Australian Credit Breach Culprit: Google Cache

Written by Evan Schuman
March 25th, 2009

The ability of Google’s cache capture to memorialize anything found on a Web site—including credit card information—is hardly new, but some Australian IT execs have been given a concrete reminder, as they found that data from some 19,000 credit cards—including including CVVs, expiration dates, names and addresses—in a routine Google search.

“The alert started with a bunch of other numbers, so I went to the web page and it was just a virtual directory listing with a bunch of directories underneath and a load of files inside,” one anonymous IT worker quoted in a story in ITNews in Australia. “It looks like the site might have been a payment processing gateway that handled credit card transactions for a bunch of websites before it went belly-up.”

Google corporate issued a statement that pretty much said, “We’re a search engine. You keep ultra-sensitive data on your site in the clear and you’re trying to blame us because our spiders do what everyone knows they do?” To be precise, this is the wording that Google issued: “Please keep in mind that search engines are a reflection of the content and information that is available on the Internet. Search engines such as Google do not own this content, and do not have the ability to remove content directly from the Internet. Standards are in place that Google and other search engines follow that enable site owners to protect information on their sites from being indexed and searchable. These standards give site owners the flexibility to publish content and control how it is found.”

The Google statement also said: “At Google, we recognize that privacy and security of data is important, which is why we provide simple tools for webmasters to ensure that these types of pages are not cached. In addition, Google provides webmasters with an automatic URL removal system, which enables webmasters to quickly remove their pages, including cached copies, from the Google index in the event that information has been mistakenly published.”

This incident was limited and the damage seems to be minimal. But the bigger issue, which ITNews noted, is why has this hole not been adequately plugged by now? Was this sloppy work done by the online equivalents of the guys that dump credit card files in front of the store when a location is shut down? Or is this problem hitting those who are otherwise security sensitive?


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Most Recent Comments

Why Did Gonzales Hackers Like European Cards So Much Better?

I am still unclear about the core point here-- why higher value of European cards. Supply and demand, yes, makes sense. But the fact that the cards were chip and pin (EMV) should make them less valuable because that demonstrably reduces the ability to use them fraudulently. Did the author mean that the chip and pin cards could be used in a country where EMV is not implemented--the US--and this mis-match make it easier to us them since the issuing banks may not have as robust anti-fraud controls as non-EMV banks because they assumed EMV would do the fraud prevention for them Read more...
Two possible reasons that I can think of and have seen in the past - 1) Cards issued by European banks when used online cross border don't usually support AVS checks. So, when a European card is used with a billing address that's in the US, an ecom merchant wouldn't necessarily know that the shipping zip code doesn't match the billing code. 2) Also, in offline chip countries the card determines whether or not a transaction is approved, not the issuer. In my experience, European issuers haven't developed the same checks on authorization requests as US issuers. So, these cards might be more valuable because they are more likely to get approved. Read more...
A smart card slot in terminals doesn't mean there is a reader or that the reader is activated. Then, activated reader or not, the U.S. processors don't have apps certified or ready to load into those terminals to accept and process smart card transactions just yet. Don't get your card(t) before the terminal (horse). Read more...
The marketplace does speak. More fraud capacity translates to higher value for the stolen data. Because nearly 100% of all US transactions are authorized online in real time, we have less fraud regardless of whether the card is Magstripe only or chip and PIn. Hence, $10 prices for US cards vs $25 for the European counterparts. Read more...
@David True. The European cards have both an EMV chip AND a mag stripe. Europeans may generally use the chip for their transactions, but the insecure stripe remains vulnerable to skimming, whether it be from a false front on an ATM or a dishonest waiter with a handheld skimmer. If their stripe is skimmed, the track data can still be cloned and used fraudulently in the United States. If European banks only detect fraud from 9-5 GMT, that might explain why American criminals prefer them over American bank issued cards, who have fraud detection in place 24x7. Read more...

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