of which would have accommodated our
    level of patience.
    We realize that this sort of access buffering is meant to insulate
    busy executives from repeated, meaningless contacts with the
    self-interested and the deranged, but in this case its inherent
    downside has been nicely illustrated.
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