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.

Security Management //


04:13 PM
Larry Loeb
Larry Loeb
Larry Loeb

Who Is Phoning Home on Your Firm's Dime?

ExtraHop customers in 2018 and the first weeks of 2019 took a look at some third-party supplied enterprise software's behavior and were not pleased when it would, unannounced, call home for its creators.

ExtraHop customers in 2018 and the first weeks of 2019 took a look at some third-party supplied enterprise software's behavior and were not pleased when it would, unannounced, call home for its creators. ExtraHop took a further look and wrote a report about it. In its report, ExtraHop develops four case studies of how this sort of thing happens.

The first case study involves a financial services provider. The ExtraHop trainer that was at the organization noticed that domain controllers were shipping data to a public cloud instance. The customer's immediate reaction was said to be "that's not possible." However, domain controllers were definitely sending SSL traffic outbound to 50 different public cloud endpoints.

A glance at the underlying certificate for the client/server session revealed another well-known vendor was phoning data home to a cloud storage instance in vendor-owned IP space. The financial services company had evaluated the vendor's product months earlier but didn't buy it. All vendor connections were supposed to have terminated when the proof of concept (POC) ended, but it's evident that outbound traffic had continued for at least two months. The problem had a root cause in the vendor's actions, not the service provider.

A hospital located in the Western United States had the same sort of problem. They were trying to install a a medical device management product that manages phones and tablets when they found out the product was opening encrypted SSL:443 connections to vendor-owned cloud storage. But because the hospital was subject to HIPAA regulations an incident such as this (an unknown data leak of unknown duration that could involve personally identifiable information) typically requires significant documentation, as well as incident response and cleanup.

A large multinational food services company realized that approximately every 30 minutes, a network-connected device was sending UDP traffic out to a known bad IP address. The device turned out to be a Chinese-manufactured security camera. It was probably independently installed by an employee at their office for perceived personal security purposes. It goes to show how a well-known consumer brand can expose an enterprise's network to risk.

Working with a large financial services institution in the US Midwest, ExtraHop found a large volume of outbound traffic headed from the customer's US datacenter to the United Kingdom. It turned out to be due to a security technology vendor that was also in a POC in the same time frame.The customer was unaware that any data was leaving their environment. Because the data was crossing geographic and political boundaries, it could be prosecuted if not done properly under data compliance regimes like the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act (GLBA) and GDPR.

The point of all this is simple, really. An organization's daily business may expose it to security risks that it is totally unaware of. Those risks may result from exfiltration of data, or other data transmissions that have been established without an organization's knowledge. It's an unknown that has to be trapped by an organization through review of what is happening, not what the organization wants to be happening.

So, monitor all vendor activity even if they are supposed to be off the network. Keep looking for rogue data transmissions, regardless of who is making them. Above all, create a security regimen that will be deep enough to be effective but still flexible enough to be routinely used.

— Larry Loeb has written for many of the last century's major "dead tree" computer magazines, having been, among other things, a consulting editor for BYTE magazine and senior editor for the launch of WebWeek.

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
COVID-19: Latest Security News & Commentary
Dark Reading Staff 9/21/2020
Hacking Yourself: Marie Moe and Pacemaker Security
Gary McGraw Ph.D., Co-founder Berryville Institute of Machine Learning,  9/21/2020
Startup Aims to Map and Track All the IT and Security Things
Kelly Jackson Higgins, Executive Editor at Dark Reading,  9/22/2020
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Current Issue
Special Report: Computing's New Normal
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
How IT Security Organizations are Attacking the Cybersecurity Problem
How IT Security Organizations are Attacking the Cybersecurity Problem
The COVID-19 pandemic turned the world -- and enterprise computing -- on end. Here's a look at how cybersecurity teams are retrenching their defense strategies, rebuilding their teams, and selecting new technologies to stop the oncoming rise of online attacks.
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
PUBLISHED: 2020-09-24
vm/opcodes.c in JerryScript 2.2.0 allows attackers to hijack the flow of control by controlling a register.
PUBLISHED: 2020-09-24
PrestaShop from version and before version is vulnerable to a blind SQL Injection attack in the Catalog Product edition page with location parameter. The problem is fixed in
PUBLISHED: 2020-09-24
In PrestaShop from version and before version, users are allowed to send compromised files. These attachments allowed people to input malicious JavaScript which triggered an XSS payload. The problem is fixed in version
PUBLISHED: 2020-09-24
ActFax Version 7.10 Build 0335 (2020-05-25) is susceptible to a privilege escalation vulnerability due to insecure folder permissions on %PROGRAMFILES%\ActiveFax\Client\, %PROGRAMFILES%\ActiveFax\Install\ and %PROGRAMFILES%\ActiveFax\Terminal\. The folder permissions allow "Full Control" t...
PUBLISHED: 2020-09-24
Improper directory permissions in the Hotspot Shield VPN client software for Windows 10.3.0 and earlier may allow an authorized user to potentially enable escalation of privilege via local access. The vulnerability allows a local user to corrupt system files: a local user can create a specially craf...