Do Your Programmers Use LinkedIn? They May Be Leaking Secrets, Whether They Know It Or Not

Written by Mark Rasch
February 9th, 2012

Attorney Mark D. Rasch is the former head of the U.S. Justice Department’s computer crime unit and today serves as Director of Cybersecurity and Privacy Consulting at CSC in Virginia.

At just about every major chain, employees have agreed to lengthy nondisclosure agreements, whereby they have agreed not to “disclose” any “confidential information.” The problem is that most employees don’t think of updating their LinkedIn profile as a disclosure. Even more significantly, they don’t think of a lot of their day-to-day operations as confidential information.

Nowhere is this more true than with retail IT talent, talent that is marketed by touting the various applications people have worked on and the specifics of problems they have solved. In LinkedIn, all of those apps and problems/solutions are located right next to their employer’s name. Doesn’t take a lot of sleuthing to figure out quite a bit about that chain’s confidential operations. Fear not, though. This information is generally only being read by your direct rivals.

With most NDAs, confidential information has a specific definition and wouldn’t include stuff like, “Hey, I am a Unix guru.” This really isn’t an issue about violation of an NDA (OK, sometimes it is); it is about good operational security. For that, users need better education and training about the risks of disclosure, the company needs to decide what it wants to protect, and the chain needs to be vigilant about appropriately trolling social networking sites for public information about themselves or their partners that might cause harm.

This process, called Open-Source Monitoring, must be done well and done legally (with respect for privacy) or it can be a public relations and legal nightmare. But when done well, Open-Source Monitoring can give a retailer advance (or at least real-time) information about a potential data leak.

Let’s face it. Just about everything happening in your company is being posted online by someone. A store clerk just ate a tasty burrito—wham! It’s on her Twitter feed. A fire drill causes employees to stand in the cold for 10 minutes, and poof! Not only is it on someone’s Facebook site, but there’s a picture of shivering executives. Much of this information is harmless. But much of it is not.

Cyberthieves, competitors, fans and others are constantly trolling social networking sites for information they can use to learn what you are doing. If Apple hires a new employee with expertise in interactive displays (as evidenced by the employee’s change in his or her LinkedIn profile), then the world (and Apple’s competitors) know something is up with a new product that might have interactive displays. If the CEOs of two companies post identical locations at Foursquare, then could a secret merger chat have just been revealed? If a technical person posts his or her previous position (system architect, Sears), with skills and responsibilities (designed a Web-based payment and inventory system using C++, which integrated inventory and cost modeling with blah, blah, blah), a good social engineer can use this information to learn exactly what type of system and services a competitor is about to start using.


Comments are closed.


StorefrontBacktalk delivers the latest retail technology news & analysis. Join more than 60,000 retail IT leaders who subscribe to our free weekly email. Sign up today!

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...

Our apologies. Due to legal and security copyright issues, we can't facilitate the printing of Premium Content. If you absolutely need a hard copy, please contact customer service.