Tower Records site exposes data

A security hole on the music seller's Web site reveals data on millions of customers, including home and e-mail addresses, phone numbers and what music or videos they bought.

Declan McCullagh Former Senior Writer
Declan McCullagh is the chief political correspondent for CNET. You can e-mail him or follow him on Twitter as declanm. Declan previously was a reporter for Time and the Washington bureau chief for Wired and wrote the Taking Liberties section and Other People's Money column for CBS News' Web site.
Declan McCullagh
2 min read
A security hole on Tower Records' Web site exposed data on millions of U.S. and U.K. customers until it was closed late Wednesday.

The glitch allowed anyone to peruse Tower Records' Web site to view its database of customer orders dating from 1996 through this week, including home and e-mail addresses, phone numbers and what music or video products were purchased. More than 3 million such records were exposed.

"It was a technical error, and when we discovered it we were fairly horrified and we fixed it in a matter of hours," a Tower representative said on Thursday. No credit card numbers appear to have been revealed, the company said.

Stephanie Wilbanks of Jonesboro, Ark., had her personal information exposed after she ordered a CD as a gift from Tower Records this week.

"I'm shocked and disappointed," Wilbanks said. "I will no longer do online business with Tower Records."

But another affected customer, Ivor Colwill of Haywards Heath, England, said he wasn't as concerned.

"I doubt it'll affect my shopping at Tower," Colwill said. "I honestly can't think of another site that covers so many of my musical needs in one spot or with the same quality of service. At worst, I'll telephone my orders to them."

The security leak arose out of a programming error in a script called "orderStatus.asp." When customers requested information on their order via the Tower site, the script called up the record, displaying the order number as part of the URL of the resulting page.

But the script allowed customers to type a different order number into the URL and call up a different record. In the change made Wednesday, Tower now requires customers to log in with their e-mail address and password before they can view information about their order.

The programming error, which existed for an unknown length of time, appears to have conflicted with Tower Records' posted privacy policy, which says: "Your TowerRecords.com Account information is password-protected. You and only you have access to this information...TowerRecords.com takes steps to ensure that your information is treated securely..."

Founded in 1960 in Sacramento, Calif., Tower Records operates about 200 retail stores and opened its online store in November 1996.