Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Spam Security The Internet Privacy

Ameritrade Security Audit Finds Privacy-Busting Back Door 111

Posted by Zonk
from the dang-canned-pork dept.
RalphTheWonderLlama writes "In recent months, online stock brokers have apparently been upset by the sale of their email addresses to spammers. Today TD Ameritrade released details of their investigation into the matter (along with a video message from the CEO and special FAQ). It seems some 'unauthorized code' had exposed client email addresses and possibly other sensitive information from an internal database. 'TD Ameritrade tracked down the break-in while doing an internal investigation into stock-related spam. The company called in forensic investigators and they discovered "unauthorized code" in their system that provided access for the hacker or hackers. According to the advisory, the code has been eliminated from the system. Moglia, speaking in an online video-taped message to customers, said he is "confident" that they have figured out how the information was taken.'"
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Ameritrade Security Audit Finds Privacy-Busting Back Door

Comments Filter:
  • pump and dump (Score:1, Flamebait)

    by fishybell (516991)
    This explains little as to why the rest of us keep getting the pump-and-dump spam.


    Hopefully their investigation turns up who's profiting from it and the SEC turns the screws on them.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by larry bagina (561269)

      Maybe because it works? Look at slashdot: Every pump n dump story features dozens of people suggesting you buy the stock in question early Monday morning before all the other suckers do.

    • by DrSkwid (118965)
      > Hopefully their investigation turns up who's profiting from it and the SEC turns the screws on them.

      Every broker that ever bought or sold a share on someone's behalf. Content is not King.
  • More importantly... (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    ...do they know who put the unauthorized code in there and what's going to happen to those responsible for that?
    • I would be more concerned about how the code got in there and if they taken steps to ensure that it doesn't happen again
    • You hit the nail on the head with that question. I'm an Ameritrade customer, and I'm also a software developer for an extremely large financial services company, so this is an issue that really hits close to home. I know that no security system is perfect, but I can't believe that that it's even POSSIBLE that there could be "unauthorized code" running on their computers. The apparent lack of accountability and control over their systems is unbelievable. It also begs the question: "what ELSE i
  • Will that prosecutor from Law & Order (who's in the TD Ameritrade TV ads) throw the book at the bad guys now?
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by pjwalen (546460)
      Sam Waterston? I would also like to buy some Robot insurance. Robots are made of metal and they are strong.
  • by PitaBred (632671) <slashdot@pitabred.dyndns. o r g> on Friday September 14, 2007 @05:11PM (#20609193) Homepage
    Great. How did that "bad code" get there? Did they close THAT loophole? Because if not, it's just a matter of time.
  • no evidence? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 14, 2007 @05:14PM (#20609249)
    "there is no evidence that our clients' Social Security numbers were taken" == "there is no evidence that our clients' Social Security numbers were not taken" == "we don't know if our clients' Social Security numbers were taken" == "our clients should probably assume that their SSNs, DOBs, and everything else needed to ruin their lives were taken."
    • by hedwards (940851)
      Not necessarily, since my information was in their database, I intend on asking directly. But it really depends upon how they were structuring their DBs.

      I suspect that those numbers are held separately in case the feds ask for information and when doing IRS forms. There isn't any good reason why they need to keep the SSNs in with the other records, as they most likely look up and track accounts by the account number anyway. Or at least if they are even the smallest bit responsible they were doing something
    • I believe them. For months, they said that my system was hacked and the custom e-mail addressed used by them must have been signed up with someone else and that is how the spammers got my address.

      Yep, I believe them. 110%.

      Their new spokesman is Harcourt Fenton Mudd.

      • by jack455 (748443)
        They are so good that some months ago they had already warned me of this. I followed their instructions to email them my ssn dob name address password and license plate number to ameratrade54@yahoo.nl
    • In Manitoba, Day/Month of birth are on the License Plates + 4 months - 1 day. That is the new system they invented to cut lineups.

    • by nin4086 (1158051)
      I blogged about this here: http://securetheworld.blogspot.com/2007/09/how-not-to-handle-data-leaks-td.html [blogspot.com] A snippet -- I wonder how they established this and already alienated by the rest of the PR material I am inclined to believe that this is misinformation as well. They use the terms "extensive", "initial", "continuing" to describe their investigation depending on what they are trying to say. They use "initial" and "continuing" when trying to convince me that they cannot tell me how the forensic expert
  • Confidant? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by gatekeep (122108) on Friday September 14, 2007 @05:15PM (#20609257)
    How exactly did they manage a misspelling in an "online video-taped message?"

