The news about the data theft at eBay have almost electrified me. Not due to fears of losing my private data, I am not eBay customer, but the details under which the theft took place are interesting for me from a professional point of view.
My first thought was: This was an Insider Attack!
The IT departments of large companies are doing a very good job in operating the servers connected to the internet. I would have been very surprised about an attack through servers at the company’s border to the internet.
The information published by eBay at 21 May 2014  saved my day:
‘Cyberattackers compromised a small number of employee log-in credentials, allowing unauthorized access to eBay’s corporate network.’
I am not at all surprised that eBay discovered the loss of customer information with a two month delay. According to the Ponemon Study 2013  the average time to resolve attacks by ‘malicious insiders’ is 65.5 days in 2012 (57.1 days in 2011). That fits well even in this case.
But I am somewhat puzzled by the discussion in some blogs whether encryption is the adequate method to protect sensitive and private data from unauthorized access. Hashing is praised as a better method for protecting passwords.
In my opinion this discussion goes hardly far enough. The loss of e-mail address, physical address, and date of birth is to take at least as seriously as the loss of passwords, since this information enables e.g. professionally made targeted phishing attacks. And, as we all know, an experienced hacker can attack even a hashed password, in particular if he has enough time behind closed doors. See  for amazing details about cracking of hashed passwords.