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KC Fibre Engineer in Hull UK Exposes Unencrypted User Passwords

Friday, January 17th, 2014 (12:51 pm) - Score 2,868
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At least one of KC’s fibre optic broadband engineers in Hull (East Yorkshire, England) could be in hot water after demonstrating a worrying lack of personal data security by effectively exposing the ISPs unencrypted user passwords (and other personal data) during an on-site service installation visit.

The incident occurred when an engineer, whom was visiting one of their customers (Chris Hill) in order to install the operators latest Lightstream fibre broadband (FTTP/C) product, began the process of setting up Mr Hill’s Netgear router for the new connection.

According to Mr Hill, the engineer then connected a laptop to the router and opened up a Spreadsheet that displayed a long list of customer IDs, phone numbers and passwords in plain text (unencrypted) format. On top of that the same details are also used to hook up the ISPs Karoo email service, including webmail and POP3, and at no point was Mr Hill he advised to change his password from the default.

It’s understood that the engineer, whom attempted to shield the data from Mr Hill’s prying eyes (top security measure there), commented that having such access to the data “makes our job much easier“. But that’s certainly not the only thing it makes easier.

KCs Statement (The Register)

The security of our customers’ information is of primary importance to us and we are aware of and take very seriously our obligations under the Data Protection Act. We investigate any alleged data security incidents promptly and thoroughly, and we act quickly to make any improvements such investigations identify.”

The operator added that “all of our laptops are encrypted, password-protected and fitted with tracking technology and the facility to remotely wipe data“, which is all well and good but it doesn’t matter a hell of a lot of beans if the file containing said data fails to keep the passwords individually encrypted. A crafty HD Smartphone pic is all it would take.

The fact that engineers could potentially also gain access to a customer’s personal email address by using the same information, and do not show how to change the password directly after they leave, is of similar concern. Mr Hill, perhaps understandably, believes that this appears to reflect a wider culture with how some or all of KC’s engineers work and he has thus lodged an official complaint.

By comparison other ISPs usually send individual passwords in a secure carbon-scratch form to the customers via a letter or put it on a sticker that’s attached directly to the router in its box. Some, such as Sky, don’t even reveal the password to customers (though this makes it harder to use a third party router). In many of these cases the email and connection password are also kept separate.

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By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
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