Plateau: ‘Customers’ passwords and email addresses have been compromised’

By Robin Fornoff

CMI Projects Editor

Plateau officials confirmed Wednesday that “a number of its plateautel.net internet customers’ passwords and email addresses have been compromised.”

Plateau customers were being asked to change their email passwords immediately, according to the press release.

Rogue hackers TeamBerserk claimed responsibility for the compromise, saying they have published the email and passwords of more than 7,000 accounts in a hackers blog and used the information to break into military computers at White Sands Missile Range in Alamogordo.

White Sands officials could not immediately be reached for comment.

Plateau Regulatory Manager Launa Waller said in the press release that databases storing all other customer information were not affected or accessed.

Waller said in the press release, “Plateau is taking every precaution to ensure its customer accounts are secure … We also encourage customers to consider changing passwords on other sites, if they use this same password or a close variation.”

TeamBerserk is a group of hackers from within the Anonymous Hacktivist scene who carry out their own operations and take other targets in sight, according to the online Cyber War News. They began referencing Plateau in tweets over the weekend.

The online site eSecurityPlanet reported TeamBerserk claims to have leveraged or used the stolen Plateau emails and passwords to access the missile range, quoting the hackers as saying, “We already sorted through the military accounts in here and it lead to … a U.S. Army and Air Force network in White Sands, Carlsbad and Roswell.”

TeamBerserk preceded its statement with the words, “Corporations, Governments and PsyOps Regarded as Apostles. Even if we painstakingly piece together something lost — it doesn’t mean things will ever go back to how they were.”

Plateau Chief Executive Officer Tom Phelps said late Wednesday he wasn’t sure when the emails were compromised.

“We know that we had an attack that occurred four months ago,” Phelps said. He said Plateau first learned of the compromise early Wednesday morning when it was notified that email addresses and passwords were posted on a website.

Phelps said customers were notified Wednesday afternoon as soon as it was confirmed the system had been compromised.

Curry County Information Technology Director Aaron Jones said it is the access to email passwords that could spell trouble for some Plateau customers.

“The bigger problem with stuff like this is people tend to be creatures of habit,” Jones said. “People tend to use the same password for all accounts.”

What that means, Jones said, is the potential exists for hackers to access bank, credit card and other financial accounts.

Jones said most online accounts use your email address as your online identity. If your password to that account is the same as your email, hackers have almost instant access, he said.

“The added complexity is that this is email,” Jones said. “All this stuff sits in peoples’ emails and if they (hackers) get access to it, now you could have your financial accounts compromised.”

Here is the press release from Plateau:

(Clovis, N.M.) … Plateau became aware today that a number of its plateautel.net internet customers’ passwords and email addresses have been compromised.  The compromised information includes various email addresses and passwords.  The databases that store all other customer information were not affected or accessed.

Plateau is taking every precaution to ensure its customer accounts are secure and requesting customers change their email password immediately. We also encourage customers to consider changing passwords on other sites, if they use this same password or a close variation.

The protection of customer information is Plateau’s priority and we are taking aggressive and ongoing steps to defend the network against future intrusions.

Formed in 1949 as Eastern New Mexico Rural Telephone Cooperative, Plateau provides advanced telecommunications services including voice, Internet, wireless and now, video to residents in all or parts of 14 eastern New Mexico counties and three in the Texas Panhandle.

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