Target Ignored Data Breach AlarmsTarget's security team reviewed -- and ignored -- urgent warnings from threat-detection tool about unknown malware spotted on the network.
to delete the malware automatically, although that option was reportedly deactivated. Then again, Edward Kiledjian, chief information security officer (CISO) for aircraft maker Bombardier Aerospace, which is a FireEye customer, told Bloomberg Businessweek that Target's hands-on approach wouldn't have been unusual. "Typically, as a security team, you want to have that last decision point of 'what do I do?'" he said. Of course, not using automation puts a greater onus on security teams to react not just quickly, but correctly.
What might have caused Target's security team to ignore the alert? "In two words: 'actionable intelligence,'" said Seculert's Raff via email. "With today's amount of detection data, just signaling an alarm isn't enough. The operator/analyst should be able to understand the risk as well as the recommendation of each incident, in order to be able to prioritize."
In response to the Bloomberg Businessweek report, FireEye published a blog post saying that it's company policy "to not publically identify our customers and, as such, we cannot validate or comment on the report's claims that Target, the CIA, or any other companies are customers of FireEye." The company also dismissed Bloomberg Businessweek's assertion that FireEye "was initially funded by the CIA." The publication was likely referring to the 2009 investment in FireEye by In-Q-Tel (IQT), which is an independent, not-for-profit investment firm that was launched by the CIA in 1999. FireEye said In-Q-Tel now owns less than 1% of the firm and "has no influence on our roadmap, operations, financials, governance, or any other aspect of our business."
The malware attack against Target came after attackers first breached the retailer's network using credentials stolen from a third-party contractor. According to security reporter Brian Krebs, the contractor was heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning firm Fazio Mechanical Services. Regardless, that attack vector suggests that Target failed to segment its networks properly so that remote third-party access by a contractor couldn't be parlayed into access to the retailer's payment systems.
Target's CIO, Beth Jacobs, resigned March 5, the same day that Target promised to make a number of technology, information security, and compliance changes, including hiring its first-ever CISO. Meanwhile, the retailer said that its breach investigation continues. "Our investigation is ongoing and we are committed to making further investments in our people, processes, and technology with the goal of reinforcing security for our guests," said Target's Snyder.
Next-gen intrusion-prevention systems have fuller visibility into applications and data. But do newer firewalls make IPS redundant? Also in the The IPS Makeover issue of Dark Reading Tech Digest: Find out what our 2013 Strategic Security Survey respondents have to say about IPS and firewalls. (Free registration required.)
Mathew Schwartz is a freelance writer, editor, and photographer, as well the InformationWeek information security reporter.
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