FCW Insider

Blog archive

Virgin Mobile's security fail

I confess: I am not cool enough to have a smart phone. My mobile phone is not smart at all. It’s a touch-screen LG model with a slide-out keyboard, and I can use it for calls, text messaging and very limited web browsing.

But as not-smart as it is, it may be smarter than the provider I use, Virgin Mobile. I say this because this morning I received a text message alerting me that my secret security question has expired. It directed me to go to the Virgin Mobile website and update it … and then helpfully provided my secret personal identification number.

Get that? The verbatim text is, “Your Secret Question has expired. Please update it at virginmobileusa.com with acct PIN … " and then my actual PIN, right there in plain view.

Was it a phishing attempt? Unlikely, for two reasons. First, the site MyCallBot.com verifies the number it came from is one Virgin uses. Secondly, whoever sent it already has my phone number and PIN. They don’t need to phish for anything else.

Now as it happened, I had my phone with me and saw the message. But what if I had lost it, or it had been stolen? If that had happened, Virgin would have just handed a stranger the key to unlock my account.

And why? Virgin’s customers should keep up with their PINs and not need the company to provide them, especially not without some security measures to ensure the person getting the message is the one authorized to access the account. That the company would do that at all is surprising; that they would do it on their own initiative, without the customer requesting it, is mind-boggling.

As you implement your own mobile device security policies, that should be one to include: Don’t send people their own passcodes in plain text, especially if you have no reason to think they need it.

Posted by Michael Hardy on Jan 11, 2012 at 9:03 AM


Featured

  • Cybersecurity

    DHS floats 'collective defense' model for cybersecurity

    Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen wants her department to have a more direct role in defending the private sector and critical infrastructure entities from cyberthreats.

  • Defense
    Defense Secretary James Mattis testifies at an April 12 hearing of the House Armed Services Committee.

    Mattis: Cloud deal not tailored for Amazon

    On Capitol Hill, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis sought to quell "rumors" that the Pentagon's planned single-award cloud acquisition was designed with Amazon Web Services in mind.

  • Census
    shutterstock image

    2020 Census to include citizenship question

    The Department of Commerce is breaking with recent practice and restoring a question about respondent citizenship last used in 1950, despite being urged not to by former Census directors and outside experts.

Stay Connected

FCW Update

Sign up for our newsletter.

I agree to this site's Privacy Policy.