news National broadband provider iiNet has conducted an audit of its network security, as persistent rumours continue to swirl that one of the company’s customer databases has been broken into and its contents handed over to spammers – a claim iiNet says it can find no evidence for.
Several months ago, Delimiter received an unverified tip stating: “iiNet’s games network has been hacked. Usernames and passwords compromised. Happened 3 months ago. Discovered last Friday. Customers have not been notified and don’t know that their passwords are not secure.” At the time, the information was not able to be verified, and there continues to be no verified evidence that such an attack had been perpetuated at the ISP.
However, starting several weeks ago, iiNet customers on broadband forum Whirlpool started complaining about receiving spam email containing Amazon branding to accounts which they had not publicly used for any purpose.
“Since I run my own mail server, I don’t use my @iinet.net.au e-mail address except to contact iiNet,” a user named ‘Malvineous’ wrote at the time. “A few weeks ago I started getting a couple of non-English spam messages sent to it (all from the same place), which seemed strange as I have never entered this address in anywhere. This morning I received an apparently legitimate looking spam from “Amazon local deals” except that it appeared to originate from a Linode VPS instead of Amazon’s network.”
A number of other users replied noting ‘that they had been experiencing exactly the same phenomenon. “Same thing with me,” wrote ‘rikki’, for example. “I recently logged in to my iinet email account (which I never use), for a support query update and noticed that email which I just deleted without reading it as it looked like spam. I’ve been having exactly the same thing with my iinet email address. Like you, I never use it and have my own mail server. I probably first noticed the Amazon email a week or so ago and just received another this morning.”
‘Malvineous’ wrote that they were concerned about the wider implications from the situation, rather than merely the fact that their email address was receiving a small amount of spam.
“Given that it seems a number of iiNet customers are receiving the *same* spam, at the same time, it looks like there’s a list of iiNet usernames floating around somewhere. This is quite worrying, because if it turns out to be true, we need to know where the list came from. If it was stolen from iiNet, what other information was taken? Was it just usernames, or did it include real names, addresses and/or credit card info as well?” they wrote. “Nobody is that worried about the spam itself, but the fact that there is spam suggests there’s something bigger going on, and that’s what we’re concerned about.”
One possible avenue of attack is an automated spam mechanism guessing iiNet usernames through a brute force avenue – simply emailing every possible combination of usernames. This possibility was raised by iiNet representative Mayank Gavri on the Whirlpool thread dealing with the situation.
This week, iiNet network services manager Roger Yerramsetti posted that iiNet had done “a lot of digging” but could not find any evidence of a security breach or inappropriate access of customer information. “Our teams have looked outward from iiNet and we’ve had expert people looking inward from outside as well,” he wrote. “There were some settings we were not happy with, which have now been modified, but for obvious reasons we cannot state what we have done. At this point we are happy to offer to change any affected account holder’s authoritative email address to stop any further unwanted emails.”
The news comes several months after another major Australian telecommunications company, AAPT, had some of its data compromised, with the loose knit group of Internet activists known as ‘Anonymous’ publishing some 3.5 gigabytes of data from the company, in protest against a wide-ranging package of surveillance and data retention reforms currently proposed by the Federal Government.
At this point there is no verified evidence that iiNet has been hacked at all – only rumours and innuendo. But I thought it worth publishing an article on this subject as I have been receiving reader tips about this matter every two or three weeks for the past couple of months, and iiNet has made a statement on the issue. If anyone does have concrete evidence about this issue – especially if iiNet is hiding anything – please don’t hesitate to use Delimiter’s anonymous tips form. Even we won’t know who you are ;)