[ISN] Airport PCs stuffed with meaty goodness

InfoSec News isn at c4i.org
Thu Sep 22 01:33:17 EDT 2005


By John Leyden
21st September 2005 

Businesspeople are treating public access terminals in airport 
departure lounges as their home PCs and in the process exposing 
confidential data and email messages to all and sundry. A mixture of 
curiosity and boredom led consultants from the Dubai-based network 
security outfit Scanit to uncover a plethora of secrets left by 
globe-trotting executives who log on in-between flights.

Many airport executive lounges are equipped with PCs that allow 
business and first class fliers to surf the web. Rather than using a 
web-based email service and clearing the cache and password completion 
forms before shutting down, some execs are using Outlook Express 
packages on these machines to write emails.

Outlook Express is probably not configured to allow emails to be sent 
from these machines, so any message created simply moves to the 
system's 'outbox' where it remains indefinitely after the user clicks 
'send'. Even if the system is configured to send messages, the email 
will normally be saved in the machine's 'sent items' folder. In either 
case, email messages are left wide open for subsequent access. You'd 
think most people would realise this but Scanit has discovered 

While traveling to meet clients, Scanit engineers found everything 
from intimate messages to mistresses (perfect for blackmail) to 
desktop-saved documents outlining multi-million dollar deals, complete 
with profit margins and lowest bid values.


They also found many of these airport lounge PCs were infected with 
computer viruses. Scanit chief exec David Michaux recalls a discovery 
he made while waiting for a delayed flight.

"As I was playing patience, I noticed heavy network traffic on the 
lounge machine's taskbar even though I wasn't using any network 
applications," he said. "After some delving I was amazed to find Back 
Orifice 2000 (BO2K) as the culprit. It had been invisibly collecting 
my keystrokes and sending a record of them to a Hotmail account every 
15 minutes."

Michaux reported his findings to the lounge receptionist who said that 
she wasn't responsible for the security of machines. Another lapse 
(this time in a London airport) permitted users to log onto machines 
as an administrator rather than a restricted user. Again, Scanit's 
engineers found key-loggers running on systems at the airport.

"The danger is that the CEO-types who travel on behalf of their 
companies and use these lounges are privy to usually sensitive data," 
Michaux explains. "This makes computers there a veritable goldmine, 
whether it's executives downloading attachments from their web mail 
and leaving them on the desktop, or even deleting them afterwards, but 
not emptying the recycle bin before they leave to catch their plane."

Even executives who do take care are likely to be let down by the 
lounge's lack of security, especially if a hacker has turned its 
machines into zombie drones. The security of wireless networks if 
often maligned but this is one problem wider use of laptops by 
business execs can help to control. ®

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