Cybercash Disputes Hacker’s Claim

Cybercash Inc. is disputing an
18-year-old Russian cracker’s claims that the company’s credit card
verification system was penetrated, resulting in the theft of thousands of
credit card numbers from an online music store.

Before it was taken offline early Sunday morning, the rogue site, a page of
which has been mirrored here, had doled out more than
25,000 stolen card numbers, according to a counter on the page. Also
included with the numbers were expiration dates and
cardholder names and addresses. With the
click of a button, visitors could launch a script that purportedly obtained
a valid credit card “directly from the biggest online shop database,”
according to a message at the site.

The cracker, who goes by the nickname Maxus, claimed in an e-mail to
InternetNews.com sent Saturday that he breached the security of CDuniverse.com, an online
music store operated by eUniverse, Inc. of Wallingford, Conn. Maxus said he
had defeated a popular credit card processing application called ICVerify,
from CyberCash (CYCH)
and obtained a database containing more
than 300,000 customer records from CDuniverse.

As proof of his exploit, Maxus e-mailed a file to InternetNews containing
nearly 200 customer records, including card numbers, which he claimed were
stolen from CDuniverse.

Cybercash vice president of marketing Chuck Riegel said Tuesday the
company’s ICVerify product may once have been installed at CDuniverse, but it is no longer in use there, and is not to blame for the breach. He noted that ICVerify is a PC-based product that’s typically used by brick-and-mortar merchants to accompany a PC-based cash-register system. It
is connected over a phone line to a credit-card processor, and has no Web
interface.

“As far as security in ICVerify goes, that thing is buttoned down, nailed down and it’s been in production for 10 years. It’s hard for us to comment on what the possibilities might have been outside of that, I just know for
sure that it had nothing to do with my software product,” Riegel said.

One of the victims, Greg Wilson of Binghamton, N.Y., confirmed that he had shopped at the online music store over a year ago. According to Wilson, he was contacted by his credit card company’s fraud division last week after
someone had attempted to make an authorized charge to his card.

Another victim, Charles Vance of Marietta, Ga. said he had purchased CDs from the company in the past, but had recently cancelled the card on file for unrelated personal reasons.

Maxus said that he decided to set up the site, titled Maxus Credit Cards
Datapipe, and to give away the stolen customer data after officials at
CDuniverse failed to pay him $100,000 to keep quiet about the security hole.
Maxus claims the company agreed to the payment last month, but subsequently
balked at initiating a wire transfer to a secret bank account because it
might be noticed by auditors. After a week passed with no further contact
from the company, Maxus said he put up his site and announced its presence
Dec. 25th on an Internet Relay Chat group devoted to stolen credit cards.

Soon after launching his site, Maxus said it became so popular with credit
card thieves that he had to implement a cap to limit visitors to one stolen
card at a time.

The Internet service provider which hosted the Maxus site, Lightrealm Inc.,
of Kirkland, Wa, took the Maxus site down sometime early Sunday morning.
Lightrealm was acquired by Micron Electronics (MUEI)
last October.

According to Elias Levy, chief technology officer of Internet security
info

rmation firm SecurityFocus.com, which first
publicized the existence of
the Maxus site, the incident “is very disturbing. It realizes the fears
people have about online commerce.” But Levy pointed out that because card
holders are usually only responsible for first $50 in fraudulent
charges, the real danger in Internet credit card fraud falls on online
merchants and credit card companies.

“The Internet is not more dangerous for consumers. It allows a criminal to
break into
a single site and obtain not one credit card, but possibly a database of all
credit cards of that site’s customers,” Levy said.

Apprehending Maxus will not be easy, said Richard M. Smith, an online
security expert in Brookline, Mass., who helped federal agents track down
the
author of the Melissa virus, David L. Smith. Maxus appears to move about
online using stolen accounts and relays his email through other sites to
conceal the originating Internet protocol address, said Smith.

“It’s possible he could have slipped up somewhere along the way, but I think
he’s pretty free and clear and it’s near zero that they will catch him,”
Smith said.

A guest book at the Maxus site contained dozens of entries from visitors,
many of them in Russian.

According to BizRate, a service which
collects feedback from online
shoppers, CD Universe rates highly overall with excellent customer
satisfaction scores for nearly all dimensions of its
service.

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