Hosting vendor Layered Technologies admitted this week that hackers broke into its support database and made off with as many as 6,000 client records, including log-in information that could give criminals access to clients' servers.

The US firm, which operates a pair of datacentres that hold the physical servers it manages for clients, said the break-in happened on Monday night.

"The Layered Technologies support database was a target of malicious activity on the evening of 17 September that may have involved the illegal downloading of information such as names, addresses, phone numbers, e-mail addresses and server login details for five to 6,000 of our clients," the firm's CEO Todd Abrams wrote on the company blog.

According to other information posted on the blog, the database was reached through a vulnerability in a web-based application used by Layered's helpdesk. After hacking the web application, the criminals next accessed the support database. "This allowed them to then view tickets and their contents," said someone identified as Jeremy using the moniker of "LTADMIN."

"This attack was done using an open protocol (HTTP) which allowed them to then get into the database," Jeremy added.

One commenter to Abrams' post said he was with software developer WebGroup Media, and acknowledged the vulnerability was in his company's Cerberus Helpdesk.

"I've extended my help to the LT team," said Jeff Standen, the lead developer of the program and WebGroup's chief of research and development.

"We're vigilant about any security reports that pop up, we are aiming to close any potential exploits before they get that far."

Layered said that no payment details, such as credit card numbers, were stolen. He said that information was stored in a database separate from the support centre.

But with server login details compromised, Abrams urged customers to change their credentials immediately.

"This includes any log-in credentials for all servers you own and operate with LT, all services that may have submitted passwords in the past for such as webmail, remote desktop, SSH, MySQL, cPanel WHM, FTP backup storage or similar services."

Abrams also said that Layered was adding additional security measures, but did not elaborate.

The company did not return calls requesting comment.

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