Dell hit with cyber attack

Dell Inc said that it reset passwords for all accounts on its Dell.com online electronics store on Nov. 14, five days after it discovered and stopped hackers who were attempting to steal customer data. Dell is an American multinational computer technology company based in Round Rock, Texas, United States, that develops...

Dell Inc said that it reset passwords for all accounts on its Dell.com online electronics store on Nov. 14, five days after it discovered and stopped hackers who were attempting to steal customer data.

Background

Dell is an American multinational computer technology company based in Round Rock, Texas, United States, that develops, sells, repairs, and supports computers and related products and services. Named after its founder, Michael Dell, the company is one of the largest technological corporations in the world, employing more than 103,300 people in the U.S. and around the world.

Dell sells personal computers (PCs), servers, data storage devices, network switches, software, computer peripherals, HDTVs, cameras, printers, MP3 players, and electronics built by other manufacturers. The company is well known for its innovations in supply chain management and electronic commerce, particularly its direct-sales model and its "build-to-order" or "configure to order" approach to manufacturing—delivering individual PCs configured to customer specifications.

A cyberattack is any type of offensive manoeuvre that targets computer information systems, infrastructures, computer networks, or personal computer devices. Depending on context, cyberattacks can be labelled as a cyber campaign, cyberwarfare or cyberterrorism. A cyberattack can be employed by nation-states, individuals, groups, society or organizations. A cyberattack may originate from an anonymous source.

Analysis

The computer maker did not tell customers about the attack when it forced the password resets, according to a person familiar with the breach.

Dell said in a statement that on Nov. 9 the company detected and stopped hackers who had breached its network and were attempting to steal customer data. Investigators found no evidence that the hackers succeeded, but have not ruled out the possibility that they did steal some data, the company said.

They only sought customer names, email addresses and scrambled passwords, Dell said. The computer maker did not tell customers about the attack when it forced the password resets, according to a person familiar with the breach. The breach occurred as companies come under increasing scrutiny from regulators worldwide to provide quick and accurate disclosure of customer data theft. The European Union implemented strict new privacy regulations in May that punish violators with fines of up to 20 million euros ($23 million), or 4 percent of global revenue, whichever is higher.

Dell determined that there were no regulatory or legal requirements that it disclose the incident, but decided to come forward “with customer trust in mind”. Dell also retained a digital forensics firm to conduct an independent investigation and has engaged law enforcement. A website has been set up to keep customers updated on any further developments in the case.

If the early indications are to be believed, Dell looks to have dodged a bullet. As no personal information or card details were accessed, the hardware vendor will not need to pay up for credit monitoring or identity protection service for the customer. Once the password is reset, Dell says customers will be protected even if that information was found to have been stolen at all.

Still, the incident should come as a wake-up call to administrators and users alike. If one of the largest computing companies in the world can be at least partially breached by hackers, smaller companies can easily fall, victim, themselves.

Dell declined to say how many accounts were affected but did say that payment information and Social Security numbers were not targeted. Dell said it reported the matter to law enforcement.

Assessment

Our assessment is that cyberattacks on Multinational Corporations are a common risk factor in today’s digital world and Dell should have detected the intrusion earlier. We believe that Dell may institute a stricter firewall policy on its employees and we also feel that Dell has the responsibility to inform its customers in the event of a cyber-attack.

IndiaWatch

India represents a large market for Dell and there is a possibility that multiple Indian user accounts may have been breached in the cyber-attack. However, it remains unclear how many Indian accounts, if any, have been compromised. 

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