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.

Vulnerabilities / Threats

9/28/2017
10:30 AM
Nick Deshpande
Nick Deshpande
Commentary
Connect Directly
Twitter
LinkedIn
RSS
E-Mail vvv
50%
50%

Equihax: Identifying & Wrangling Vulnerabilities

Now that we know what was taken from Equifax, how it was taken, and what is being sold, what more do we need to learn before the next time?

Equifax recently confirmed that the vulnerability responsible for the massive breach of 143 million records was indeed for the ApacheStruts 2 Web framework, but not CVE-2017-9805 as was initially circulated. Rather, CVE-2017-5638, which could enable an attacker to perform a remote code execution using malicious content in the absence of suitable security measures, has been pinpointed as the flaw that permitted access to the yet-to-be identified actors. CVE-2017-9805 is certainly worthy of our attention: until last week, it was essentially a zero day with exploits available in the wild.

The bug was first found in March, and a patch has been available since its discovery. In essence, Equifax could have been working to address the shortcomings and protect the personal information of millions using publicly available information approximately two months before the breach occurred. For reasons yet unknown, it did not. As a result, millions of Americans are scrambling to find out if they have been breached and to protect their information from being used for identity theft.

On the other hand, Equifax is facing federal scrutiny and a massive hit to its reputation and consumer trust. The firm's top information security executives — its CIO and chief security officer — have departed the company following what's being called one of the worst breaches in US history.

What happened at Equifax, and how can organizations patch their systems and improve their security posture to prevent breaches of this magnitude in the future?

Let's start with what happened: The data exfiltrated between May to July 2017 included names, Social Security numbers (SSNs), dates of birth, and "other information," according to Equifax. That data may now be for sale. Security blogger Krypt3ia found a listing on the Dark Web (shown in the image below) ostensibly placed by the Equifax hackers offering records for sale in return for digital currency. The listing includes some samples of the data in the form of screenshots. How much are the records worth? Four Bitcoins would net you 1 million entries; at today's rate, that’s approximately $13,840. It's unclear if the purchaser could specify what type of entries they could acquire, as an SSN would certainly command more money than dates of birth on secondary markets.

The listing is very disconcerting. Until recently, we were aware of the breach's grand scale and some rough order of magnitude in terms of the number of records: 143 million in comparison to the Yahoo hack, which included more, but arguably less-sensitive, records. Seeing records — and the personal identifiable information of individuals — is sobering. For those engaged in threat modeling, the price points provide a marker by which to assess the value of such records in underground markets, although both wallets appeared to be empty at the time of writing.

Vulnerabilities Matter but Do Not Stop Business
We can elicit a number of lessons from this event. In response to Equifax's disclosure of the Struts2 bug, the Apache Software Foundation released
some cogent guidance to those using any Web framework. As always, Brian Krebs has provided practical advice to those who may have been affected by the breach. Gartner's Strategic Planning Assumptions are also worth repeating here:

  • Through 2021, the single most impactful enterprise activity to improve security will be patching.
  • Through 2021, the second most impactful enterprise activity to improve security will be removing Web server vulnerabilities.

This incident highlights the importance of a multilayer application security strategy. Firstly, it is absolutely critical to patch systems in a timely fashion. Had Equifax had an effective, multilayered application security strategy that includes the underlying infrastructure, middleware, application, and edge, the company likely would have prevented the intrusion or caught it much sooner. Appropriate data governance also could have diminished the scale of exposure of sensitive data: an understanding of what kind of records are in their possession, their classification, how long they can be kept for, and the security that must be applied to safeguard them accordingly appears to have been elusive.

A mature security regime requires organizations to implement a combination of technical vulnerability management processes and the ability to deploy effective security controls — including compensating controls when patches cannot be deployed in a timely manner.

Web applications and services (like APIs) represent critical business drivers as well as an exposed attack surface for a growing number of organizations. That attack surface can be reduced by properly hardening infrastructure and middleware, using up-to-date frameworks, and defeating attacks at the edge of the network: a Web application firewall, a security control that proxies all Internet traffic while applying a security posture to block traffic deemed malicious or unauthorized, is a highly effective control when properly configured. This year's Verizon Data Breach Investigations Report confirms that Web application attacks lead the pack with respect to breaches, with botnet activity bolstering that number considerably.

Hackers tend to view the human user as a path of least resistance, but that calculus changes considerably when vulnerabilities are discovered in technologies. Today's time-to-exploit has become relatively shorter as security expertise proliferates, even if the number of publicly available exploits is dropping.

Don't give attackers a window of opportunity! Vulnerabilities don’t need to slow down or stop business operations. Deploying patches is absolutely imperative to maintain a strong security posture, but the process can be disruptive or complex, especially for legacy systems, making additional security measures — acting as compensating controls — necessary to provide suitable defenses to maintain exploitable systems while patches are deployed.

Related Content:

Join Dark Reading LIVE for two days of practical cyber defense discussions. Learn from the industry’s most knowledgeable IT security experts. Check out the INsecurity agenda here.

Nick Deshpande, CISSP, is the vice president of product development at Zenedge, where he combines his passions for user experience and security. He's a graduate of the Royal Military College of Canada and American Military University. View Full Bio
 

Recommended Reading:

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
COVID-19: Latest Security News & Commentary
Dark Reading Staff 7/1/2020
Ripple20 Threatens Increasingly Connected Medical Devices
Kelly Sheridan, Staff Editor, Dark Reading,  6/30/2020
DDoS Attacks Jump 542% from Q4 2019 to Q1 2020
Dark Reading Staff 6/30/2020
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Video
Cartoon
Current Issue
The Threat from the Internet--and 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!
Flash Poll
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2020-15478
PUBLISHED: 2020-07-01
The Journal theme before 3.1.0 for OpenCart allows exposure of sensitive data via SQL errors.
CVE-2020-6261
PUBLISHED: 2020-07-01
SAP Solution Manager (Trace Analysis), version 7.20, allows an attacker to perform a log injection into the trace file, due to Incomplete XML Validation. The readability of the trace file is impaired.
CVE-2020-15471
PUBLISHED: 2020-07-01
In nDPI through 3.2, the packet parsing code is vulnerable to a heap-based buffer over-read in ndpi_parse_packet_line_info in lib/ndpi_main.c.
CVE-2020-15472
PUBLISHED: 2020-07-01
In nDPI through 3.2, the H.323 dissector is vulnerable to a heap-based buffer over-read in ndpi_search_h323 in lib/protocols/h323.c, as demonstrated by a payload packet length that is too short.
CVE-2020-15473
PUBLISHED: 2020-07-01
In nDPI through 3.2, the OpenVPN dissector is vulnerable to a heap-based buffer over-read in ndpi_search_openvpn in lib/protocols/openvpn.c.