Credit Union Struggles Following Ransomware; SSNs of 61k Stolen

  • By Steven
  • Feb 12, 2024

Social Security Number

The Bayer Heritage Federal Credit Union has headquarters in West Virginia. Like other unions, they offer various services that assist members in saving and investing no matter their life phase. Bayer’s products include financial accounts, IRAs, investment options, and many loans, from estate to student. At the end of October 2023, Bayer reportedly experienced a cyberattack; the breach lasted only a day but exposed the Social Security Numbers (SSNs) of 61,159 borrowers.

How Did the Attack Occur? 

The Maine Attorney General’s breach website describes the attack as an external system incident, while the sample consumer notice published in conjunction with the filing offers a little more detail. According to it, an unauthorized actor accessed Bayer’s systems acquired copies of sensitive files (presumably holding SSNs), and left the environment. However, the title of the sample notice PDF offers another clue to the incident. The file name suggests that the event was a ransomware attack—despite the notice not mentioning ransomware. Thus, it is likely that the event was ransomware; however, whether there was a ransom and Bayer’s response to that supposed ransom remains uncertain. 

What Information Was Viewed or Stolen? 

The sample consumer notice has redacted portions. However, it suggests that victims’ names are among the compromised data, whereas the Maine breach filing lists SSNs as impacted data. The exposed details likely belong to borrowers of Bayer, but the breach may also impact some non-borrower associates. If the attack was ransomware, the assailants may have targeted other elements of Bayer’s network, which would account for the limited data type and scale of the exposure.

How Did Bayer Heritage Federal Credit Union Admit to the Breach? 

The breach filing and the consumer notice list the event beginning around October 31st, 2023. According to the notice, the threat actor’s access/activity lasted until the next day. Presumably, this is because their ransomware drew immediate attention from Bayer’s security teams. Bayer reportedly opened investigations into the incident, which concluded around December 1st. Bayer presumably compiled a list of impacted individuals in the following months and began notifying impacted parties around February 2nd, 2024.

What Will Become of the Stolen Information? 

The data stolen in this event is sensitive. SSNs (and their matching names) are significant targets for malicious identity schemes; this is especially true when thieves use them with phished personal and account details. Even without additional details, cybercriminals can profit from the data. They could sell the data online to other criminals and breach enthusiasts—they might even hand it off to other extortionists to generate viable targets. However, these possibilities don’t mean the victims do not influence what happens to their data. Victims can still act to protect themselves from the consequences of Bayer’s incident.

What Should Affected Parties Do in the Aftermath of the Breach? 

Although Bayer’s event purportedly does not include account details, victims must secure their accounts. They should create alternative contact details (i.e., phone numbers and email addresses) and exchange them wherever possible. Alternative contact details and the highest level of security for all accounts will help to mitigate and limit the possible reach of cybercriminals within those profiles. Victims should also avoid posting or confirming personal details online and use vague language on social media websites and platforms. Those confirmed to have their data compromised in Bayer’s event should also consider account monitoring services; SSNs are one of many personal credentials that professionals can track to help mitigate breach damages.

 

 

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