Rogue Trend Micro employee exposes customer data

(Image credit: Future)

The cybersecurity firm Trend Micro has revealed that the personal data of thousands of its customers has been exposed by a rogue employee.

According to the company, an employee sold information from its customer support database to a third party including the names and phone number of its customers.

Trend Micro first became suspicious that its customer data had been leaked after customers began reporting that they had received phone calls from scammers who were posing as its employees.

The firm believes that approximately 70,000 of its 12m customers were affected by the incident and it has notified those whose details were exposed.

Insider threat

Back in August, Trend Micro first received reports that many users of its home security software had been receiving spam phone calls. However, the scammers knew far too much information about their targets which is when the company first suspected that its customer support database had been breached.

Trend Micro later discovered that its systems had not fallen victim to a cyberattack and instead it was facing a malicious insider. In a blog post (opens in new tab), the company explained the actions it took after discovering its customer data was stolen by one of its own employees, saying:

“Our investigation revealed that this employee sold the stolen information to a currently unknown third-party malicious actor. We took swift action to contain the situation, including immediately disabling the unauthorized account access and terminating the employee in question, and we are continuing to work with law enforcement on an ongoing investigation.”

Senior solutions architect at comforte AG, Warren Poschman explained why businesses should adopt a data-centric security model following the Trend Micro breach, saying:

"The breach at Trend Micro underscores a major, yet unfortunate, disconnect in IT security today where perimeter security, UBA, database encryption, DLP, and fraud/threat detection are deployed without a complementary deployment of security that ensures the data inside is protected.  The belief that “if I build a high enough wall they can’t get in and my data is safe inside” is a fallacy that has been exposed repeatedly in 2019.  

“Instead of just building virtual Maginot lines around data, organizations need to adopt a data-centric security model to protect the data inside from either external or internal threats – in other words, protect what matters most inside as well as you do to protect the outside perimeter.  Data-centric security technologies such as Tokenization protect data at rest, in motion, and in use and protect enterprise-wide.  In the Trend Micro case, this could have stopped the rogue employee because although they may have had elevated credentials to the customer service database, they would have found that the database contained useless tokens instead of salable data."

Via The BBC (opens in new tab)

Anthony Spadafora

After working with the TechRadar Pro team for the last several years, Anthony is now the security and networking editor at Tom’s Guide where he covers everything from data breaches and ransomware gangs to the best way to cover your whole home or business with Wi-Fi. When not writing, you can find him tinkering with PCs and game consoles, managing cables and upgrading his smart home.