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.

Operational Security

01:42 PM
Simon Marshall
Simon Marshall
Simon Marshall

Deloitte Hack Still Has More Questions Than Answers

The huge hack of global accounting firm Deloitte is still presenting more questions than answers for security professionals.

Two days after an email admin security weakness was first reported, Deloitte is still not saying much about it. Nothing has been posted on the Deloitte Website and the public's righteous thirst for information goes unquenched. As a PR operation, it sucks. As an attack that could apparently have been easily prevented, it's a disaster.

Coming within two weeks of revelations about unsecured Equifax consumer data, the Deloitte problem seems to be on a smaller numerical scale, but the market value of the exposed data is unknown. Equifax exposed the private consumer information of about 143 million people in the US and the UK. In what little Deloitte has said, it quantifies its data loss to information it holds of about six clients. Data exposure was apparently caused by theft and exploitation of super-user admin authentication details for an email platform -- which looks like it could easily have been avoided.

Two-factor security -- or the lack of it -- seems to be behind the relative ease of ingress as an attack gained access to confidential email information including text and attachments. Reportedly, data containing email addresses, usernames, passwords, IP addresses, architectural diagrams for businesses and health information may have been exposed by Deloitte adversaries. The extent is as-yet unknown, but given that Deloitte is suspected to have discovered the intrusion as early as October 2016, observers are questioning the scale of the breach versus public disclosure to date.

"Deloitte should have hired Deloitte," Ajit Sancheti, co-founder and CEO at Preempt Security, told SecurityNow referring to Deloitte's renowned cybersecurity consultancy business. "They seem to have had a laissez faire attitude to security. Even though they teach best security practice to their clients, they just didn't employ it internally. In this case, somehow, they allowed access to private credentials because there was no multifactor security [present]."

He speculates that when Deloitte first discovered the exploit in 2016, they thought it was a small enough incident to comfortably handle internally. But then it became bigger, and they've struggled to offer enough actionable information to clients without risking losing them.

"It's very difficult for them to be able to do that," said Sancheti. "Have they shown that they have done enough to operate within best practice here? That's still not clear to me. If Deloitte was compromised, did anyone actually see that at the time?" To date it's unclear how long the intrusion went unnoticed, or even if the intruder is still active in any capacity.

Deloitte is not being unfairly targeted for criticism. But many big enterprises are still tussling with security, and are not making good of it. That's not because they're unaware of the security risks, but because practically speaking, they are spending too much time triaging possible security concerns that require a solution. Hackers are probing everywhere, and... well, they might just be security fatigued and unable to make good decisions, like a climber snow-blinded on a mountain pass.

"In fairness, all large organizations are really struggling," Sanjeev Verma, founder and chairman of PreVeil told SecurityNow. Verma founded Airvana, the world's second-largest supplier of CDMA-based data infrastructure in 2000, and now he's back for another challenge. "The widespread security paradigm is perimeter defense, but that just doesn't work: companies continue to build walls around data, but no matter how tall they make the walls, people always find a way in."

Want to learn more about the tech and business cases for deploying virtualized solutions in the cable network? Join us in Denver on October 18 for Light Reading's Virtualizing the Cable Architecture event – a free breakfast panel at SCTE/ISBE's Cable-Tec Expo featuring speakers from Comcast and Charter.

Verma's firm has patented a new approach which follows his philosophy and assumes that servers, for example, will continue to be breached. PreVeil posits end-to-end encryption across the entire data lifecycle, so that servers never have access to unencrypted data. So, in theory, someone can set up a siege engine and storm the walls -- typically using brute-force, exploiting a vulnerability or targeting a super-user, as in the case of Deloitte. But all they get in PreVeil's new paradigm, is encrypted non-sequitur.

Recent attacks on apparently bulletproof institutions have the appearance of hacking individuals or groups wanting to make a point or running a vendetta; Deloitte may have become an "honor-target" because of the very cybersecurity practice it runs. Equifax may have been brought low by hackers interested in smearing the name of a company charged with large-scale security of intimate consumer data. CCleaner may have been targeted because the small PC cleanup utility was being acquired by security giant Avast.

"There will be more attacks and more panic. I guess we may know more [about motivations] in the next few weeks," said Sancheti.

Related posts:

— Simon Marshall, Technology Journalist, special to Security Now

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
COVID-19: Latest Security News & Commentary
Dark Reading Staff 8/3/2020
Pen Testers Who Got Arrested Doing Their Jobs Tell All
Kelly Jackson Higgins, Executive Editor at Dark Reading,  8/5/2020
New 'Nanodegree' Program Provides Hands-On Cybersecurity Training
Nicole Ferraro, Contributing Writer,  8/3/2020
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Cartoon Contest
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 Changing Face of Threat Intelligence
The Changing Face of Threat Intelligence
This special report takes a look at how enterprises are using threat intelligence, as well as emerging best practices for integrating threat intel into security operations and incident response. Download it today!
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
PUBLISHED: 2020-08-08
In JetBrains YouTrack before 2020.2.6881, the markdown parser could disclose hidden file existence.
PUBLISHED: 2020-08-08
In JetBrains YouTrack before 2020.2.6881, a user without permission is able to create an article draft.
PUBLISHED: 2020-08-08
JetBrains YouTrack before 2020.2.8873 is vulnerable to SSRF in the Workflow component.
PUBLISHED: 2020-08-08
In JetBrains Kotlin before 1.4.0, there is a script-cache privilege escalation vulnerability due to kotlin-main-kts cached scripts in the system temp directory, which is shared by all users by default.
PUBLISHED: 2020-08-08
In JetBrains TeamCity before 2020.1, users with the Modify Group permission can elevate other users' privileges.