Glider from the game of Life, rising from the left




Topic: #data-leaks

Data Leaks? Who Cares?


A security researcher who is also a Panera Bread customer and has a customer account at the Panera Web site discovered a vulnerability that allowed any account holder to download Panera's dossier about any other account holder. He immediately sent an e-mail to, but it bounced. He looked up the company's chief of security, who ignored his Twitter, LinkedIn, and e-mail messages until the researcher found a third party to effect a proper introduction. At that point the chief of security explained that he thought the earlier messages had been either a hoax or an scammer's attempt to drum up business.

Once communication had been established, the researcher asked for and received the chief of security's PGP public key and sent him the encrypted version of a full report on the vulnerability. The chief of security did not reply to the researcher's repeated inquiries about whether he had received and successfully decrypted the report, but ultimately declared, “Thank you for the information we are working on a resolution.”

The researcher then checked every month or so to see whether the vulnerability had been fixed. It never was. After a few months, the researcher published the details and called in some prominent reporters in the field (notably Brian Krebs of Krebs on Security and Dissent Doe of Krebs's article on the subject managed to elicit a reaction from Panera: They took their Web site down for a while and pretended to fix the problem, and published a press release saying that the breach affected about ten thousand customers. When it came back up, an investigative team at HoldSecurity (prompted by Krebs) found that the breach affected all forty-one million of Panera's account holders, and moreover that Panera had made the same kind of mistake in many other places on its Web site, leaking a lot more data about the company.

“No, Panera Bread Doesn't Take Security Seriously”
Dylan Houlihan, Medium, April 2, 2018

1. We could collectively afford to be more critical of companies when they issue reactionary statements to do damage control. We need to hold them to a higher standard of accountability. I honestly don't know what that looks like for the media, but there has to be a better way to do thorough, comprehensive reporting on this.

2. We need to collectively examine what the incentives are that enabled this to happen. I do not believe it was a singular failure with any particular employee. It's easy to point to certain individuals, but they do not end up in those positions unless that behavior is fundamentally compatible with the broader corporate culture and priorities.

3. If you are a security professional, please, I implore you, set up a basic page describing a non-threatening process for submitting security vulnerability disclosures. Make this process obviously distinct from the, “Hi I think my account is hacked” customer support process. Make sure this is immediately read by someone qualified and engaged to investigate those reports, both technically and practically speaking. You do not need to offer a bug bounty or a reward. Just offering a way to allow people to easily contact you with confidence would go a long way.

#data-leaks #security #security-mindset

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John David Stone (

created June 1, 2014 · last revised December 10, 2018