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Hackers Target Celebrities' Financial Information


So a Web site has posted what is purported to be the financial information of celebrities and political figures. The apparent victim include among others: First Lady Michelle Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and Beyoncé.

As NPR's Sonari Glinton reports, this was not a traditional hack.

SONARI GLINTON, BYLINE: There is probably no celebrity more able to control the flow of information about her life than Beyoncé.


GLINTON: Well, there's at least one way that Beyoncé is just like you and me.

STEVE SANTORELLI: We no longer really control our own data.

GLINTON: Steve Santorelli works at a data security firm called Team Cymru. He used to work at Scotland Yard. When it comes to our personal information, he says we're all in the same boat.

SANTORELLI: As a society, we've all abrogated responsibility for the protection of our own personal data by giving it to people in exchange for services.

GLINTON: That's how Facebook, or gmail, and any number of these services work.

Now, each of the credit reporting agencies says their computer systems were not hacked per se. They all say that criminals somehow gathered enough information to gain the credit reports; so a birth date here, a mother's maiden name - you got yourself a credit report.

SHAWN HENRY: My name is Shawn Henry. I'm the president of CrowdStrike services.

GLINTON: Henry used to work for the FBI. He says not only are we giving out information but that information is vulnerable.

HENRY: It's really not possible to completely protect every network all the time. And the attackers are looking for the easiest way in. And they're seeking out the most valuable information. And these things are happening every single day.

GLINTON: Henry says there are many ways that we can protect ourselves. But he says, this most recent fraud is an example of one more battle in what he calls a war.

HENRY: Even though there's success from the law enforcement side, long-term, the bad guys are outpacing the good guys.

GLINTON: It's like the 100 Years War.

HENRY: Yeah, it could go well beyond that.


GLINTON: Sonari Glinton, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Sonari Glinton is a NPR Business Desk Correspondent based at our NPR West bureau. He covers the auto industry, consumer goods, and consumer behavior, as well as marketing and advertising for NPR and Planet Money.