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The biggest security snafus of 2013 (so far)

Ellen Messmer | July 2, 2013
Late last December ended with a hacker leaking data on 300,000 Verizon FIOS customers which was apparently stolen via a marketing partner of Verizon.

- The European Union Commission fined Microsoft the Euro equivalent of about $733 million for breaking the terms of an earlier agreement made in 2009 to offer users a choice of Internet browser.

- Prison inmate Nicholas Webber, said to be a convicted cybercriminal, hacked into his prison's mainframe after being allowed to take an IT course in 2011, it was learned during a tribunal in Great Britain related to an unfair dismissal claim in which the IT teacher at the time, Michael Fox, said it wasn't his fault though he believes the incident contributed to his being laid off.

- A website called that provides U.S. consumers with a free annual credit report was apparently the source used by hackers to download credit reports of celebrities Beyonce and government officials, including FBI director Robert Mueller.

- Google agreed to pay a $7 million fine to settle a multi-state investigation into Google's interception of personal e-mails, passwords and other sensitive information transmitted several years ago over unprotected wireless networks in neighborhoods. Google didn't acknowledge any wrongdoing in the settlement that covers 38 states and the District of Columbia.

- The U.S. national Vulnerability Database was temporarily taken down by its managers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology after malware was discovered on the site and traced to a software vulnerability.

- Microsoft said a botched firmware update led to the partial outage lasting about 16 hours. Some detail about it from Microsoft said a temperature spike impacting the servers played a role in it all in a data-center area where, and SkyDrive infrastructure is located, "so some people trying to access those services were impacted."

- Computer networks of banks and some broadcasters in South Korea suffered a cyber-attack that disrupted business there. While at first pointing to North Korea as a possible source of the attacks South Korea investigators later backed down from that stance saying they had no proof.

- Several Xbox Live accounts for former and current Microsoft employees were compromised by attackers using social engineering techniques, Microsoft said. This may be related to another attack based on social engineering that targeted security reporter Brian Krebs, whose reporting on Russian crime sites likely gained him some enemies. One day Krebs' residence was surrounded by a police SWAT team after a caller falsely reported a break-in there.

- Google Drive, the cloud storage and applications suite used by millions at home and at work, suffered three outages in one week, apparently caused by a bug in the Google network's control software.

- A former Defense Department contractor in Hawaii, 59-year-old Benjamin Pierce Bishop, was convicted of espionage in giving his 27-year-old Chinese lover classified information about nuclear weapons, missile defense and radar systems. In a separate case, Sixing Lui, a Chinese citizen who worked at L-3 Communications' space and navigation division, was sentenced in federal court in Newark to over five years in jail for taking thousands of files about a disk resonator gyroscope, designed to support precision targeting without satellite guidance, and other defense systems to China in violation of a U.S. arms embargo. Lui had told his supervisor he was going on vacation to Chicago but instead went to China, where federal prosecutors believe he may have wanted to get a job at a Chinese aeronautical institute.


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