    Or was it the editor that mispelled, in which case, why quote a single word with no context?
  • confidant? (Score:3, Funny)

    by snarkh (118018) on Friday September 14, 2007 @05:15PM (#20609269)

    Makes you wonder..
  • Unacceptable (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mkraft (200694) on Friday September 14, 2007 @05:17PM (#20609287)
    As a TD Ameritrade account holder I find this unacceptable. Not only do they have unauthorized code running on their local systems with access to customers social security numbers and the like, but they don't even tell their customers when this happens other than issuing a generic press release in which they say they think the hackers only got email addresses despite the fact that the data base the hackers had access to also had birth dates, social security numbers and everything else necessary to steal account holders' identities.

    How does unauthorized code even get into a financial institutions systems? The banking systems should never be accessible via public networks, only private ones, so this should never have happened.

    What exactly is TD Ameritrade doing about this? TD Ameritrade should at least give it's customers free credit monitoring.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by bignetbuy (1105123)
      "...hackers only got email addresses despite the fact that the data base the hackers had access to also had birth dates, social security numbers and everything else necessary to steal account holders' identities."

      Exactly. Those new account forms ask for a boatload of personal information.

      I wonder how many TD accounts are linked to a stock trader's primary checking account? Scary stuff.

      Good luck with your account.
    • I have accounts there, too. And, like with other places I do business, I use a unique email address. And I've been getting a lot of spam to that address. Lucky me.

      Wonder how they are so certain that nothing else was read. And I agree - they should pay for credit monitoring. (Actually, anyone who purports to be providing valid credit information should be doing monitoring as a cost of doing business. And if they spread untruths about someone, they should be held 100% liable for all resulting costs and losses
    • by fishybell (516991)

      the data base the hackers had access to also had birth dates, social security numbers and everything else necessary to steal account holders' identities

      And why, pray tell, does TD Amiritrade require all of that in their main database? If set up properly they could have one database with financial information, and database with contact information, and a link between them. At the very least it's possible (I'm not in any way assuming likely) that the unauthorized code didn't have sufficient database privi

      • by mpe (36238)
        And why, pray tell, does TD Amiritrade require all of that in their main database? If set up properly they could have one database with financial information, and database with contact information, and a link between them.

        Even then there's information on their customers they probably shouldn't be storing at all (e.g. date of birth). Data protection laws, as exist in Europe, explicitally disallow storing unnecessary personal information.
    • by Intron (870560)
      Just to be on the safe side, you should probably change your name.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Here's a copy of Ameritrade's response.

      September 14, 2007

      You do not need to make any changes to your TD AMERITRADE accounts or to change the way you do business with us.

      Dear AC,

      Let me tell you why I am sending you this email. While investigating client reports about the industry-wide issue of investment-related SPAM, we recently discovered and eliminated unauthorized code from our systems. This code allowed certain client information stored in one of our databases, including email addresses, to be retrieved
    • Re:Unacceptable (Score:4, Interesting)

      by klenwell (960296) <klenwell@@@gmail...com> on Friday September 14, 2007 @05:55PM (#20609795) Homepage Journal
      I'm a TD Ameritrade account holder, too, and contacted them last month after I noticed I got some penny-stock spam addressed to me with a TD Ameritrade subject line right after I got my monthly email statement. This was the response:

      Thank you for taking the time to address your concerns to Executive Management. I very much appreciate your concern and would like you to know we are conducting an internal investigation regarding the complaints you have disclosed in your email regarding the SPAM. While I will not be able to relay any specifics or update you on the findings, I wanted you to know that we are aware of the situation and are making the necessary corrective actions to remedy the issue.

      Citing your inquiry regarding account safety, your assets held with our company are protected by our Asset Protection Guarantee. This safeguards your account from any loss due to fraudulent activity. If you have any further questions regarding this policy please contact our Client Service Representatives at 800-669-3900. They are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, excluding market holidays.

      Warm regards,

      Adam Triplett
      atriplett@tdameritrade.com
      Senior Research Analyst
      Office of the President
      Private Client Division
      TD AMERITRADE Holding Corporation


      At least, it wasn't a bald-faced denial.

