FlowTraq > Blog > Cyber Security Trends > “I’ll have the lettuce wraps with a side of credit card hacks…”

“I’ll have the lettuce wraps with a side of credit card hacks…”

Gurdev Sethi
By | September 23, 2015


In a Family Guy episode, Peter Griffin lands a TV spot to rant about what “grinds his gears.” Hey, Peter, you know what really grinds my gears? Lettuce wraps. Well, no… not the wraps themselves. (They’re delicious.) What gets me is that during my next visit to PF Chang’s, I may be wondering whether my credit card or personal information is about to be compromised.

Last year, 33 PF Chang locations had their credit-card-processing terminals hacked – and it continued for roughly eight months. Yes – eight months.

If this were an isolated incident, my gears would grind a lot less. But it’s not an isolated incident – not by a long shot.

Target, Staples, United, CVS Photo, Home Depot, Big Fish Games, UPS, Morgan Stanley and (too close to home) Anthem – the one in which I (along with half of New Hampshire) had my personal information stolen. These are all brands that I do business with regularly. And what do I get for their carelessness? A scripted apology from the CEO and a horse-is-already-out-of-the-barn offer for credit monitoring. I also get the uncertainty of who – or what – is now in possession of my personal info. I am not sure I know where it is now – but I knew it was with Staples once. It was with Target. And now, it’s… out there. Is someone else cashing in my miles? Using my credit card? Has someone triangulated a piece of a password so that they can work on breaching my other accounts? Who knows?

And this is by no means a comprehensive list – we also have Office of Personnel Management (OPM), Premera, PR Newswire, and the latest disaster over at Ashley Madison. It’s happening almost every day.

If you think you haven’t been compromised, you’re kidding yourself. Check out this recent feature in the New York Times. This helpful little tool lets you plug in the brands/organizations you’ve interacted with… and spits out how many times it was possible for some creeper on the dark Web to grab your fingerprints, birth date, social security number, financial history or health history.

It feels a little like being followed around by pickpockets.

This is a Plea, Not a Pitch… Promise!

But the thing that really gets me is that this doesn’t have to be our new normal. There are ways – extremely cost-efficient and simple ways – to prevent this from happening.

Quick disclaimer: Yes, I’m a network security guy. Yes, I work at a company that specializes in network traffic detection. So what I’m about to say might sound self-serving. But the “self” I’m serving is the guy who goes out to dinner and books flights online and shops at Home Depot and uses health insurance. It’s “consumer” Larry I’m trying to protect here.

FlowTraq – and other solutions like FlowTraq that provide network traffic monitoring and anomaly detection – offer analysis and protection from these kinds of attacks. Network visibility is cost-effective, it’s scalable, it’s easy to use – and it gives you powerful insight into your network that you absolutely can’t get without it.

Budgets vs. Breaches

Nothing gets me more frustrated than hearing one of these CEOs apologize after the fact – “We’re in business, this is bound to happen occasionally. We weren’t equipped, but we are working toward a solution in the next six months.” Followed by the offer for credit monitoring after the intrusion. Being in the high-tech space and security business, I feel somewhat more aware of potential threats and take precautions as best I can. But, I am particularly worried about my relatives and friends who may easily be duped by hackers, and that gets me aggravated because I expect the companies we all do business with to be more vigilant, invest in the right security tools to block breaches, or at the very least, to identify threats immediately, rather than stumble upon them months after the hack occurred.

I know many of these incidents could have been avoided. There are no more excuses for these organizations – at this point, they need to know better.

We discuss security solutions daily with companies like all of those mentioned above. Too often, however, we hear, “Yes – this is great! We like it. Exactly what we need. But we don’t have budget right now.” Or, “Yes, we’ll see if we can get it approved in the next budget cycle.” I don’t think that is ok. Are the hackers waiting around until next quarter or next fiscal year? Or not already in there wreaking havoc?

The bad guys were on United’s network for a year. And, as I mentioned above, bad guys were cheating lettuce-wrap-lovers for eight months. With network behavior intelligence, you have real-time visibility into what’s happening right now. That means you can detect suspicious data movement, DDoS attacks, botnets, spam relays, zero-day worms, host scans, network scans, DNS amplification attacks, and brute-force attempts – all the time, any time – within seconds.

You see an anomaly? You can instantly see where it’s happening and how long it’s been happening – which is what gives you the power to stop it.

You might think you can’t afford a solution right now – but my question is, can you afford not to have one? If those guys are in your network right now, your organization is pretty much bleeding money at this very moment. Or maybe it’s bleeding intellectual property. Or personal information about your staff, partners and customers. It’s simply not worth waiting to find out…

Modern Technology for Modern Threats

Here’s where I’m going to make a case for using a software solution vs. hardware. We talk with a lot of network security ops teams. They’re typically small – maybe 10, 20 or 30 people serving an enterprise of thousands of users – and they’re generally not getting a lot of budget. If they’ve invested in physical solutions, they’re under pressure to make them last – they’re forced to treat security like a capital investment.

There’s always pressure to keep turnover to a minimum – but that’s not how security works. The life expectancy of a security appliance isn’t the same as the life expectancy of a piece of manufacturing equipment. If you’re lucky, you can get 18 months out of it.

You can bet that hackers are using the most cutting-edge tech out there. If you’re going to stand a chance against them, you have to have systems that let you detect and protect in real time, so you can be reactive and keep up with the increasing speed – and sinister characters – of the Internet.

Some Parting Tips…

We hear it all the time from customers: “I wouldn’t have seen [NEFARIOUS THREAT] without FlowTraq.” And “I have visibility that I’ve never had before.”

Network visibility is a game changer for security practitioners – and it should be a key part of your security infrastructure. Here’s what I recommend:

  • Be practical about the tool you pick (even if it’s not FlowTraq, though I highly recommend it…).
  • Don’t spend a fortune on it.
  • Deploy it as software so that you know it’ll be fast, it’ll stay current, it’ll be easy to integrate with whatever you currently have in place, and it’ll scale.
  • At the end of the day, I’m still going to get the lettuce wraps. But every time I flip my card out, I’m always going to wonder if that’s the day that my info gets exposed (again). And it doesn’t have to be that way.