Another major hacking incident was recently uncovered.  Trustwave’s SpiderLabs announced passwords were stolen from Facebook, Yahoo, Google, Twitter, and LinkedIn accounts, among others.  Using software called “Pony Botnet Controller” to orchestrate the attack, the cyber criminals were able to access about two million passwords overall, including over 300,000 Facebook passwords.

Rather than infiltrate corporate networks exclusively, in this instance Pony also relied on individuals’ personal computers in order to acquire the looted information.  While it is unclear what the ratio is of corporate to individual machines that have been infected, undoubtedly, many victims still have no idea they have been compromised.

The impact of the breach goes beyond social media and mail services.  Payroll processing giant ADP was also a victim – nearly 8,000 of its passwords were lifted.  It’s unclear what damage this might lead to, but financial ramifications are possible. One in six US workers are paid via ADP, accounting for the movement of a massive $1.4 trillion in FY2013.

To prevent the attack from being traced, the hackers used a proxy server to mask the identity of the main server that initiated the attack and stored the stolen passwords. It has been determined that both the proxy and the main server are located in the Netherlands.

The attack lasted for at least a month, and the amount of data captured daily was fairly stable after an initial burst of activity.

The digital heist also included swiped credentials for FTP, remote desktop, and secure shell accounts.  This type of data can be used to control individual computers and potentially entire networks.

Pony is a malware powerhouse, according to ZDNet.  It can log the keystrokes on a computer to obtain a wealth of information and can operate within numerous popular programs, including Outlook, Chrome, Firefox, and Internet Explorer.

One of the takeaways from this particular incident is to use unique passwords for your various online accounts.  Oftentimes, people will use the same password for multiple accounts because it is easier.  But if you do this, and a criminal gets his hands on your password for one account, he can break into your other accounts too.

Another lesson to be learned is that both individuals and companies face the threat of cyber attacks, and need to have strong countermeasures in place, such as updated antivirus software and operating system patches.  These don’t always prevent an attack, but they can make the hacker less prone to target you.

If you’re a business owner or are on the management team at your firm, you need to raise the issue of cyber risk.  Digital attacks can be expensive, difficult to overcome, and cause reputational damage.  It is wise to shift at least some of your cyber risk to an insurance carrier.  Right now, the cyber liability market is soft, meaning insurers are competing for your business.  You can get high levels of coverage for small premiums.