Hackers Target Major Payroll Company in Breach

BY JOE ARICO | THU JUN 16, 2011 1:53 PM

Hackers have breached the Automatic Data Processing, or ADP, world’s largest payroll handling company, adding another corporation to the list of those recently hacked.

The security team at ADP found an intrusion that affected one of its many corporate clients, but did not identify which one. ADP provided few details, beyond the fact that the client was notified, and the hackers did not obtain any payroll information.

ADP is just the latest company in what has become a long lineup of sites and corporations attacked by hackers, perhaps portending a new border that may need more policing or regulating.

Hackers attacking computer systems is becoming an unwelcome trend. Over the past two months, Sony experienced so many problems that the company is becoming a punchline in the electronics industry. In just two days this past April, hackers were able to lift the information of more than 100 million Sony customers, making it the largest hack to date.

Since Sony, a wide array of other companies and institutions have also been hit by hackers: Citigroup, International Monetary Fund, the CIA, defense contractor Lockheed Martin, among others.

The attacks have ranged from pranks, such as the fake Tupac Shakur story posted by hacker collective LulzSec on PBS to more serious, sophisticated attacks such as the IMF and Lockheed intrusions.

While the rash of data breaches may be a result of hackers seeking more publicity, notoriety or even revenge against arrests of members of their community, they do call attention to the increasing porousness of supposedly secure electronic systems that house sensitive information.

Hackers will most likely keep targeting what has become an Achilles’ heel for many companies and institutions.

For its part, ADP is showing it has learned from other hacking attacks, apparently immediately contacting law enforcement to get to the bottom of the issue. When Sony was hacked, the company fell into even deeper trouble by withholding information from customers and from authorities.

Finally, after a couple of requests, Sony eventually agreed to testify before Congress to answer for the company’s poor reaction to the hacks.

In contrast, Citigroup recently revealed information on a previous hack from last May, incurring the ire of consumers as well. Companies that may be targeted in the future may soon be more forthcoming with serious data breaches, like ADP, since a botched handling like Sony’s has had serious consequences for the company.

ADP maintains only one of its clients was attacked and stresses protecting its customers as the number one priority. The company has more than a half a million clients, ranging from major retailers to offices and small businesses who entrust ADP with their employees’ personal info. If hackers are able to breach the company further, it could be the largest seen yet.



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