Time Warner Cable: Cable Giant Hacked, 320,000 Customer Passwords Might Have Been Stolen

Tara Dodrill

Time Warner Cable was recently hacked, and up to 320,000 customers might have had both their passwords and emails stolen. The cable giant, also known as TWC, says they were informed about the cyber attack by the FBI and are in the midst of contacting customers to warn them about a potential breach of personal information.

Information about the Time Warner Cable hack is currently limited. TWC has not yet been able to determine how the personal information of up to 320,000 customers may have been compromised, Fox News reports. The cable giant has publicly stated that the passwords and emails were stolen via cyber attacks on other companies owned by the corporation or inadvertently by a customer who had a malware issue. If malware was used to get into the system, the hacker (or hackers) were likely able to steal information by utilizing phishing attacks, the company also said.

— Digital Journal (@digitaljournal) January 8, 2016

Regardless of how the TWC passwords and emails were stolen, it is surely bad news for 320,000 subscribers. Time Warner Cable not only provides cable service but internet access as well. It may be possible that a hacker armed with a customer's password and email address could enter their home virtually via the internet. If such a situation were to occur, a hacker might be able to turn on laptop and tablet cameras without the customer's knowledge to watch and record what they are doing. Using the same password for all online accounts makes users far more vulnerable if a cyber attack occurs.

Smart home technology could also be hampered due to the TWC hack. Should a customer use a Wi-Fi-enabled video or audio baby monitor, thermostat, or security system, the cyber attacker could be able to access the equipment and alter its functions. Time Warner Cable is urging all customers to change their email passwords as a precautionary measure, Reuters reports.

When Time Warner Cable major competitor Comcast was hacked, stolen personal information wound up on the "dark web" after being sold by the hackers to others with ill intent. In November, nearly 600,000 Comcast customers had their passwords and emails stolen by cyber hackers. The cable company sent emails to inform the unlucky subscribers that their personal account information was infringed upon and being sold on the dark web.

The dark web is a label used to describe a collection of websites that are visible to the pubic but conceal their IP addresses of the servers used to operate the venues, PC Advisor explains. Although the websites can be visited by anyone, the sites cannot be found by using search engines. It is reportedly almost impossible to determine who is running the websites.

"Almost all sites on the so-called Dark Web hide their identity using the Tor encryption tool. You may know Tor for its end-user-hiding properties. You can use Tor to hide your identity, and spoof your location," a PC Advisor cyber security report says. "When a website is run through Tor it has much the same effect."

A Twitter user identified as @Flanvel accidentally came across that list of Comcast passwords and emails for sale on a dark web marketplace in a public tweet, Digitrends reports. The hackers were asking for 0.8098 in bitcoins, or about $300, to share the personal information.

— Digital Trends (@DigitalTrends) January 8, 2016

The Time Warner Cable hack is the first known major cyber attack on personal information of customers to occur in 2016. Unfortunately for millions of Americans who utilize the internet for cable service, shopping, and a host of leisure activities that require logins, it will not be the last. Cyber security experts are urging everyone to choose their passwords carefully, to never use the same password for more than one account, and to keep their antivirus software up-to-date and active when online.

[Photo by Lenny Ignelz/AP]