Personal data belonging to the accounts of 3.3m Hello Kitty fans is available to download online – and much of it probably belongs to children. The database for sanriotown.com, the official online home of Hello Kitty and a large cast of other Sanrio characters, is easily accessible according to online security researcher Chris Vickery.
This means that sensitive information including users' real names, email addresses, account passwords, genders, birthdays and country of origin is all exposed, or encoded in easy-to-crack form.
Hello Kitty is popular amongst both adults and children, and internet security experts are warning parents to make sure kids' passwords are changed immediately – particularly if they use them for other sites. Adult users are also advised to completely abandon their own use of the compromised password, as it is a relatively easy task for hackers to cross-reference accounts on different sites which share passwords.
Massive data breach
Vickery, who found the leak on Saturday, says that Sanrio has been notified alongside the ISP being used to host the database. It is believed that the data was first exposed on 22 November 2015. Vickery has not published the whereabouts of the data in order to help prevent the leak from spreading. No further comment was immediately available.
Accounts registered to other sites associated with sanriotown.com are also affected by this leak, including hellokitty.com; hellokitty.com.sg; hellokitty.com.my; hellokitty.in.th; and mymelody.com.
Hello Kitty is an incredibly popular cartoon character created in Japan in 1974. Her brand, which is owned and operated by the Japanese firm Sanrio, was worth about £4.7bn a year ($7bn) in 2014.
The cute white cat character was originally marketed at pre-adolescent girls, but now has a sizeable following of adult fans of kawaii – a twee Japanese subculture. She has two dedicated theme parks in the country, as well as various TV series, films and games – and a whole group of secondary characters who have become nearly as popular as their elder sister in their own right.
Hello Kitty's creator caused shock and controversy when it revealed Kitty is not a cat, but a British schoolgirl.