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You are the weakest link – goodbye!

Kevin WilliamsKevin Williams

On my first visit to Team Cymru’s HQ in Lake Mary, Florida, I found myself reading the wall hangings and looking at the pictures depicting specific times in history. Many of them depicting the inspiring words of leaders such as Churchill. It lead me to think about the many lessons that we can learn from history, but which are often forgotten.

It also made me think back to a chapter in a book I had read recently about the Stanley Rifkin. As reported in Wikipedia, Rifkin is a convicted criminal in the United States responsible for stealing $10.2 million through wire transfer via telephone in the autumn of 1978. At the time, it was the largest bank robbery in U.S. history.

Working for a company under contract to develop a backup system for the Security Pacific National Bank wire room, Rifkin learned of the transfer procedures used, and found that bank agents would frequently write down the daily transfer code. One day in mid-October 1978, he made his way into the transfer room, saw the code, memorised it and walked out. Using social engineering techniques, he then made a few phone calls and had $10.2 million wired to the Irving Trust Company in New York for the credit of the Wozchod Handels Bank of Zurich in Switzerland, where he’d already set up an account.

Having previously set up a diamond transaction, he picked up 43,200 carats (8.64 kg) in diamonds from a Russian agency, which he had purchased for USD 8.1 million. He flew back into the United States and began selling the diamonds, but a business associate that he was using reported him to the FBI. He was captured shortly after, just before midnight on November 5.

Who was it who said ‘history has a habit of repeating itself’, perhaps someone who didn’t listen to the advice in the first place.

Of course in the modern world we would never do anything as stupid as pinning a password or passphrases on a wall – would we?


When was the last time you walked around your offices and looked for the lapses in security that scream out “keys to the kingdom – here!”

We make a living by what we get,

but we make a life by what we give.

– Sir Winston Churchill

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Photo credit: Arend Jan Wonink, ‘Chain’. Licensed under Creative Commons 2.0