      It's reached the point that I just assume that sooner rather than later all my private information will be stolen, loss, and compromised -- if it hasn't already. (As a UC graduate, I think I've been party to two other well-publicized identity-theft cases.)

      Luckily, I have several different internet identities. So as soon as one is stolen, I move on to the next one. (If only it were that easy...)
    • Re:Unacceptable (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Technician (215283) on Friday September 14, 2007 @07:22PM (#20610703)

      How does unauthorized code even get into a financial institutions systems?


      http://www.darkreading.com/document.asp?doc_id=113460&print=true [darkreading.com]

      No. 1: The Thumb Drive Caper

      In June, a penetration testing firm planted 20 infected USB drives in the bathrooms and parking lots of a busy credit union. It was a simple, non-technical exploit -- and also one of the most effective of the year. Out of the 20 drives, 15 were inserted into PCs by curious credit union employees. If the infection hadn't been benign, the entire business might have gone up in smoke.

      The account of this exploit -- perpetrated by one of our own columnists, Steve Stasiukonis, vice president and founder of Secure Network Technologies Inc. -- was by far our best-read story of the year. It exposed a frequently-overlooked vulnerability in most organizations, and it brought forth a whole range of vendors and products that are now attempting to close the hole.

      We figured we would try something different by baiting the same employees that were on high alert. We gathered all the worthless vendor giveaway thumb drives collected over the years and imprinted them with our own special piece of software. I had one of my guys write a Trojan that, when run, would collect passwords, logins and machine-specific information from the user's computer, and then email the findings back to us.


      That was just one of many ways to do it.

      • by MobyDisk (75490)
        The problem here is autorun. No separation of data and executables anymore. I can insert a burrito into my microwave and be 100% certain that the burrito will not change the firmware of my microwave. But for "convenience" Microsoft makes things so that they automatically run, under the privileges of the user logged-in, whatever the heck the inserted media wants. Totally lame.
    • by alterami (267758)
      I had a Datek account and loved it, then Ameritrade bought them out, before the merger was complete I closed my account and switched to TD Waterhouse which I was also pretty happy with... unfortunately they got bought by them too and I knew bad things would happen but for some reason stayed with them this time. Now I know why my one email account I used for years with zero spam issues was always over its size limit and bouncing back every legitimate email. Every time I checked it, it was nothing but spam an
    • mkraft: In reference to your statement "How does unauthorized code even get into a financial institution's systems? The banking systems should never be accessible via public networks, only private ones, so this should never have happened."

      It, unfortunately, is not that easy. As soon as one computer is connected to another computer (via wireless, wired networks or 'sneaker-net'), problems with security start to cascade. If a computer has a USB port, a CD drive, DVD drive, or a network connection, it is

  • Google for it.. (Score:5, Informative)

    by Dynamoo (527749) * on Friday September 14, 2007 @05:18PM (#20609315) Homepage
    Do a Google search for Ameritrade spam [google.com]. This isn't a new problem, it's been going on for months and even years where there's clear evidence that the data is being lifted by spammers.

    You don't have to look far - this one [blogspot.com] is particularly damning, and I've seen evidence elsewhere that people set up an email address ONLY for Ameritrade and they've watched the spam come in.

    • I don't even have to Google. I complained to them close to four years ago that they had someone stealing email addresses. They wouldn't admit it then and didn't believe me when I offered sufficient proof it was happening. While I'd really like more details, at least they're admitting it. That's a start.
    • by gorbachev (512743)
      The anti-spam activists (yea yea) have been complaining about Ameritrade "leaking" Email addresses to spammers for a LOOOOOOONG time. I can't remember when the first time I heard about this, but a really quick Googling reveals July 2006 blog post...comments on it seemed to suggest it had already been going on for while before that date.

      http://thespamdiaries.blogspot.com/2006/07/ameritrade-customer-email-lists-sold.html [blogspot.com]
      • by gorbachev (512743)
        Here's one from October 2005:

        http://news.umailcampaign.com/message/107456.aspx [umailcampaign.com]

        Amazing.
        • by Grert (1157123)
          I think I was one of the first to publically report an Ameritrade unique email address getting hit, though not the first. FWIW, I got hit again very late last year or early this year, on a new/different Ameritrade account with yet another unique email address. I called Ameritrade this time and spoke with someone in their security department. I explained everything and very strongly urged them to investigate things on their end. I'm sure others did the same thing, and I'm sure others were both happy and
    • Here is the Ameritrade response someone use used a VERY random unique email address for their Ameritrade account and complained in 2005 (almost 2 years ago).

