Lush Site Hacked, Chain Posts A Message To Attackers

Written by Evan Schuman
February 2nd, 2011

When the U.K.’s Lush cosmetics chain—with more than 650 stores in more than 40 countries—was attacked by cyberthieves, it ultimately had to take down its core site and replace it with a limited new site. But Lush first decided to post a note to its attackers on its homepage.

“To the hacker,” the homepage missive began. “If you are reading this, our Web team would like to say that your talents are formidable. We would like to offer you a job, were it not for the fact that your morals are clearly not compatible with ours or our customers.” This is right out of a spy movie, where the hero always compliments his abductor before insulting him. (“This is a brilliantly hidden lab and your guards are impressive. But I can’t join your plot of evil because you’re a low-life scum. Sorry about that. Continue the torture, please.”)

The hacker note has been posted since about January 21, when the chain promised to launch “a completely separate, temporary Web site” and to do so “in a few days, initially taking PayPal payments only.”

Dealing with either a D-DOS (trying to shut down the site as a goal) or a cyberthief (trying to steal information) attack is notoriously tricky. At best, a site can defend against the attack until the attackers change their attack method and regain access, forcing the site to step up defenses. If the attacks continue, the site might have to delay new services or limit existing ones. Some D-DOS defenses, for example, use techniques to filter out malicious traffic. But that can prevent some customers from getting through.

In Lush’s case, the company decided that the best course was the expensive “abandon current site and start over” method. From Lush’s homepage message: “We are very sorry to confirm that our Web site has been the victim of hackers. Twenty-four-hour security monitoring has shown us that we were still being targeted and there were continuing attempts to re-enter. We refuse to put our customers at risk of another entry so have decided to completely retire this version of our Web site.”

The site then asked customers to check banking records. “For complete peace of mind, we would like all customers who placed online orders with us between 4th Oct 2010 and today, 20th Jan 2011, to contact their banks for advice as their card details may have been compromised. An Oct to Jan timeframe was decided because we wish it to cover a larger period than we think has been exposed. We hope we are erring very much on the side of caution. We would rather notify more customers than required, than find out in retrospect that we had narrowed it and missed people. Some of our customers have already experienced unauthorized use of their cards, so we still urge all customers in the above period to check statements and talk to their banks for advice.”

It’s a sad state of reality when retailers can be chased from their rightful virtual storefronts by gangs of cyber hoodlums. But when a chain is as upfront about the situation as Lush is apparently being, most customers are likely to stay loyal. Heck, they may even pick up a few new consumers impressed with their attitude.

That said, Lush has been criticized by some customers for not having gone public with the attack details earlier.


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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...
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