Outed by judge, Wet Seal reveals 2008 breach

After being outed by a Massachusetts judge who felt that the retailer should have disclosed the incident in 2008, Wet Seal subsequently issued a statement acknowledging that they had a security breach that involved the hacking ring led by Albert Gonzalez.

According to Wet Seal’s statement:

In May 2008, we became aware that a criminal group obtained unauthorized access to our information systems in an attempt to steal credit and debit card data of our customers. Through an investigation led by an independent, third-party computer forensics firm, and corroborated by members of the U.S. Secret Service and U.S. Department of Justice who led the government’s prosecution of Mr. Gonzalez, we found no evidence to indicate that any customer credit or debit card data or other personally identifiable information was taken. In working with the major credit card processing agencies, we also have identified no instances of credit card fraud to suggest that any such data was taken.

Not revealed in their statement is whether Wet Seal discovered the breach themselves or were informed by federal investigators. And while the retailer pats itself on the back for responding promptly once they found out, it seems that they simply lucked out, as the indictment of Gonzalez in the New Jersey case indicated that:

In or about January 2008, Company B was the victim of a SQL Injection Attack that resulted in the placement of malware on its network.

In or about January 2008, over an internet messaging service, GONZALEZ sent P.T. a SQL Injection String that was used to penetrate Company B’s computer network (the “Company B SQL String”). The Company B SQL String was programmed to direct data to Hacking Platforms, including the ESTHOST Server and the Ukranian Server.


On or about April 22, 2008, GONZALEZ modified a file on the Ukranian Server that contained computer log data
stolen from Company B’s computer network.


Between in or after March 2007 and in or about May 2008, GONZALEZ participated in a discussion over an internet messaging service in which one of the participants stated “core still hasn’t downloaded that [Company B] sh-t.”

From the above, it seems that at any point between January 2008 and May 2008, Gonzalez and his fellow hackers could have downloaded Wet Seal customer data and it is only a matter of Wet Seal’s good fortune that the hackers hadn’t gotten around to it before Wet Seal found out about the breach and secured their server.

Why Wet Seal felt that they were entitled to victim status and that their reputation and privacy should be respected escapes me, as it seems evident that their customers were lucky but still entitled to know that the retailer’s system had been breached. Maybe not entitled by law, but entitled.

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