      "Thank you for contacting us today regarding e-mails that you received.

      "We have received reports from some clients that a spam e-mail
      regarding information on the security SNFX, has been targeted to an
      address they use with Ameritrade. This is not result from Ameritrade
      sharing or selling any contact information, nor do we believe any
      information has been c
    • by bcrowell (177657)

      This isn't a new problem, it's been going on for months and even years where there's clear evidence that the data is being lifted by spammers.
      Yep, it's been going on for years, and they just thought they could brazen it out. I switched to scottrade earlier this year because of it. Today I got a paper mail from Ameritrade about it:

      Once we discovered the unauthorized code, we took immediate action to eliminate it.

      Very misleading. People gave them evidence at least as far back as 2005 that they had a

  • Quotes, and translation:

    The company called in forensic investigators and they discovered "unauthorized code" in their system that provided access for the hacker or hackers.

    Moglia, speaking in an online video-taped message to customers, said he is "confidant" that they have figured out how the information was taken.

    It's necessary to know how to translate those statements. It looks like plain English, but it isn't. It's Exec-lish, and must be translated.

    Exec-lish to English translation: "We don't actually have anyone our company that understands technical computer issues. The software was written by a low bidder to whom we awarded a contract. Since we don't have any technically knowledgeable people on staff, we had no way to understand if we should have confidence in the bidder or not."

    "We don't know how many people accessed our system through the back door, or how many times, or for how long. (Actually I had never heard the term 'back door' until yesterday.) Since we don't have any technical knowledge, we can't assess whether there are other back doors. Possibly even the forensic investigators have left their own back doors."

    Exec-lish is a weird language that doesn't allow the expression of negative facts. So, it is possible that, if the executive wanted to be truthful, he or she would say, "I'm not qualified to be in this job, since I don't know enough to understand the company's operations thoroughly."

    I'm just guessing about that translation, but gathering from what I've seen at other companies, it is not far off.
    • by gatekeep (122108)
      So, it is possible that, if the executive wanted to be truthful, he or she would say, "I'm not qualified to be in this job, since I don't know enough to understand the company's operations thoroughly."

      Really? You think that a CEO of an investment firm should understand the nuances of computer security? That's like saying that the CEO of McDonald's should be able to slaughter a cow.
      • by ewhenn (647989)
        No, but he should have the common sense to make sure he has adequately qualified individuals dealing with database code, and that the code should be double... scratch that... tripple checked, and most likely check by an outside security consultant BEFORE it goes live. Especially when it is data that needs absolute security.

        I don't have a major in business or anything, but it's pretty obvious that if you do not understand the basic concept of, "protect private information", you are NOT a competent CEO.
        • by radish (98371)
          It was obviously an inside job. Banks' information security is designed much like their physical security - put everything in a huge impenetrable vault and lock the door. That doesn't work so well when you have a threat on the inside.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by vic-traill (1038742)

        That's like saying that the CEO of McDonald's should be able to slaughter a cow.

        Years ago, on Michael Moore's TV Nation program, there was a segment called the CEO Corporate Challenge, in which Moore attempted to get CEO's to perform some task with a product of their company, or component of a product of their company.

        Picture Moore with a megaphone and a 1.44M floppy, outside IBM headquarters, shouting something like "Lou Gerstner, format this disk. You have one hour." Lou didn't show.

        Surprisingly, Alexander Trotman, Ford CEO at the time, came out and changed the oil in a picku

      • "You think that a CEO of an investment firm should understand the nuances of computer security?"

        My understanding is that Ameritrade is NOT an "investment firm". The company is a computer services firm. If you buy a stock, Ameritrade checks its own inventory that day, and likely sells you some of its own stock, which it keeps to avoid going somewhere else, which would be more expensive. That selling is just quick computer entries, debiting its own account and adding to the buyer's account.

        In the same w
  • I am presuming that unauthorized, means that it wasn't quality controlled. It is faily easy to add SQL code intended for one purpose while forgetting to secure it against SQL injections.
  • by Ethan Preston (929189) on Friday September 14, 2007 @05:36PM (#20609571) Homepage
    I am a class action attorney. My law firm and I sued Ameritrade over failing to disclose the security breach [justia.com] on May 31, 2007. We filed for a preliminary injunction on July 10, 2007. Part of the relief we sought for the accountholders in the preliminary injunction was a disclosure of this information.

