Hackers steal customer information from PR Newswire

The stolen data includes account credentials and contact information

By Lucian Constantin, IDG News Service |  Security

Hackers managed to steal a database containing customer credentials and contact information from PR Newswire, a major press release distribution service that's used by tens of thousands of companies and public relations agencies.

The database was discovered on the same hacker server where stolen source code for several Adobe products was recently found, suggesting that the same attackers might be responsible for both incidents, according to Alex Holden, chief information security officer of Hold Security, a company that monitors the Internet underground for stolen business data.

The same group of cybercriminals are believed to have also hacked into computer systems belonging to several major data brokers including Dun and Bradstreet, LexisNexis and Kroll Background America.

"Cleverly disguised as an image, an archive of PR Newswire was found on hackers' repository server," Hold Security said Wednesday in a blog post. "The database date appears to be from March 8, 2013 but it is unclear yet if the breach had happened at the same time or at a later date as the archive was created on April 22, 2013."

The company worked with independent security reporter Brian Krebs, who alerted PR Newswire of the breach.

PR Newswire, a company owned by marketing and communications services firm UBM, confirmed the breach Wednesday.

"We recently learned that a database, which primarily houses access credentials and business contact information for some of our customers in Europe, the Middle East, Africa and India, was compromised," Ninan Chacko, PR Newswire's CEO, said in a blog post.

"We are conducting an extensive investigation and have notified appropriate law enforcement authorities," Chacko said. "Based on our preliminary review, we believe that customer payment data were not compromised."

PR Newswire told Krebs there were approximately 10,000 records in the compromised database, but that the actual number of affected customers is likely much lower, because customers generally maintain multiple accounts.

PR Newswire has notified affected customers and has enforced a mandatory password reset for their accounts, a PR Newswire spokesman said Thursday. The passwords were hashed, he said.

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