Back in October of this year, we wrote about DNA testing company 23andMe’s reported data breach. Initially thought to “only” impact 1.4 million people, 23andMe has revised that estimate to a whopping 6.9 million impacted users that had data exposed including names, birthdays, locations, pictures, addresses, related family members, but not, as the company has strenuously emphasized, actual genetic data. I’m fairly certain that little nugget is not providing the relief they might hope.
Why this should matter to you
Even if you nor any immediate family is a 23andMe customer, it’s important to understand why this data breach is particularly noteworthy. 23andMe wasn’t hacked in a manner that is more commonplace for large companies – hacked or stolen credentials for someone inside the company that had privileged access, but rather through a mass breach of 14,000 customer accounts that were secured by passwords found in dark web databases, ie. these stepping-stone customers were using the same passwords that were exposed in other breaches and leaks. The hackers used those compromised accounts to essentially automate a mass cross-referencing data harvest that in the end, exposed data on nearly 7 million 23andMe customers. This last data exposure is on 23andMe – it would seem they didn’t anticipate the built-in cross-referencing services that the genetics testing company offers would be turned against itself. Also, there was the minor omission of not enforcing multi-factor authentication to secure everyone’s accounts, which might have compensated for the poor password discipline of its customers. The two take-aways? Unique passwords and multi-factor authentication should be the minimum security requirements you should expect from any service that contains your valuable data.
Image courtesy of geralt at Pixabay