Identity theft protection firm 'exposes customers to phishing attacks'

Bucket leaking water
(Image credit: Big Stock)

What happens when a company you trust to safeguard your identity actually ends up being the very organisation that leaves you vulnerable to attack?

That's what customers of identity theft protection company LifeLock appear to be discovering, after researchers learned that a flaw in the company's website could be leaving customers vulnerable to spearphishing attacks.

The flaw was first reported by security expert Brian Krebs, who was alerted to it by US researcher Nathan Reese. Reese discovered the flaw after clicking on an unsubscribe link in one of LifeLock's emails, which took him to a page where he could update his email marketing preferences.

The URL for this preference centre featured a unique subscriber key, a numerical identifier used by LifeLock to internally catalogue customers. By changing this value in the URL, Reese was able to access the preference centre for other LifeLock subscribers - which meant that he could also see their email addresses.

"It would be trivial to write a simple script that pulls down the email address of every LifeLock subscriber," Krebs said. "The design of the company's site suggests that whoever put it together lacked a basic understanding of website authentication and security."

"If I were a bad guy, I would definitely target your customers with a phishing attack because I know two things about them," said Reese. "That they're a LifeLock customer and that I have those customers' email addresses. That's a pretty sharp spear for my spearphishing right there. Plus, I definitely think the target market of LifeLock is someone who is easily spooked by the specter of cybercrime."

Readers may remember LifeLock as the company whose former CEO Todd Davis was so confident in its services that he ran numerous ads featuring his genuine social security number. He had his identity stolen at least 13 times.

LifeLock is now owned by security firm Symantec following a $2.3 billion acquisition in 2016, and as of January 2017, the company had more than 4.5 million subscribers. IT Pro has approached Symantec for comment.

Adam Shepherd

Adam Shepherd has been a technology journalist since 2015, covering everything from cloud storage and security, to smartphones and servers. Over the course of his career, he’s seen the spread of 5G, the growing ubiquity of wireless devices, and the start of the connected revolution. He’s also been to more trade shows and technology conferences than he cares to count.

Adam is an avid follower of the latest hardware innovations, and he is never happier than when tinkering with complex network configurations, or exploring a new Linux distro. He was also previously a co-host on the ITPro Podcast, where he was often found ranting about his love of strange gadgets, his disdain for Windows Mobile, and everything in between.

You can find Adam tweeting about enterprise technology (or more often bad jokes) @AdamShepherUK.