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AKC Breeder Listings were used to generate phishing attacks through fake puppy inquiries. How it worked and how to protect yourself from Privacy Sharks.


December 4, 2018

Barbara J. Andrews, Editor-In-Chief, SAAB


A top Toy dog breeder who listed on the AKC Puppies For Sale Marketplace{1} first alerted us to the problem.  She realized her email address had been hacked when she began getting “phisher emails” inquiring about puppies. She was concerned that they could have gotten her credit card information. We reassured her but later that day another person called to report he had been “hacked by AKC.” A deeper dig into my inbox revealed it wasn't just an isolated incident.


The American Kennel Club can afford the best in spam and intellectual theft protection so this was a new twist. I called and left an "urgent" message.  Meanwhile I learned the internet is full of stories about "privacy pirates". I called our webmaster who said "nowadays, they are harvesting big bytes, more like sharks than pirates." It was funny at first, but then it wasn't... and was it possible AKC didn't know about it?


I called AKC again, repeatedly… Left multiple messages for the two AKC people who had sent the “reassurance” email (see copy below). Jim Crowley, previous AKC Secretary always returned my calls. Current Secretary Gina DiNardo is no less efficient. Finally, the next day, Brandi Hunter, Vice President, Public Relations and Communications called me back.


She was absolutely clear. “AKC has not been hacked.” I repeated what we had learned from subscribers, all of whom had been contacted by people who mentioned “the AKC website” or “AKC breeders”. She repeated the five words. Okay, I know Brandi to be highly intelligent and otherwise conversant. I get it. To admit to the press that AKC services could in any way be compromised would not be good for business.


The American Kennel Club is a prize target for what is so common today that we've renamed them Privacy Sharks. They surf the net in "schools" using sophisticated technology. It may be impossible to protect yourself from the many ruses used by privacy thieves but here is some cautionary advice:


Use a separate email account for public listings such as “puppies for sale”, facebook and other social media accounts which security experts say are the most vulnerable.


Protecting your online financial information and accounts is obviously of critical importance. For communication with your bank and other financial entities, use a dedicated email address, in other words, only the bank or your credit card company has it. Then monitor your accounts frequently because your financial records are not invulnerable. IBM sponsored a Data Breach study which reported the “global average cost of a data breach is up 6.4 percent over the previous year to $3.86 million.” 


Here is a shocking and precedent-setting example of legal privacy invasion. While you were sleeping, on November 25th, the British Parliament seized internal facebook documents{2}.  The implications to personal privacy are staggering.


We’ve been told even a Government entity needs a warrant to seize and search you or your personal effects. That is not always true. A foreign country recently hired a California firm to obtain documents and records even though the state of California “ordered the material to be kept under seal.” Some news commentators considered this as victory for “freedom of the press” but we see it as the end of personal privacy.


If you have a website, you should be able to set up several separate email addys. Call your hosting company, call our office or email us about hosting your website, providing multiple email addresses, and protecting your privacy.


Here is a copy of the defusing/reassuring email AKC sent out. It is good advice.



Dear Breeders,


We have been made aware of a new email phishing scam targeting our breeders and want to assist you in ensuring you do not fall victim to this. We have been in contact with the handful of accounts that were compromised and have taken steps to ensure that their accounts are back under their control. No personal or financial information was at risk.


We ask that you circulate this message amongst your associates as the best prevention for these scams is education.


It is very important that you know the warning signs of a fraudulent email. These emails may not only ask for funds, but they may provide links or attachments that install malware or coerce the recipient into providing their login information.


Please be advised that AKC will never:


*  ask you to visit links that are not

*  ask you for your passwords, credit card or bank details, or other personal information over email.


If you suspect that you have been affected, please logon to Marketplace and review your account information.


Now is a good time to update your own passwords. Your passwords should be difficult to guess and not shared across different websites.


I assure you that the AKC goes to great lengths to ensure the security of this information. We have a formal security program in place, including a third-party audit by a certified CyberSecurity assessor. We have threat protection systems in place, and mandatory security education for AKC staff, taken annually. While no company can claim to be 100% secure, AKC’s technology team considers security to be a top priority and works feverishly to protect the data of the company and of our customers, members, partners and constituents.


While our specific security details are necessarily confidential, please feel free to reach out to customer service at if you have any questions or concerns.




Steve Pessah, Director of Product

Reid Simmons, Product Manager



Reference Information: (offsite links, copy and paste URL in your browser)

{1} AKC MarketPlace -


{2} British Parliament seizes Facebook documents - EST 2002 © 1812





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