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February 16, 2010

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Bert

While PlainsCapital made the preemptive legal strike, Hillary has preemptively struck in the PR war. And as you noted, they may have done so decisively. By the time any court decisions are reached there will be so much bad publicity showing up online the bank will need years to undo the damage. And even then it will only be possible if the bank did have other security measures available and they were turned down by Hillary.

Amanda

PlainsCapital Bank received $84 million in TARP funds. They are using federal tax dollars to sue their own customer. Alan B. White is quoted as calling TARP funds "Investment Capital". Just one more reason why Hillary Machinery has people in DC at this very moment meeting with congressional staff.

Benjamin Wright

Amanda: Thank you for posting your comment. I am blogging a lot about the PlainsCapital v Hillary lawsuit/dispute because it is a pivotal case in the history of computer security law. As between the parties engaged in the dispute, I am neutral and independent. My decision to allow your comment to be published on my blog does not necessarily indicate that I agree or disagree with what you said.

Although I am reporting and evaluating the impact of the statements by parties in this conflict, I am not encouraging or discouraging them. I am not evaluating whether statements are right or wrong, correct or incorrect.

If any person thinks I am doing anything wrong, I ask that person promptly to telephone me at 1.214.403.6642.
--Benjamin Wright

AlphaCentauri

Another legal issue I haven't seen discussed: Usually if a suit like this is settled out of court, there is some agreement among parties that they will not discuss the case further, and the publicity stops. But the many posts about this case will live on the internet and archives forever.

Most of the posts I've seen aren't from people who had ever heard of Hillary before. But tech people who have dealt with security breaches and can easily imagine themselves or their clients in the same position. Add that natural sympathy to the fun involved in doing some amateur sleuthing about the case, and Hillary doesn't even need to seed blogs with comments.

Benjamin Wright

Not all comments about this controversy on the web are unfavorable to the bank. Stephen Northcutt of the SANS Institute generally observes that, in theory, a bank in a cyber theft incident must be wary that the customer colluded with thieves to stage the heist.

Bert

That there could be collusion with the bad guys. It goes both ways. It's possible in cases like this for someone at the bank to be in cahoots, too. Although hopefully that is a much less likely scenario.

We can't really know what happened, since PlainsCapital isn't talking. With the information Hillary is putting out it looks very bad for PlainsCapital. I still say that, unless PlainsCapital can bring out something totally unexpected they're going to lose - but the fact I have to put that caveat in says it's all still up in the air, however done it may look from out here.

Benjamin Wright

Jim Woodhill of http://www.authentify.com sent me an e-mail because he tried to submit a comment, but the system would not take it. So I post Jim's words here:

"[I]f you think this is a PR disaster for PlainsCapital Bank *now*, just wait. It can get a *lot* worse.

"Are you going to be at the 2010 RSA Security Conference this coming week? If so, if you want to hear how, just meet me at Authentify's booth (#732), and I will be happy to share my speculations on how PlainsCapital's situation can get 'qualitatively' worse, not just 'quantitatively'.

"[Benjamin], this is not just an interesting PR skirmish, it's a matter of national concern. Local and regional banks like PlainsCapital are not just an important part of the American economy, they are an important part of American society. It is not in the public interest for every small- and medium-sized enterprise in our country to decide as one that they have to move their accounts to J.P. Morgan/Chase Bank or risk losing everything to cyber-thieves. But that is the message PlainsCapital Bank and every other bank that Brian Krebs writes about on this issue is sending."

Also, in reference to the observation by Stephen Northcutt (two comments above), Jim says,

"He is completely correct, but seems unaware of how Congress has decided similar questions when forced to speak on such issues by private-sector irresponsibility. As a 'Club For Growth' Republican, I hate the idea of more congressional micro-managing of America's financial services sector, but I cannot see how it can be avoided with so many cases in so many congressional districts."

Troy owen

Benjamin,

I would offer that Mr. Northcutt is at least close to the line regarding his Editor's note with regard to this case. To restrict his comments to one loose hypothetical and accusatory angle footnoting our case is as ill-advised as it was for PCB to file a pre-emptive lawsuit publically calling our 25 year record of fiscal and moral soundness into question before the world; you see what that has cost them so far.

Notwithstanding, and in respect to Bert for his comments, "commercially reasonable" security and some semblance of fraud detection would have stop even a colluded criminal act had it contained such blatently unusual circumstances. Anyone caring to peruse the details already made public can see that.

Troy owen

Quite simply, I think prudent and reasonable people would agree that a bank's security measures are NOT "reasonable" if they allow a customer's account to be accessed then looted by Eastern European cyber criminals of hundred's of thousands of dollars over the course of 2 days and in a manner so inconsistent with the account holder's normal transactional history. Rather than spend so much time and energy defending a DEFEATABLE SECURITY SYSTEM, trying to DISCREDIT and more recently trying to DEFAME a victim of it (namely Hillary Machinery Inc), PCB and their counsel should do just a little research on the plethora of well documented cases of cyber crime events involving Eastern European cyber criminals and focus on protecting the customers they still have

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