Malaysia’s Mobile Data Breach – Are You at Risk?

Morey Haber, Chief Technology Officer
November 9th, 2017

Malaysia Mobile Breach

Over the last few years, we have seen data breaches affect financial information, social security numbers, tax information, and even whether people are deceased or living. The obscure information from newer breaches can lead to new forms of attacks like compromising a deceased person’s estate. There would be few things more painful than trying to clean up the mess created by a hacker ravaging accounts and impersonating the identity of a recently deceased loved one. The problem is, it happens.

A recent Malaysia data breach of 46.2 million mobile number subscribers may lead to a completely new (but known) set of attack vectors. In one of the largest data breaches ever seen in the country, this massive hack compromised home addresses, MyKad numbers and mobile phone SIM information for almost everyone living in the country. Yes, the entire population. Malaysia only has 32 million people but many individuals use multiple phone numbers for work and home, and the breach also contains inactive (old) IMSI and foreign visitor IMEI information too. This means that if you visited Malaysia recently, your phone SIM may be compromised as well. This is an interesting twist to problems managing new regulations like GDPR and how breach notification should occur for any European Union citizens that may have been in Malaysia and had their Personally Identifiable Information (PII) collected while using local cellular phone service.

The problem with this breach is the potential repercussions if a threat actor decides to use this information. It is unlikely every individual will replace their mobile SIM card even though this is a good first mitigation step. It exposes millions of individuals to social engineering attacks with customized messages containing PII that are more likely to trick an individual into launching an exploit, verses a bland email targeting users generically. Think about it. If you received a phishing email branded with your mobile service and details of your phone, account or address would you be more likely to click on it? Yes, you would, and so would many other people.

In addition, if the threat actors are processing the database for celebrities or government officials, the worst-case scenario is their cell phone can be cloned. This is why the recommendation to replace your SIM card immediately is so important for potential targets of hacktivism or public embarrassment. These attacks can manifest themselves in the form of fake calls, requests to install applications, unknown calls showing up in your call log, or even attempts to trick you into paying a bill or transferring funds.

While the source of the breach is unknown, since the PII comes from multiple carriers, it implies some entity was collecting all of it together for a purpose. It raises additional questions about the safe storage (in bulk) for all this data and what security was in place to protect or obfuscate it ― apparently, not enough to stop a breach of this magnitude.

Regardless, the leaked data is out there and users worldwide (especially locally) should be aware that based on the data that has been breached, new attack vectors can materialize and jeopardize your identity, financial information, and personal privacy ― irrespective of who you are.

For more information on BeyondTrust’s cybersecurity solutions, contact us.

Morey Haber, Chief Technology Officer

With more than 20 years of IT industry experience and author of Privileged Attack Vectors, Mr. Haber joined BeyondTrust in 2012 as a part of the eEye Digital Security acquisition. He currently oversees BeyondTrust technology for both vulnerability and privileged access management solutions. In 2004, Mr. Haber joined eEye as the Director of Security Engineering and was responsible for strategic business discussions and vulnerability management architectures in Fortune 500 clients. Prior to eEye, he was a Development Manager for Computer Associates, Inc. (CA), responsible for new product beta cycles and named customer accounts. Mr. Haber began his career as a Reliability and Maintainability Engineer for a government contractor building flight and training simulators. He earned a Bachelors of Science in Electrical Engineering from the State University of New York at Stony Brook.