Colin Mc Hugo

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Colin Mc Hugo
Security Engineer Manager & CEO at Quantum Infinite Solutions Group Ltd.

On course for a good hacking

August 3, 2021

A narrative of how simply hackers may hit a hole-in-one with the pc community of a premier golf membership within the UK.

Golf golf equipment and cybercrime couldn’t actually sound additional aside, however with regards to cybersecurity, companies of all sizes are targets and their house owners should by no means assume something is totally watertight. Golf is, nevertheless, extra related with enterprise, so after I was not too long ago requested to research and take a look at the cybersecurity of an unbiased UK golf membership, I believed it seemed like an fascinating experiment.  

Moreover, the proprietor of the membership claimed that I’d “battle” to hack them, as they’ve somebody who is “on prime of our safety”. Saying this simply made me additional decided and extra up for the problem!  

I’ve not performed golf in just a few years, however again in my college days I spent a very good handful of events hacking up the course with my 7-iron. Nevertheless, extra not too long ago, I’ve turned my hand to a special sort of hacking, which is much extra enjoyable and far much less ego-bruising. 

With 14 years’ price of experience in the cybercrime and digital forensics unit in the police, I now assessment and analyze potential cyberthreats going through companies. With the ability to perceive legal hackers typically helps with revealing insights into their mindset, which may then result in higher safety for organizations. 

At this level, I want so as to add slightly disclaimer. Earlier than I launched into my escapade at this stunning course within the beautiful English countryside, I used to be granted full entry and permission by the proprietor of the membership to go wherever I wished and to do no matter I desired – inside motive, after all! 

As with any good heist, analysis is significant. Though I’m accustomed to the environment, lingo and apparel of a top quality golf membership, I wanted to study the whole lot I may concerning the employees and this particular membership in query; and that is the place Google is your finest pal. Armed with my on-line findings and a few high quality methods in my again pocket, I used to be fairly assured I may have some enjoyable with my goal golf institution. 

I made a decision to pose as a TV assistant producer, enquiring to do a reconnaissance go to for a brand new business and requesting to take some photographs to report again to my producer. I phoned the membership per week upfront and gave them my pre-context story. The enterprise growth supervisor answered the decision and (naturally) cherished the thought, excitedly inviting me to go to the membership the next week. 

Figure 1. Hacking a golf club

A discipline day for hackers 

I arrived on the course one sunny morning and headed straight to reception shortly after 9am, geared up with my laptop computer, USB drive, DSLR digital camera and a trusty high-visibility jacket. As soon as I had met with the enterprise growth supervisor who I’d beforehand spoken to, I walked off for an hour with my digital camera and took some photographs of the course.  

On my return, I confirmed him the photographs and requested if I may use their non-public Wi-Fi, mentioning it might be safer(!), and requested the password, which was fortunately given to me. I then declared that I’d forgotten some paperwork which wanted to be signed, so I requested him if I may pop my USB drive into his pc to print off a launch kind. He obliged and even stated, “I wouldn’t usually let somebody I don’t know do that however because it’s for TV, I’ll make an exception.”  

It was then that I witnessed the true horror present – one thing which I had not anticipated to see ever once more. They had been nonetheless utilizing Home windows XP!! Assist for this working system ceased in 2014 and it’s extremely harmful when related to the web, so seeing this within the wild made me shiver with astonishment, even fright. To make issues worse, XP was operating on the machine within the store with their point-of-sale software program on! With all of the monetary and delicate knowledge being run by this machine, it might make for a really harmful end result if it had been focused. 

As soon as I had pretended that the doc I wanted to print was lacking from my USB, I provided to ship a pretend pre-release kind through Google Types with a purpose to acquire some further private data from him, together with one in all his passwords. He clicked on this hyperlink instantly and crammed it out. Actually, he then took a name and left me with full entry to 2 additional machines with nobody trying. 

With entry to the Wi-Fi password, USB drives and even unsupervised machines I may have accomplished any exploit I may dream up. From putting in a distant entry trojan or keyloggers onto the machines, to putting different malware, resembling ransomware on the community to demand cost to decrypt the information, this was a hacker’s delight!  

Leaving one’s workstation unsupervised and unlocked is a hazard in any office, however notably ready the place the general public can merely stroll in and coupled up with the opposite safety fake pas, makes me understand that some companies are nonetheless so far behind of their safety. 


After all, I didn’t really exploit the community at this golf membership, however the classes discovered had been very important and the seriousness is worrying. The quantity of private, delicate, and monetary knowledge held on the community that I had full entry to might be extraordinarily expensive. If compromised, the GDPR fines for leaking this sort of private data may have been catastrophic. Becoming a member of a golf membership comes with handing over plenty of data, so if a membership had been to lose this knowledge there could be enormous penalties and a couple of sufferer.  

Play the lengthy sport 

The simplicity of hacking someplace might be eye-openingly spectacular. A high quality backstory, a contact of appeal and a spot of luck will get you into most areas that might be exploited. If the cybersecurity fundamentals have been bypassed, nevertheless, the nefarious job in hand might be that a lot simpler. A high-visibility jacket simply helps to seal the deal. 

Exploiting the weak or weak is strictly what menace actors are good at, so all of us have to up our video games away from the golf course and begin specializing in the place these weaknesses are in our companies. 

On report back to the golf membership’s proprietor, he was considerably shocked, but equally unsurprised. He stated himself that he by no means thought anybody would ever hack his enterprise and wrongly assumed legal hackers sit in hoodies and go after the massive corporations. The reality is, nevertheless, that each enterprise is a possible goal and if they continue to be so simply penetrable, they’ll stay wealthy pickings for hackers.

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