There is a log on Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers’ (IEEE) FTP servers containing the login information for almost 100,000 of its members.
IEEE, one of the world’s preeminent professional organizations in such fields as nanotechnology, IT, telecommunications, energy, as well as biomedical and healthcare, and it is a global standards-making organization.
Radu Dragusin, a Romanian computer programmer currently affiliated with the Computer Science department at the University of Copenhagen, Denmark found the issue.
Dragusin first discovered a log with usernames and passwords in plaintext, publicly available via IEEE’s FTP server for at least a month. He informed them of his find and the organization is addressing the issue.
Among the users whose information suffered from the exposure were researchers at NASA, Stanford, IBM, Google, Apple, Oracle and Samsung. IEEE’s membership of over 340,000 is half American (49.8 percent as of 2011). Other members reside in India, China and the Pacific Rim (23.4 percent) and Europe, the Middle East and Africa (18.3 percent). Some 8 percent of IEEE’s membership constitutes government employees, including the military. Most work in the private sector and academia.
While it’s too early to fully assess the severity of the data breach, which impacts ieee.org and spectrum.ieee.org, Dragusin said the available information exposes these users’ activity on these sites. Malicious parties interested in identifying users could conceivably mount spear phishing attacks on these users, and potentially come up with social engineering exploits.
Since Dragusin’s announcement via his blog, which includes a thorough breakdown of the information he accessed, other security professionals are attempting to verify the breach.