    In sum, this Motion seeks an Order from this Court against TD AMERITRADE, Inc. that: ... 8. Requires TD AMERITRADE, Inc. to prominently disclose in its Privacy Statement and in emails or other individual disclosures to its accountholders: ALERT: AMERITRADE'S INFORMATION SYSTEMS ARE NOT NECESSARILY SECURE AND WE CANNOT ASSURE THE SECURITY OF YOUR PERSONAL INFORMATION. THERE IS EVIDENCE THAT SOME ACCOUNTHOLDERS' EMAIL ADDRESSES HAVE LEAKED FROM AMERITRADE'S COMPUTER SYSTEMS TO SPAMMERS. AMERITRADE HAS AN ONGOING INVESTIGATION INTO THIS SITUATION. YOUR NAME, SOCIAL SECURITY NUMBER, AND YOUR EMAIL ADDRESS MAY HAVE BEEN LEAKED AS WELL. We recommend that you place a fraud alert on your credit file. A fraud alert tells creditors to contact you before they open any new accounts or change your existing accounts. Call any one of the three major credit bureaus. As soon as one credit bureau confirms your fraud alert, the others are notified to place fraud alerts. All three credit reports will be sent to you, free of charge, for your review. You can contact Equifax (800-685-1111), Experian (888-397-3742), or TransUnionCorp (800-680-7289). Even if you do not find any suspicious activity on your initial credit reports, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recommends that you check your credit reports periodically. Victim information sometimes is held for use or shared among a group of thieves at different times. Checking your credit reports periodically can help you spot problems and address them quickly. If you find suspicious activity on your credit reports or have reason to believe your information is being misused, call [insert contact information for law enforcement] and file a police report. Get a copy of the report; many creditors want the information it contains to absolve you of the fraudulent debts. You also should file a complaint with the FTC at www.consumer.gov/idtheft or at 1-877-ID-THEFT (877-438-4338). Your complaint will be added to the FTC's Identity Theft Data Clearinghouse, where it will be accessible to law enforcers for their investigations. You can obtain a copy of Take Charge: Fighting Back Against Identity Theft, a comprehensive guide from the FTC to help you guard against and deal with identity theft at: http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/pubs/consumer/idtheft/idt04.htm [ftc.gov]
    • by tidokoro (967675) on Friday September 14, 2007 @06:13PM (#20610027) Homepage Journal
      I'm actually a TD account holder and wouldn't mind seeing them punished for this. Unfortunately, I've never been party to a class-action suit that even came to close to compensating me for the time I took to fill out whatever forms I needed to fill out much less what I had actually loss as part of the class. From the last class-action I joined:

      Dear Claimant,

      The Proof of Claim and Release you submitted with respect to the In re [Bankrupt Company] Securities Litigation has been processed under the terms and conditions of the Stipulations of Settlement and Second Distribution Order as approved by the United States District Court for the Easter District of New York. Please be advised such Stipulation and Order provides:

      "If such Authorized Claimant is allocated less than $10.00 in value from the remaining Settlement Fund, then such Authorized Claimant shall not receive a further distribution from the Settlement Fund, and such amounts shall be re-allocated among the remaining Authorized Claimants."

      Based upon these terms, we regret to inform you the proration of your share of the Settlement Fund, as approved by the Court, would amount to less than ten dollars ($10.00). Therefore you will not receive a distribution from the Settlement Fund.

      Sincerely,
      Claims Administrator
  • Anyone know what OS they happen to be running ?
  • Well, that explains why I have started getting spam to my Ameritrade email address MANY MONTHS AGO. Yup, I gave them a one-time-use address, and it was compromised. It goes to a black hole now, but I still see how often it is tried in my mail logs. But this has been going on for quite some time (and I closed this account a long time ago before this, and thought maybe they sold my address for doing so).
  • by ballpoint (192660) on Friday September 14, 2007 @05:47PM (#20609705)
    The email addresses I used contained 'datek' and later 'ameritrade' when Datek merged with Ameritrade. You can guess that I didn't use these email addresses for anything else, yet both were spammed. At the time I thought they were leaked by someone logging traffic at an ISP.

    Despite the whitewashing that's going on, AMTD is going to take a BIG hit. These issues are not to be taken lightly.

