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'Hacker Safe' Web Site Suffers Security Breach

By Jaikumar Vijayan
January 14, 2008 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - Even if a Web site displays a seal certifying that it is hackproof, it may not always be immune to security breaches.

A case in point is Geeks.com, which on Jan. 4 began notifying an undisclosed number of customers that their personal and financial data may have been compromised. The online technology retailer, whose formal name is Genica Corp., said in a warning letter that it discovered the system intrusion on Dec. 5.

The compromised information included names, street and e-mail addresses, telephone numbers and Visa credit card numbers, card expiration dates and three-digit card verification numbers, according to a copy of the letter posted on The Consumerist blog.

Geeks.com is a $150 million company specializing in the sale of excess inventory and manufacturers' closeouts. Its Web site says that it is tested on a daily basis by ScanAlert Inc., which offers a service that constantly monitors sites for vulnerabilities.

But ScanAlert spokesman Nigel Ravenhill said via e-mail last week that the vendor, which is being acquired by McAfee Inc., had withdrawn its Hacker Safe certification from Geeks.com "several times" last year after finding vulnerabilities in the retailer's systems. Geeks.com fell out of compliance last June and again in December, he said.

"Preliminary evidence uncovered while investigating this matter suggests that the breach most likely occurred during one of these periods," Ravenhill wrote. He added that each time ScanAlert withdrew its certification, Geeks.com fixed the problems. The retailer currently meets the requirements for the Hacker Safe logo, Ravenhill said.

A telephone operator at Geeks.com's headquarters in Oceanside, Calif., said she was unable to find anyone who could comment about the incident.

According to the letter sent to customers, the intrusion has been reported to Visa Inc., local law enforcement authorities and the U.S. Secret Service.

Geeks.com has also hired a consulting firm "to determine how this incident occurred and to confirm that information we obtain is protected to the fullest extent reasonably possible," wrote Chief of Security Jerry Harken.

Read more about Security in Computerworld's Security Topic Center.



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