A hacker using the handle "USDoD" has reportedly stolen contact information on more than 80,000 members of an FBI-run program called InfraGard and put the information up for sale on an English-speaking Dark Web forum.
The information the hacker accessed from InfraGard's database appears to be fairly basic and in some cases does not even include an email address, according to KrebsOnSecurity, which first reported on the incident this week. But the information belongs to CISOs, security directors, IT and C-suite executives, healthcare professionals, emergency managers, and law enforcement and military personnel directly responsible for protecting US critical infrastructure.
A Potentially Valuable Asset
As such, the stolen data represents a valuable asset for adversaries, says former InfraGard member Chris Pierson, currently CEO of BlackCloak, an online privacy-protection service for top executives and corporate leaders.
"The InfraGard database of contacts is a big win for any intelligence agency or nation-state to possess," Pierson says. The compromised data is nowhere close in sensitivity compared to major breaches such as the one that the US Office of Personnel Management (OPM) disclosed in 2015. Still, it is very practical and easy to use from an attacker's perspective, he says.
"While much of the information may be public or publicly available, the condensing of this information into the key people who run our nation's critical infrastructure is immensely valuable," Pierson notes. Personal addresses, personal cell phones, and easy access to which members possess a security clearance are all key pieces of data for an adversary to have, he says.
The FBI describes InfraGard as an initiative to bolster the nation's collective ability to defend against physical and cyber threats to critical infrastructure targets. It basically connects the FBI directly with critical infrastructure owners, operators, and security stakeholders. Its members include key security personnel and decision-makers from all 16 US civilian critical infrastructure sectors.
According to KrebsOnSecurity, the hacker "USDoD" gained access to the InfraGard database by first applying for a new account using the name, date of birth, and Social Security number of a chief executive officer at a large financial services company. The hacker apparently applied for InfraGard membership in November and provided an attacker-controlled email address and the actual phone number of the CEO, as contact information.
An Opsec Lapse?
Though InfraGard was supposed to have vetted that information, they never did and instead approved the application based on the information that the hacker had provided, KrebsOnSecurity reported. Similarly, though accessing InfraGard's portal requires two-factor authentication, the hacker found he could use the email address as a second factor instead — thereby obviating the need for access to the real CEO's phone.
Once on the portal, the attacker discovered that InfraGard user information could be relatively easily accessed via an API built into several components on the website, KrebsOnSecurity said, citing a direct conversation with the attacker. The hacker then apparently got a friend to code a Python query for retrieving all available InfaGard member information via the API. KrebsOnSecurity quoted the attacker as setting an asking price of $50,000 for the stolen dataset, but not really expecting any buyers at that price because of the basic nature of the information.
InfraGard member Will Carson, director of IT and cybersecurity at Cybrary, expressed frustration over the incident. “As an InfraGard member, it certainly isn't great to hear your information may have been disclosed from a news outlet before you hear from the impacted organization," he said in a statement responding to the news. He expressed disappointment over being unable to log into his InfraGard account after the apparent breach.
"Although I have full faith InfraGard leadership has a stronger grasp of the facts than I do from the outside, the radio silence to date makes me uneasy as a potentially impacted professional," he says.
The FBI did not immediately respond to a Dark Reading request for comment submitted via email to its press office.