    From the FAQ:

    "How do you know that this sensitive information, like Social Security Numbers, hasn't been leaked or misused? After extensive investigations involving outside forensics experts, we have no evidence that this sensitive personal information was taken. That is one of the reasons why we have also hired ID Analytics. Its initial investigation has concluded that there is no evidence of identity theft as a result of this issue."

    Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.

    • In any event, unless they can conclusively demonstrate that the "unauthorized code" was not capable of transmitting other information then that statement is meaningless. Any halfway competent cracker would take steps to cover his tracks: for all we know, this address-harvesting business was just cover for something worse.
  • Its like Washington Politicians dumping the really bad news too late for the news cycle.

    Nice of them to let the users know so soon.
  • Anyone have recommendations?
    • by umrguy76 (114837)
      Check out http://www.scottrade.com/ [scottrade.com]

      *disclaimer: I work there
    • I bet you can find a good recommendation at zombo.com [zombo.com]. You can do anything at zombo.com.

      Another recommendation is to try Zecco http://www.zecco.com./ [www.zecco.com] Trades are free and it's for real. My buddy has been using it quite a while now.
    • by bcrowell (177657)
      I switched from ameritrade to scottrade. Pros: they're not idiots about security, and their website seems to work better than ameritrade's with Firefox/linux. Cons: no free trades when you open an account, and they make it a hassle to withdraw money (have to request a check, can't do an ACH).
  • by Coward Anonymous (110649) on Friday September 14, 2007 @06:43PM (#20610347)
    The dirty little secret is that the people behind it appear to be in Slovakia and potentially in Canada.

    Clearly more than e-mails were stolen. When I received both e-mail and snail mail stock flipping spam I traced the information down to addresses in Slovakia and Canada (which I promptly fed the SEC who probably never did anything about it considering that the spammers managed to register and flip a completely bogus company within 3 months flat). A spammer in Slovakia won't have much to do with SSNs except sell them.

    It's a matter of time before those "unaccessed SSNs" are sold if they haven't been already.

    There is no incentive for TDAmeritrade to do anything about this because they figure they won't be found responsible for identity thefts that will occur as a result (go trace them back to Slovakia). It's enough for them to stop fraudulent access to their accounts.

    Shame on Ameritrade for being so careless and callous.
  • by bcrowell (177657) on Friday September 14, 2007 @07:04PM (#20610549) Homepage

    I was an Ameritrade customer. Soon after setting up an account with them, I started getting pump-and-dump spam sent to the single-purpose email address that I'd created only for use with them. A simple google search showed that this had been going on for years at Ameritrade. I run Linux, and am fairly careful about keeping my box secure, so I was pretty sure the address hadn't been leaked by malware on my end. In the past, they've claimed that the addresses might be getting found by dictionary attacks, but the address I was using had 13 characters before the @ sign, didn't have dictionary words in it, and had an obscure domain name after the @, not yahoo or hotmail or anything like that.

    I decided that I wasn't going to entrust the bulk of my life's savings to a company that was that clueless about security, so I transferred my account to Scottrade. When I did the transfer, I explained in an email to the Ameritrade people that the security problem was the reason I was leaving them. The responded with a phone call, and the phone rep was completely in denial about the spam problem, which was had been publicly known and discussed for years.

    The other reason I wanted to get away from them was that some of the functionality of their web interface didn't work on Firefox in Linux, so I had to do certain things (e.g., withdrawing money) on a Mac or Windows machine instead. (When I called to report it as a bug, they said they didn't support Linux.)

  • Provide at least one year of credit-monitoring services for your customers whose data were compromised.
    • ...or non customers, even. They collect tons of personal information before telling you they want a minimum deposit before doing business with you, which is when I balked.
    • by duh_lime (583156)
      They'll do it -- if you complain enough. I called TDA, forcefully explained that there was a big difference between "no evidence of XYZ" and "evidence that there wasn't XYZ", and the girl offered me 1 year free "Triple Credit Monitoring from Experian" (a $70 value). Then I got her to do it for my wife too... (Yes, some /.'ers have those...) I explained that I wasn't concerned about the "security of my Ameritrade assets"... that I EXPECTED them to be safe... It was all about the possibility of compromis
  • This has been going on for years.In 2005, a user of the spamgourmet disposable web site address reported [spamgourmet.com] that he was getting spam advertizing stock scams to an address he created exclusively for Ameritrade. Moreover, the user ran a *nix version on his PC and was very careful, so a leak on his end was unlikely. Ameritrade first denied, then compensated him. That was only the start. Since then, many reports surfaced showing that Ameritrade has an email leak problem.

