This Time It’s Personal: Cyberthieves Attacked Forever 21 Partially Because Their Clothes Were “Poorly Made”

Written by Evan Schuman
November 10th, 2010

Cyberthief Extraordinaire Albert Gonzalez’s crew targeted at least one of the retail chain victims they hit partially because they didn’t like the chain. Forever 21 was targeted because “the clothes were poorly made and the employees were poorly paid,” Gonzalez Co-Conspirator Patrick Toey is quoted as saying in a profile of Gonzalez by The New York Times Magazine. In the Times piece, Toey described how the Forever 21 attack began with a flaw in the chain’s shopping cart software.

He also spoke about some of the other many retail victims of the Gonzalez crew. Another member of the gang walked into an Office Max near Los Angeles and simply “loosened a terminal at a checkout counter and walked out of the store with it” for intelligence gathering. Once in, Toey said, the system was foolproof: “Every time a card was swiped, it would be logged into our file. There was nothing anyone could do about it.” More intriguingly, Toey said the crew had attacked “major chains and [orchestrated] big hacks that would dwarf TJX,” none of which were ever the subject of the federal probe. “I’m just waiting for them to indict us for the rest of them,” he said. So, the saga isn’t over yet. As if it we didn’t already suspect that.


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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...
@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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