Industry News

Amazon Fires Employee For Leaking Customer Data

Amazon Fires Employee For Leaking Customer Data
  • Retail giant doesn’t disclose how many customers have been affected
  • Users should be on their guard against fraudulent and phishing emails

Multiple Amazon customers turned to social media to describe how they had received a notification from the online retail giant that their email addresses have been leaked to an unnamed third party.

Emails sent by Amazon to customers admit that a rogue employee unlawfully passed on users’ personal email details to a third-party, violating the company’s rules:

Part of the email reads:

“We are writing to let you know that your e-mail address was disclosed by an Amazon employee to a third-party in violation of our policies. As a result, we have fired the employee, referred them to law enforcement, and are supporting law enforcement criminal prosecution.”

Amazon goes on to explain that no information beyond users’ email addresses was breached, and that it is not asking customers to take any actions in response.

Nonetheless, it’s understandable that Amazon customers who receive the warning might feel alarmed.

If a third-party gained access to some Amazon customers’ email addresses they could be used to send spam, or even to send potentially convincing phishing emails posing as Amazon in an attempt to steal passwords.

Furthermore, a report from Motherboard suggests that the security breach may actually be connected to more than one insider. A statement received by the website from Amazon, referred to the perpetrators in the plural:

“The individuals responsible for this incident have been fired. We have referred the bad actors to law enforcement and are supporting their criminal prosecution.”

Notably, Amazon has made no official statement giving an indication of just how many customer email addresses have been breached, or which department the rogue employee or employees may have worked, or where in the world they might reside.

Of course there are most likely a wide range of job roles within Amazon’s customer service department which might have valid access to customers’ email addresses – and perhaps other sensitive information – as they answer questions and resolve issues related to users’ accounts.

And that makes it all the more important for companies to take an uncompromising stance against workers who exploit their access to customer data by, for instance, selling it to a third party.

Amazon has proven itself willing to punish staff in the past when customer privacy has been violated.

For instance, at the beginning of 2020, the retailer told US senators that it had fired four employees who had accessed videos recorded by customers’ Ring doorbells.

One week later Amazon sent a similar email to that sent in recent days, revealing that it had fired a number of employees after customer email addresses as well as phone numbers were shared with an unnamed third-party without permission.

Sadly there is little individuals can do to prevent a malicious insider from exploiting information that has been shared with an online retailer, but you can take steps to protect yourself from attack by being on the guard for malicious emails pretending to come from a company.

Amazon’s customer service department advises customers to report fraudulent and scam emails they receive that pretend to come from Amazon by sending them – preferably as an attachment – to stop-spoofing@amazon.com

About the author

Graham CLULEY

Graham Cluley is an award-winning security blogger, researcher and public speaker. He has been working in the computer security industry since the early 1990s, having been employed by companies such as Sophos, McAfee and Dr Solomon's. He has given talks about computer security for some of the world's largest companies, worked with law enforcement agencies on investigations into hacking groups, and regularly appears on TV and radio explaining computer security threats.

Graham Cluley was inducted into the InfoSecurity Europe Hall of Fame in 2011, and was given an honorary mention in the "10 Greatest Britons in IT History" for his contribution as a leading authority in internet security.