    It was only logical that the leak wasn't li

  • Check out the dossier page for ameritrade on SiteAdvisor [siteadvisor.com] -- you'll see they have a dossier of spams sent out by Ameritrade. Note, they've been getting a green rating because SA felt they didn't deserve to get a red rating overall because they are a trusted financial institution.. however it's very likely they'll be getting a red rating overall quite soon, which might have quite an impact on Ameritrade's bottom line given SA's enormous user base.
    • by neomunk (913773)

      they've been getting a green rating because SA felt they didn't deserve to get a red rating overall because they are a trusted financial institution..
      I've heard of security through obscurity, but security through clout? Wow.
  • by Abalamahalamatandra (639919) on Friday September 14, 2007 @09:36PM (#20611971)
    I did a project for Ameritrade back in 1999 to do a kind of single signon for Ameritrade customers to research providers like TheStreet.com and such.

    Anyway, when I got onsite and started talking to them, I found out that the entire trading system was written in noncompiled Perl. They used huge modules for all their trading functions and had a habit of just "use"ing all of the modules in all of the scripts whether they needed them or not. I actually figured out that every time a trade was input by a user, the system had to load and tokenize well over 50,000 lines of Perl code in something like 75 files. Their idea of increasing performance was adding another huge SunFire server to the growing pool of over 30 in the group.

    I asked them if they had ever thought of using something like FastCGI to speed things up by preloading the modules at least, or coding in C or C++ rather than Perl. They said noone really knew how to code in C and they couldn't figure out FastCGI.

    Anyway, the upshot is that was kind of a scary bunch. It's hard enough to lure good programmers to Omaha in the first place, and then they required all of their staff to wear a shirt, coat and tie, so they didn't exactly get the cream of even that crop!
    • I also worked on a project at Ameritrade during the same time frame to improve performance of the front end and we had actually recommended they use FastCGI as an temporary measure until they could do a full re-write in Java. I got to see the infrastructure up close and it was not pretty. I remember seeing a Netgear DS108 hub inline on their front-end to support an ISS sensor and they were wondering why they were dropping market open traffic. WTF! You nailed it about Omaha, other clients based there have
    • by mpe (36238)
      Anyway, when I got onsite and started talking to them, I found out that the entire trading system was written in noncompiled Perl. They used huge modules for all their trading functions and had a habit of just "use"ing all of the modules in all of the scripts whether they needed them or not. I actually figured out that every time a trade was input by a user, the system had to load and tokenize well over 50,000 lines of Perl code in something like 75 files.

      Plenty of possibilities for backdoors in such code
  • I had several unproductive exchanges with Ameritrade last year about this problem. They claimed that my account was compromised by a dictionary attack (the address was lpm_ameritrade_xubz@...) or that it was leaked by a virus on my computer (running OpenBSD).

    I changed it several times, eventually to an absurdly long string of random characters--a rhetorical ploy. Each time the address was compromised within weeks. Finally I closed my account and moved to another brokerage, which has kept my contact informat
  • Congrats to Ameritrade on owning up to the problem and closing the hole caused by the rogue code.

    However, the programmer (or hacker) who added this code probably didn't do it just once -- there are likely other backdoors that they put in. So, Ameritrade needs to perform a top-to-bottom code audit in order to ensure that all their code is what it is supposed to be. This should be done by two unrelated teams of skilled developers who are familiar with financial systems, and who have never been on their payr
  • They'll do it -- if you complain enough. I called TDA, forcefully explained that there was a big difference between "no evidence of XYZ" and "evidence that there wasn't XYZ", and the girl offered me 1 year free "Triple Credit Monitoring from Experian" (a $70 value). Then I got her to do it for my wife too... (Yes, some /.'ers have those...) I said the CEO needed to buy a clue if he thought the issue was the security of my measly Ameritrade account.

    I hear an onslaught of phone calls to Ameritrade demandi

  • ... that I got in snail-mail this week and reproduced at http://lee-phillips.org/ameritrade/ [lee-phillips.org] with my reactions.

If you think nobody cares if you're alive, try missing a couple of car payments. -- Earl Wilson

Working...