Attacks/Breaches

3/27/2017
04:30 PM
Connect Directly
Twitter
LinkedIn
Google+
RSS
E-Mail
50%
50%

FBI: Attackers Targeting Anonymous FTP Servers in Healthcare

The FBI warns medical and dental organizations of cybercriminals targeting anonymous FTP servers to steal personal health data.

The FBI has issued a warning that threat actors are going after anonymous File Transfer Protocol (FTP) servers associated with medical and dental organizations.

The goal of these attackers is to access protected health information (PHI) and personally identifiable information (PII). The anonymous FTP extension lets users authenticate to the server with a common username and no password, or a generic password or email address.

Because anyone can connect and look through these files, avoiding sensitive data has been the "standard guidance" for using anonymous FTP servers, says SANS Institute director John Pescatore.

"Make sure nothing but public information goes on that server, because anyone can read anything that goes on it," he cautions, noting how some businesses don't heed this advice. "In many organizations, that guidance has been ignored as an easy way to make information available to third parties."

Any unsecured server operating on a business network storing sensitive information can expose the organization to theft, the FBI explains in its warning. Threat actors can use anonymous FTP servers to steal and compromise users' personal health data.

There are several ways to do this, says Carson Sweet, CTO and co-founder of CloudPassage. Cybercriminals can add data to a fraudster database or sell it on the dark Web. They may also use it for blackmail, leveraging records with information patients wouldn't want made public, he says.

The vulnerability of FTP servers isn't a new problem, but it's still relevant to small healthcare practices. Many healthcare companies running these servers are organizations where security isn't top of mind, says Sweet. They buy personalized software from small vendors and use it for years.

"Small medical and dental practices don't want to change their technology often," he explains. "They end up with a proliferation; a long-term existence of poorly secured apps."

The feds crack down on large healthcare organizations using outdated technology, but smaller businesses tend to slip through the cracks. This is why they continue to use older sytsems and run the risk of their information being exposed and stolen, experts say.

Data theft isn't the only danger related to anonymous FTP servers, SANS' Pescatore notes. Companies also run the risk of cybercriminals storing malicious or incriminating content on their server. They can use this as the foundation for a ransomware attack, threatening to publicize their possession of this information unless they pay. A hacker could use an anonymous FTP server to store and sell pirated software, involving the business in selling stolen goods.

This threat is more difficult to detect than data theft, he continues. Firewalls or intrusion detection will reveal if cybercriminals are scanning for vulnerable FTP servers, but it's tougher to tell if they're implementing dangerous content.

"If they're putting dangerous material on your servers after that, it's hard to detect because companies invest in data loss prevention to look for information leaving the organization, not information coming in," he says.

While there were no details on what sparked this notification from the FBI, Pescatore notes it's likely related to a current case. "They're usually reactive in these warnings," he notes.

Both Pescatore and Sweet urge companies to turn off their anonymous FTP servers. Years ago businesses couldn't turn them off because they were still used in business processes, says Pescatore. Now, it's getting easier to make the switch.

"The trend of using an anonymous FTP server should have been eradicated a decade ago," Sweet emphasized. "It's not something we should see growing; it's something we should see shrinking."

The FBI recommends medical and dental organizations request their IT teams to check their networks for FTP servers running in anonymous mode. If the business has a legitimate reason for using an anonymous FTP server, admins should ensure it isn't storing PHI or PII.

Related Content:

Kelly Sheridan is the Staff Editor at Dark Reading, where she focuses on cybersecurity news and analysis. She is a business technology journalist who previously reported for InformationWeek, where she covered Microsoft, and Insurance & Technology, where she covered financial ... View Full Bio

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
ScottM092
50%
50%
ScottM092,
User Rank: Apprentice
4/7/2017 | 12:00:56 PM
Managing FTP - Anonymous Logon
ftpsentry.com offers a free audit that will locate all of your company's FTP servers and tell you which ones allow anonymous logon.
6 Security Trends for 2018/2019
Curtis Franklin Jr., Senior Editor at Dark Reading,  10/15/2018
6 Reasons Why Employees Violate Security Policies
Ericka Chickowski, Contributing Writer, Dark Reading,  10/16/2018
Getting Up to Speed with "Always-On SSL"
Tim Callan, Senior Fellow, Comodo CA,  10/18/2018
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Video
Cartoon
Latest Comment: Too funny!
Current Issue
Flash Poll
The Risk Management Struggle
The Risk Management Struggle
The majority of organizations are struggling to implement a risk-based approach to security even though risk reduction has become the primary metric for measuring the effectiveness of enterprise security strategies. Read the report and get more details today!
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2018-10839
PUBLISHED: 2018-10-16
Qemu emulator <= 3.0.0 built with the NE2000 NIC emulation support is vulnerable to an integer overflow, which could lead to buffer overflow issue. It could occur when receiving packets over the network. A user inside guest could use this flaw to crash the Qemu process resulting in DoS.
CVE-2018-13399
PUBLISHED: 2018-10-16
The Microsoft Windows Installer for Atlassian Fisheye and Crucible before version 4.6.1 allows local attackers to escalate privileges because of weak permissions on the installation directory.
CVE-2018-18381
PUBLISHED: 2018-10-16
Z-BlogPHP 1.5.2.1935 (Zero) has a stored XSS Vulnerability in zb_system/function/c_system_admin.php via the Content-Type header during the uploading of image attachments.
CVE-2018-18382
PUBLISHED: 2018-10-16
Advanced HRM 1.6 allows Remote Code Execution via PHP code in a .php file to the user/update-user-avatar URI, which can be accessed through an "Update Profile" "Change Picture" (aka user/edit-profile) action.
CVE-2018-18374
PUBLISHED: 2018-10-16
XSS exists in the MetInfo 6.1.2 admin/index.php page via the anyid parameter.