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Nearly 15 Million People Impacted by ElasticSearch Misconfiguration

 

Cybersecurity researchers at Website Planet have unearthed two misconfigured ElasticSearch servers owned by an anonymous organization using open-source data analytics software developed by SnowPlow Analytics, a London-based software vendor. 

The software allows entities to gather and examine information about their websites’ users apparently without their knowledge. It is worth noting that a web analytics tool can collect versatile data metrics. The collected information is then used for designing an extensive, detailed profile for site visitors.

According to researchers, both servers were unencrypted and required no password authorization. The unsecured servers exposed 359,019,902 records, nearly 579.4 GB of data. The exposed servers contained detailed logs of website user traffic — information that belongs to users of various websites collecting data with the open-source technology, including the following. 

• Referrer page 
• Timestamp IP 
• Geolocation data 
• Web page visited 
• User-agent data of website visitors 

The servers contained user information collected over two months in 2021. The first server contained data from September 2021 with 242,728,328 records or 389.7 GB of data gathered between September 2nd, 2021, and October 1st, 2021. 

The second server contained December 2021 data featuring 116,291,574 records or 189.7 GB of data collected between December 1st, 2021, and December 27th, 2021. Nearly 4 to 100 records of users appear on the two servers, and given that there are multiple logs for each user, this exposure might affect at least 15 million people, the researchers added. 

It is worth noting that the compromised data could have been accessed by anyone with eyes, and included geolocation and IP addresses. Additionally, the servers were live and actively updating new information at the time when they were discovered. However, neither ElasticSearch nor SnowPlow Analytics is responsible for this exposure because the company that owns the misconfigured servers is at fault. 

The data leak might have a far-reaching impact because users worldwide are affected by this exposure. However, it is unclear whether the servers were accessed by a third party with malicious intent or not. Fortunately, both exposed servers were secured after Website Planet sent alerts to concerned authorities.

To secure the data, users can employ Virtual Private Network (VPN) which hides the online activity and IP address, making the user anonymous to on-site tracking and cookies. People can also use the Tor browser to access the internet anonymously and maintain their data privacy.

Misconfigured Apache Airflow Servers Expose Thousands of Credentials

 

Researchers from the security firm Intezer uncovered a slew of misconfigured Apache Airflow servers that were exposing sensitive information, including credentials, from a number of IT organizations. 

Apache Airflow is an open-source workflow management software that is used by numerous businesses across the world to automate business and IT activities. 

The post published by Intezer stated, “These unsecured instances expose sensitive information of companies across the media, finance, manufacturing, information technology (IT), biotech, e-commerce, health, energy, cybersecurity, and transportation industries. In the vulnerable Airflows, we see exposed credentials for popular platforms and services such as Slack, PayPal, AWS and more.” 

Researchers examined the dangers of misconfiguration for companies and their customers, as well as the most frequent reasons for data leakage from vulnerable cases. According to Intezer researchers, the majority of the stolen credentials are disclosed due to unsafe coding techniques, with many of the compromised instances having hardcoded passwords inside the Python DAG Code. 

Other misconfigured installations examined by Intezer included a publicly available configuration file (airflow.cfg) containing confidential information such as passwords and keys. 

Malicious actors may potentially alter the settings, resulting in unforeseen behaviour. Other misconfigured installations examined by Intezer included a publicly available configuration file (airflow.cfg) containing confidential information such as passwords and keys.  

Threat actors may also alter the settings, resulting in unforeseen behaviour. The credentials might likewise be exposed via the Airflow "variables" used in DAG scripts. 

As per experts,  it is quite common to find hardcoded passwords stored in these variables. Threat actors could also exploit Airflow plugins or features to execute malware that could be injected into variables. 

“There is also the possibility that Airflow plugins or features can be abused to run malicious code. An example of how an attacker can abuse a native “Variables” feature in Airflow is if any code or images placed in the variables form is used to build evaluated code strings.” 

“Variables are able to be edited by any visiting user which means that malicious code could be injected. One entity we observed was using variables to store internal container image names to execute. These container image variables could be edited and swapped out with an image containing and running unauthorized or malicious code.” 

The research focused on earlier versions of Apache Airflow and emphasised the hazards associated with using out-of-date software. The majority of the problems highlighted in the study were affected servers using Airflow v1.x; however, subsequent versions of Airflow incorporate security measures that address the aforementioned concerns. 

“In light of the major changes made in version 2, it is strongly recommended to update the version of all Airflow instances to the latest version. Make sure that only authorized users can connect.” concludes the report. “Exposing customer information can also lead to violation of data protection laws and the possibility of legal action.” 

The security firm advised, "Disruption of clients' operations through poor cybersecurity practices can also result in legal action such as class action lawsuits."

