Dark Reading is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them.Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

Attacks/Breaches

Lessons Learned From N.Y. Times Hack Attack

How could the Times have recovered faster after the Syrian Electronic Army attacked its DNS registry? Here are six considerations to help protect your business from similar harm.

The Syrian Electronic Army: 9 Things We Know
(click image for larger view)
The Syrian Electronic Army: 9 Things We Know
What might The New York Times -- and to a lesser extent, Twitter -- have done differently to prevent Tuesday's hack attack that disrupted access to their sites?

The disruptions began after the Syrian Electronic Army (SEA), a group of hackers that back Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in the country's civil war, hacked into the systems of the world's sixth largest domain name system (DNS) registrar, Melbourne IT, and altered DNS settings for nine sites.

Twitter quickly restored service, but by Thursday afternoon, people were still reporting difficulties accessing the Times website. "If you're still having issues, it's likely the result of your ISP not yet restoring proper DNS records," Times spokeswoman Eileen Murphy tweeted Wednesday.

While those cleanup efforts continue, here's how other businesses can help themselves avoid a similar fate:

1. Beware Spear-Phishing Attacks

According to Melbourne IT chief executive Theo Hnarakis, the SEA was able to hack the affected sites' DNS settings after launching a successful spear-phishing attack against one of Melbourne IT's U.S. resellers, which he declined to name. The phishing attack allowed the hackers to access employees' email, from which they retrieved log-in credentials for both the Times and Twitter DNS configuration pages.

"This activist group used a very, very sophisticated spear phishing attack," Hnarakis told the Associated Press (AP). " They sent very dubious emails to staff of one of our resellers whose area of expertise is looking after the domain names for major corporates including the New York Times."

"Unfortunately, a couple of the staff members of the reseller responded by giving their email log-in details; the group were able to search their emails for sensitive information that included the username and password for The New York Times, and from there it all cascades," he said.

2. Train Users To Spot Phishing Attacks

What could Melbourne IT's reseller have done differently? For starters, it might have better educated employees to recognize and resist phishing attacks. "Humans [are] once again the weakest link," tweeted Brian Honan, CEO of the Irish Reporting and Information Security Service, which is Ireland's CERT, about the hack. "Malware and attackers no longer target the operating systems but the [users] instead."

Unfortunately, attackers only need one phishing attack to be successful, and the odds are on their side. According to a phishing study conducted at North Carolina State University, 89% of participants claimed to be proficient at recognizing malicious emails. But when assessing whether an email was malicious or legitimate, 92% of study participants incorrectly classified at least some emails.

3. Monitor DNS Settings In Real Time

The SEA hacked the DNS settings for both the Times and Twitter, among other sites, yet Twitter emerged relatively unscathed. What was its secret? HD Moore, chief research officer at Rapid7, told Bloomberg that Twitter actively monitors its DNS settings and thus learned of the hack very quickly.

Ben April, a senior threat researcher at Trend Micro, said in a blog post that commercial monitoring services or even "a small shell-script" can do the job, but warned that neither of those approaches will prevent attacks, although "would have shortened the time to repair."

What exactly should businesses monitor? According to Dell SecureWorks' Counter Threat Unit (CTU) research team, watch "for changes to registration information and DNS resolution to IP addresses" on all business-critical domains.

 

Recommended Reading:

Previous
1 of 2
Next
Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
David F. Carr
50%
50%
David F. Carr,
User Rank: Apprentice
8/30/2013 | 1:23:15 PM
re: Lessons Learned From N.Y. Times Hack Attack
Is there something website operators can do to get visibility into all the subcontractor relationships between different organizations involved in the management and maintenance of DNS records? Seems like simplifying the chain of command might be one way to minimize the chance of problems like this.
COVID-19: Latest Security News & Commentary
Dark Reading Staff 7/13/2020
Omdia Research Launches Page on Dark Reading
Tim Wilson, Editor in Chief, Dark Reading 7/9/2020
Russian Cyber Gang 'Cosmic Lynx' Focuses on Email Fraud
Kelly Sheridan, Staff Editor, Dark Reading,  7/7/2020
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Video
Cartoon
Current Issue
Special Report: Computing's New Normal, a Dark Reading Perspective
This special report examines how IT security organizations have adapted to the "new normal" of computing and what the long-term effects will be. Read it and get a unique set of perspectives on issues ranging from new threats & vulnerabilities as a result of remote working to how enterprise security strategy will be affected long term.
Flash Poll
The Threat from the Internetand What Your Organization Can Do About It
The Threat from the Internetand What Your Organization Can Do About It
This report describes some of the latest attacks and threats emanating from the Internet, as well as advice and tips on how your organization can mitigate those threats before they affect your business. Download it today!
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2020-14300
PUBLISHED: 2020-07-13
The docker packages version docker-1.13.1-108.git4ef4b30.el7 as released for Red Hat Enterprise Linux 7 Extras via RHBA-2020:0053 (https://access.redhat.com/errata/RHBA-2020:0053) included an incorrect version of runc that was missing multiple bug and security fixes. One of the fixes regressed in th...
CVE-2020-14298
PUBLISHED: 2020-07-13
The version of docker as released for Red Hat Enterprise Linux 7 Extras via RHBA-2020:0053 advisory included an incorrect version of runc missing the fix for CVE-2019-5736, which was previously fixed via RHSA-2019:0304. This issue could allow a malicious or compromised container to compromise the co...
CVE-2020-15050
PUBLISHED: 2020-07-13
An issue was discovered in the Video Extension in Suprema BioStar 2 before 2.8.2. Remote attackers can read arbitrary files from the server via Directory Traversal.
CVE-2020-10987
PUBLISHED: 2020-07-13
The goform/setUsbUnload endpoint of Tenda AC15 AC1900 version 15.03.05.19 allows remote attackers to execute arbitrary system commands via the deviceName POST parameter.
CVE-2020-10988
PUBLISHED: 2020-07-13
A hard-coded telnet credential in the tenda_login binary of Tenda AC15 AC1900 version 15.03.05.19 allows unauthenticated remote attackers to start a telnetd service on the device.