Job search website Monster Worldwide (www.monster.com) is alerting its users to change their passwords after its database reportedly suffered a data breach and attackers gained access to the email addresses, names and phone numbers of Monster users.
This is not the first time the website has been compromised. In August 2007, approximately 1.6 million Monster.com users fell victim to computer viruses that attempted to steal their names, addresses and bank account numbers.
A few months later, Monster.com took down a portion of its online job search service after attackers hacked the site and used it to spread malware to visitors.
Though there is never a good time for a data breach, this latest attack comes at one of the worst times as the current recession has left thousands of unemployed turning to job search portals like Monster.com to find work.
On January 23, Patrick Manzo, senior vice-president and global chief privacy officer at Monster Worldwide, posted a warning to its users on its website:
"We recently learned our database was illegally accessed and certain contact and account data were taken, including Monster user IDs and passwords, email addresses, names, phone numbers, and some basic demographic data. The information accessed does not include resumes. Monster does not generally collect - and the accessed information does not include - sensitive data such as social security numbers or personal financial data."
Although the exact number of those affected by the attack has not yet been confirmed, The Times of London reports that attackers have been able to access up to 4.5 million Monster.co.uk user accounts.
Manzo says the company immediately launched an investigation following the incident and has been continually monitoring the database "for any illicit use of information," and has so far "not detected the misuse of this information."
He also adds that the company's newly redesigned website has many security features in place to protect users, while the company devotes "significant resources" to ensure optimal security controls for its infrastructure.
Last year, there were several data breaches reported among universities. In August, attackers broke into the New Zealand's University of Otago staff member accounts and used them to send out a reported 1.55 million spam emails in two-and-a-half days.
Then in October, attackers gained access to the database of The University of Florida's dental school, jeopardizing the private information of 333,000 people.
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