Photoarchivenews.com has been receiving calls and emails this afternoon suggesting the Alamy website had been hacked and images downloaded.
James West, CEO at Alamy, has sent us this after a phone call regarding the issue:
“Below is an edited version of the letter we sent to Alamy contributors who have been affected. These are isolated incidents involving a small number of contributors and a small number of customer accounts”.
It has come to our attention that one or more individuals have targeted our site to download high-resolution images using legitimate customer login details.
Unfortunately some of your images have been stolen in these raids.
Please accept my sincerest apologies for this. We take our obligations to look after your images very seriously and while there are aspects of this problem that fall outside of our control, we believe it is our responsibility to make theft of this nature impossible.
Here’s what we know so far:
The theft is mainly carried out using login information from customers in the editorial sector (newspapers and magazines) and the images stolen are mostly of celebrities.
Whilst we cannot yet be 100% sure of the origin of the problem, all indicators point to three potential sources:
1. A list of email addresses and passwords have been stolen from another organization with poor network security
2. A list of email addresses for active customers in our industry has been obtained and checked for easy-to-guess passwords
3. A legitimate user has shared their login details with a third party for the purposes of obtaining images illegally
The underlying issue, however, is an industry wide one. A large proportion of the customers we have spoken to whose accounts have been compromised are using the same login and password details across multiple sites, often with very simple and easy-to-guess passwords.
Our immediate priority is to get one step ahead of the problem. We have already released a number of immediate changes to the site to make it harder for someone to obtain images illegally. We have also introduced additional 24/7 monitoring and procedures to identify and shut down suspicious activity.
Our medium term priorities are to continue to refine our existing measures to detect attempts to fraudulently access customer accounts. However, as we are still refining our systems it is possible that there will continue to be sporadic incidents in the meantime. We are also preparing to bring this problem to the attention of our various trade association partners to raise awareness among our competitors and customers of the issue.
We are also engaging the services of professional hackers to check our own systems to be absolutely sure that our analysis of the origin of the problem is correct.
Finally, we are investigating ways to track, identify, and pursue those responsible.
If you would like more information, or if you have any questions or suggestions, please do not hesitate to get in touch.