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

// // //
08:05 AM
Scott Ferguson
Scott Ferguson
News Analysis-Security Now

Yale's Decade-Old Data Breach Shows Why Networks Need More Monitoring

This week, Yale University revealed one of its databases was breached nearly 10 years ago, demonstrating why corporate networks demand constant monitoring and testing.

This week, Yale University revealed one of the school's databases was breached nearly a decade ago, affecting an unknown number of alumni, professors and staff.

After going unobserved since at least January 2009, the Ivy League school's IT staff finally detected the breach during a vulnerabilities test in June 2018. At that time, system admins noticed a log that indicated a breach occurred sometime between 2008 and 2009.

The breached database included names, Social Security numbers and dates of birth. Yale also found the database stored some email addresses, as well as physical addresses.

Due to the length of time between the breach and its discovery, Yale does not know the perpetrator's identity -- it's doubtful the person or persons will ever be known -- or the full scope of the attack, according to a July 31 statement posted on its website.

(Source: Flickr)
(Source: Flickr)

In fact, the school also disclosed it had purged personal information from the database in 2011 -- but IT staff did not detect the breach at the time.

In its statement, Yale administrators noted they are trying to improve the school's overall IT infrastructure and security practices:

Yale has taken a number of important steps to prevent this type of intrusion. First, Yale stopped using Social Security numbers as routine identifiers in 2005, and we regularly seek to identify and delete unnecessary files with personal information. Second, Yale has placed strict limitations on the sharing of Social Security numbers within the University. Third, Yale is systematically testing its data center servers to identify possible vulnerabilities. It was that testing program that led us to discover the intrusion into your information.

The breach at Yale is one of several that have come to light lately, including recent disclosures from LabCorp and other large enterprises that personal data had been compromised. (See LabCorp Investigating Possible Attack & Data Breach.)

The fallout from the 2017 breach at Equifax, which remains under investigation and is still considered one of the largest in history, also remains at the forefront of the ongoing security debate. (See Second Equifax Employee Facing Insider Trading Charges.)

What makes the Yale breach unique is just how long it took to discover. While unusual, security experts believe incidents such as these are reasons why networks need more monitoring and testing -- and why responses should happen within minutes and hours, not months and certainly not years.

"Yale is one of many organizations that were breached long ago but failed to take immediate action," Anurag Kahol, CTO of security vendor Bitglass, told Security Now.

Zero in on the most attractive 5G NR deployment strategies, and take a look ahead to later technology developments and service innovations. Join us for the Deployment Strategies for 5G NR breakfast workshop in LA at MWCA on September 12. Register now to learn from and network with industry experts – communications service providers get in free!

"Unfortunately, countless more of these incidents have yet to be discovered," Kahol added. "While Yale hasn't disclosed much information around how the breach occurred, this event highlights the need for proactive security that is constantly, vigilantly monitoring data. As the era of the cloud marches onward, hackers will become more and more capable of stealing massive amounts of data in the blink of an eye. So, for unsuspecting organizations that lack adequate protections, the threat of data leakage will only increase."

Rick Moy, chief marketing officer at Acalvio, which makes detection and defense security tools, noted Yale started to do the right thing by conducting network tests that eventually detected the old breach. However, institutions must conduct more threat hunting exercises within their networks.

"It is prudent for organizations to periodically perform hunting exercises for active and past intruders, including hiring outside teams that go beyond the basic vulnerability assessment," Moy wrote in an email. "This can often just be a scan that ends up as a dust-collecting report."

Related posts:

— Scott Ferguson is the managing editor of Light Reading and the editor of Security Now. Follow him on Twitter @sferguson_LR.

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
I Smell a RAT! New Cybersecurity Threats for the Crypto Industry
David Trepp, Partner, IT Assurance with accounting and advisory firm BPM LLP,  7/9/2021
Attacks on Kaseya Servers Led to Ransomware in Less Than 2 Hours
Robert Lemos, Contributing Writer,  7/7/2021
It's in the Game (but It Shouldn't Be)
Tal Memran, Cybersecurity Expert, CYE,  7/9/2021
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Current Issue
Everything You Need to Know About DNS Attacks
It's important to understand DNS, potential attacks against it, and the tools and techniques required to defend DNS infrastructure. This report answers all the questions you were afraid to ask. Domain Name Service (DNS) is a critical part of any organization's digital infrastructure, but it's also one of the least understood. DNS is designed to be invisible to business professionals, IT stakeholders, and many security professionals, but DNS's threat surface is large and widely targeted. Attackers are causing a great deal of damage with an array of attacks such as denial of service, DNS cache poisoning, DNS hijackin, DNS tunneling, and DNS dangling. They are using DNS infrastructure to take control of inbound and outbound communications and preventing users from accessing the applications they are looking for. To stop attacks on DNS, security teams need to shore up the organization's security hygiene around DNS infrastructure, implement controls such as DNSSEC, and monitor DNS traffic
Flash Poll
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
PUBLISHED: 2023-05-26
Craft is a CMS for creating custom digital experiences. Cross site scripting (XSS) can be triggered by review volumes. This issue has been fixed in version 4.4.7.
PUBLISHED: 2023-05-26
Django-SES is a drop-in mail backend for Django. The django_ses library implements a mail backend for Django using AWS Simple Email Service. The library exports the `SESEventWebhookView class` intended to receive signed requests from AWS to handle email bounces, subscriptions, etc. These requests ar...
PUBLISHED: 2023-05-26
Highlight is an open source, full-stack monitoring platform. Highlight may record passwords on customer deployments when a password html input is switched to `type="text"` via a javascript "Show Password" button. This differs from the expected behavior which always obfuscates `ty...
PUBLISHED: 2023-05-26
Craft is a CMS for creating custom digital experiences on the web.The platform does not filter input and encode output in Quick Post validation error message, which can deliver an XSS payload. Old CVE fixed the XSS in label HTML but didn’t fix it when clicking save. This issue was...
PUBLISHED: 2023-05-26
GDSDB infinite loop in Wireshark 4.0.0 to 4.0.5 and 3.6.0 to 3.6.13 allows denial of service via packet injection or crafted capture file