The American bookstore giant Barnes & Noble contacts its customers by e-mail and warns them that its network has been hacked by hackers and that confidential information about its customers may have been obtained.

In an e-mail to his clients, Barnes & Noble announces that he will be informed of his release on Saturday 10 July. October, was the victim of a cyber security attack.

Part of the letter is readable:

We regret to inform you that on the 10th… On 10 October 2020, we learned that Barnes & Noble has been the victim of a cyber attack that has resulted in unauthorized and illegal access to certain Barnes & Noble systems.

Your payment details have not been published. Barnes & Noble uses technology that encrypts all credit cards and no Barnes & Noble system contains unencrypted payment information. Financial information is not available. It’s still encoded and coded.

Despite the fact that payment information may be considered compromised – the accountant claims that the compromised servers have stored personal information, including email addresses, billing and shipping addresses of customers, and phone numbers.

In addition, Barnes & Noble stores information about past customer transactions that reveal the history of books and other products purchased from retailers in the past. Depending on your literary taste, it can be embarrassing.

The company claims that although it has no evidence that personal data has been provided as a result of a security breach, it cannot exclude this possibility at this stage.

When I hear that the company doesn’t really know if certain details were accessible to hackers, I advise to assume the worst.

The confirmation of the security breach came after a weekend of complaints from Barnes & Noble customers complaining that they could not download purchased books to their Nook e-book readers:

I’d like to read the book I bought a few days ago.

It’s a good thing your payment system hasn’t collapsed, otherwise you wouldn’t be able to take my money for books I can’t read.

Finally I had access to the store, but I couldn’t upload my purchases to the server. Usually I can buy books, but I don’t have access to the books I already bought!

According to Barnes & Noble’s Nook Twitter account, a system error was responsible for the interruption of services to Nook owners. The company stated that it was working urgently to make all NOOK services fully operational again. Unfortunately it took longer than expected and we sincerely apologize for the inconvenience and disappointment.

It is reasonable to assume that the system failure was hacker-related and it is inevitable that Barnes & Noble will be the last of many companies to face a ransom attack – perhaps related to the exfiltration of data from compromised servers.

The basis for this theory is security researcher Troy Mersh (also known as @BadPackets), who tweeted that Barnes & Noble had been using Pulse Secure VPN servers for months and had not been patched against the critical vulnerability of CVE-2019-11510.

Vulnerabilities in the unpatented Pulse Secure VPN servers have otherwise been used to steal usernames and passwords and provide easy access to hackers trying to hack into the corporate intranet. This method has been used several times to pay online ransom and blackmail victims of business extortion.

If the ransom software had actually been installed on Barnes & Noble’s network and had caused a system error, the clues as to what should have happened could have been visible to everyone for some time.

In August, ZDNet reported that a forum of Russian speaking hackers had distributed usernames and passwords in plain text to more than 900 corporate Pulse Secure VPN servers.

Among the companies on the list? Barnes and Noble.

Booksellers should be wary of unsolicited letters they may receive because their details may now be in the hands of criminal hackers. However, I think that the biggest victim of this attack will probably be Barnes & Noble itself, as it tries to get its systems back online and repair the damage to its brand and reputation.

Editor’s note : The opinions expressed in this guest post are those of the author alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of Tripwire, Inc.

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