Cloud Misconfiguration is Still the Leading Source of Cloud Data Violations

 

Almost everybody by now is workings from home and 84 percent are worried that new security vulnerabilities have been generated with the quick move towards 100 percent remote working. 

Cloud service providers built their administration panels' user interface purposefully to mislead consumers and charge for more services than originally intended. 

Although it was never demonstrated as a systematic business strategy, reports and alerts of a data breach have overwhelmed the internet in recent years since a cloud-based database has indeed been misconfigured and confidential information ultimately leaked. 

Throughout the past month, Censys, a security company that specializes in census-like inspections on the internet, looked closely at the cloud-based services, hoping to uncover what the best potential origin of misconfiguration might be for cloud-based businesses. As per the study, Censys has found over 1.93 million cloud server databases that have been displayed publicly without even any firewall or other authentication measures. The security company arguments that threat actors will discover and target these databases utilizing older vulnerability exploits. In addition, if the database was unintentionally leaked, it could also use a weak or even no password at all, disclosing it to all those who have detected its IP address. 

Censys reported having been used to scan MySQL, Postgres, Redis, MSSQL, MongoDB, Elasticsearch, Memcached, and Oracle and that nearly 60 percent of all disclosed servers were MySQL databases which represent 1.15 million of the 1.93 million overall exposed DBs. 

The security agency also searched to find ports that could also be exposed by clouds service as they are normally used for remote management applications like SSH, RDP, VNC, SMB, Telnet, Team Viewer, and PC Anywhere. Censys retained that access to all these remote managing port must not be easily discovered but rather secured by Access Control Lists, VPN tunnel, or other traffic filtering solutions, although the underlying cause of these applications is that the systems can be remotely logged into. 

Another very significant discovery was indeed the virtual exposure of the RDP login screens by more than 1.93 million servers. 

Microsoft and several others have also indicated that many violations of security have also been caused by attackers obtaining access to an enterprise through compromised RDP credentials. Which included attacks on a broad range of actors, including DDoS botnets, crypto mining activities, ransomware gangs, and government-funded actors. 

Most organizations do not operate internally with just one cloud services provider infrastructure, but instead use several solutions, many of which might not have the same access or default settings, allowing several systems to become accessible even though IT personnel are not supposed to do so. While some cloud providers have taken measures to improve their dashboards and to clarify how those controls operate, the wording of each cloud provider is still substantially different, and some system administrators are still often confused. 

Censys said, “it expects the issue of misconfigured services to remain a big problem for companies going forward.”

33.4 Billion Records Exposed In Breaches Due To Cloud Misconfigurations?


With the rise in the number of records ‘exposed’ by cloud misconfigurations year after year from 2018 to 2019 by 80%, there is an evident ascent in the total cost to organizations related with those lost records. As organizations keep on embracing cloud services quite swiftly however they neglect to implement legitimate cloud security measures, sadly, specialists anticipate that this upward trend would remain.


Charles “C.J.” Spallitta, Chief Product Officer at eSentire says, “The rush to adopt cloud services has created new opportunities for attackers – and attackers are evolving faster than companies can protect themselves. The fact that we have seen a 42% increase from 2018 to 2019 in cloud-related breaches attributed to misconfiguration issues proves that attackers are leveraging the opportunity to exploit cloud environments that are not sufficiently hardened. This trend is expected to continue as more organizations move to the cloud,”

“Additionally, common misconfiguration errors that occur in cloud components expand and advance the attacker workflow. Real-time threat monitoring in cloud assets is critical, given the unprecedented rate of scale and nature of cloud services. Organizations should seek-out security services that distill the noise from on-premise and cloud-based security tools while providing broad visibility to enable rapid response when threats are found,” Spallitta concluded.


Key report findings: 
  1. 81 breaches in 2018; 115 in 2019 – a 42% increase
  2. Tech companies had the most data breaches at 41%, followed by healthcare at 20%, and government at 10%; hospitality, finance, retail, education, and business services all came in at under 10% each
  3. 68% of the affected companies were founded prior to 2010, while only 6.6% were founded in 2015 or later
  4. 73 (nearly 42%) of known affected companies experienced a merger or acquisition (M&A) transaction between 2015 and 2019, which indicates cloud security is an area of risk for companies involved in merging disparate IT environments
  5. Elasticsearch misconfigurations accounted for 20% of all breaches, but these incidents accounted for 44% of all records exposed
  6. The number of breaches caused by Elasticsearch misconfigurations nearly tripled from 2018 to 2019
  7. S3 bucket misconfigurations accounted for 16% of all breaches, however, there were 45% fewer misconfigured S3 servers in 2019 compared to 2018 
  8. MongoDB misconfigurations accounted for 12% of all incidents, and the number of misconfigured MongoDB instances nearly doubled YoY