[ISN] The Data Security Weak Link

From: InfoSec News (alerts@private)
Date: Mon Jul 09 2007 - 01:34:39 PDT


By Evan Schuman
Ziff Davis Internet
July 6, 2007 

When Fidelity National Information Services this week announced that 
about 2.3 million customer records had been illegally sold to a group of 
direct marketers, most media overlooked the most interesting part: The 
story behind Fidelity's weakest link.

Some quick background. The Fidelity National we're talking about is a 
Jacksonville, Fla., firm that owns a company called Certegy Check 
Services Inc. Certegy is mostly in the check authorization business and 
it tracks bank account information so that it can help retailers 
determine whether it's wise to accept a particular check. The company 
says it also handles some credit card information "to assist casinos in 
providing their customers with access to funds."

Fidelity National said that about "2.3 million records are believed to 
be at issue, with approximately 2.2 million containing bank account 
information and 99,000 containing credit card information."

Fidelity National said the incident "came to light when one of Certegy's 
retail check processing customers alerted Certegy to a correlation 
between a small number of check transactions and the receipt by the 
retailer's customers of direct telephone solicitations and mailed 
marketing materials." Added Renz Nichols, president of Certegy Check 
Services: "As a result of this apparent theft, the consumers affected 
received marketing solicitations from the companies that bought the 

The company said that this was all orchestrated by one employee, who has 
thus far only been identified as "a senior-level database administrator 
who was entrusted with defining and enforcing data access rights." If 
someone wants to steal a database, that's the perfect job to have.

Despite—or is it because of?—this employee's technical expertise, 
intimate knowledge of the network and extreme access, he/she didn't 
break in, didn't do a transfer and didn't concoct an elaborate script to 
make data copies. "The incident does not involve any outside intrusion 
into, or compromise of, Certegy's technology systems," said a company 

But here's the most fascinating part: "To avoid detection, the 
technician removed the information from Certegy's facility via physical 
processes; not electronic transmission."

As a DBA, this admin knew what the security response would be. They'd 
search for a security breach and then bring in a forensic investigator. 
Then came the U.S. Secret Service.

The most time-honored rule of security is the weak link. Namely, that a 
skilled thief will quickly determine the weakest possible point of 
access and focus his/her efforts there. Although it's obvious takeaway 
you should try and secure all access points, it's also silly waste money 
layering on excess security on any one entry point. A good analogy is a 
front door with a high-end deadbolt standing beside a window. Once that 
door makes the window the weak link, additional security on the door is 

In the Fidelity National incident, that DBA knew the company's weak 
link. They had poured enough security and tracking systems in that he 
chose to avoid leaving any digital fingerprints at all. Whether the DBA 
is supposed to have stolen a backup tape or engaged in some other 
physical theft is not yet clear.

How was the suspect caught? The Secret Service was able to identify the 
company that was supplying the direct marketers with the information. 
That company was apparently owned and operated by the DBA in question. 
If the allegations are true, the DBA was smart enough to avoid leaving 
any electronic breadcrumbs but was then dumb enough to use a company he 
was identified with to make the sale.

The IT moral of the story: When the people who know your system best 
decide they had better not mess with it, you're probably doing something 

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