Welcome!

Log Management Authors: Dana Gardner, Pat Romanski, Elizabeth White, David H Deans, Carmen Gonzalez

Related Topics: @CloudExpo, Cloud Security, @DXWorldExpo

@CloudExpo: Article

Equifax Is an Enron Moment | @CloudExpo #AI #DX #SDN #Cybersecurity

What makes this specific breach even more damaging is the type of the stolen data

Equifax Is an Enron Moment, But Not the Way You May Think

Enron changed how U.S. public companies audit and report their financial data. There is also an opportunity to use the Equifax data breach to create a framework for better protection of our data in future.

The credit reporting agency reported one of the largest data breaches in the history. Hackers were able to steal sensitive information from its internal servers. The stolen data include name, Social Security Number (SSN), date of birth, and also credit card numbers and driver license numbers in some cases. A massive breach like this can haunt the victims for years to come.

What makes this specific breach even more damaging is the type of the stolen data. If someone steals your credit card number, you call your bank and get a new card hopefully before the hacker is able to make use of the stolen card. But, if a hacker gets your date of birth, good luck trying to change it. In fact, thieves are known to sit idle for months waiting for increased awareness after the breach to subside before hitting the underground market with stolen SSN and dates of birth. If you are one of the 143 million people affected by this breach, get used to the feeling of being haunted. Hackers may use stolen data tomorrow or in multiple years from now. They have all the data needed to reset bank passwords, access health records, open credit card accounts on your behalf, etc. You will never know when or how they will misuse your data.

Equifax has been less than forthcoming in describing how the hackers were able to get to the most sensitive data. Baird Equity Research attributes the breach to a flaw in Apache Struts, one of the most popular software for developing Java-based web applications. A new vulnerability was reported recently in Apache Struts that allows hackers to remotely run arbitrary commands on the server. It's conceivable and even probable that either this vulnerability or another one like it was used for this hack. What's troubling is these vulnerabilities have existed for long time but were identified and mitigated only recently. Such vulnerabilities provide hackers enough time to target organizations with prized data and steal the data for nefarious use.

Albert Einstein is credited with the saying that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results. If we, as a society, are to get better at protecting our most critical data, we have to try something new. Obviously, the law enforcement agencies will be spending a good amount of time reviewing Equifax's security processes, response, and the unfortunate timing of their executives trading stocks. However, this data breach is just one of the many, and while it looks pretty jarring, there is this uncanny feeling there is worse to come.

Some have argued for not using SSN as a means of identification. SSN was designed to track income and not a way to identify or authenticate people. However, such a move misses the big picture. SSN is one of the sensitive pieces of information we have, but as past breaches have taught us there are plenty more - date of birth, passwords, health record, employment history, etc. How are doing to protect them? We need a method to protect all sensitive data. Fortunately, technology can now offer such a required solution and with a little bit of public help, we can make meaningful progress in stopping the incessant data thefts.

One approach to preventing some of these mega breaches, including Equifax, is an innovative use of encryption. Encryption already secures data at rest. For example, if you use self-encrypting hard drives, or Microsoft Bitlocker, you are securing your data using encryption when it's sitting idle. Similarly, encryption secures your data in transit. When you connect to your bank website using your browser or mobile phone application, Transport Layer Security (TLS) protects data as it moves from you to the bank servers. When the banks provide the data to Equifax, they also use TLS. However, once the data is used by Equifax, it's decrypted and exposed. The exposed data works like a magnet for hackers and they try all possible vulnerabilities to find and steal the exposed data. In the case of Equifax, Apache Struts provided the path for the hackers to connect to the exposed data.

Encryption during runtime keeps data encrypted when applications are using the data. This allows organizations to limit access to data to the actual business logic running on the server. Had Equifax encrypted data during runtime, even with vulnerable Apache Struts hackers would have accessed only encrypted data which they wouldn't be able to decipher. Encryption during runtime understands that hackers will always be able to use vulnerable applications to connect to the servers. The best strategy is to ensure that even when this happens, the data we care about remains encrypted and therefore undecipherable to hackers.

Encryption during runtime is certainly not a panacea and cannot protect from all threats. For example, if the business logic itself is vulnerable, the data could still be compromised. However, it protects the data from all vulnerabilities that are found in code other than the business logic. An approach that combines encryption with best practices in developing secure applications can reach new limits in securing data.

When the Enron scandal was reported in 2001, the Congress legislated the Sarbanes-Oxley Act that increased audit requirements and made it harder for companies to fudge their financial numbers. It has been effective in avoiding another Enron-like scandal. If you don't want to see a repeat of the Equifax data breach, a good place to start may be with your congressman. Ask him or her to strengthen data breach laws and to require organizations to disclose how they protect your data in use. Disclosure of the internal security practices along with regulatory requirements can create a virtuous cycle where the most secure organizations are rewarded with more business. No bank would dare to operate their website without TLS today. Otherwise regulators, customers, security analysts, social media, etc., all will publicly punish and shame them. We need encryption during runtime for processing sensitive data.

More Stories By Ambuj Kumar

Ambuj Kumar is CEO and Co-founder of Fortanix. Prior to founding Fortanix, he was lead architect at Cryptography Research Inc. where he led and developed many of the company's security technologies that go into millions of devices every year. Previously, he worked for NVIDIA where he designed the world's most advanced computer chips including the world's fastest memory controller. He has a Bachelor of Technology from IIT Kanpur and an MS from Stanford University, both in EE.

Comments (0)

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.


IoT & Smart Cities Stories
Cloud-enabled transformation has evolved from cost saving measure to business innovation strategy -- one that combines the cloud with cognitive capabilities to drive market disruption. Learn how you can achieve the insight and agility you need to gain a competitive advantage. Industry-acclaimed CTO and cloud expert, Shankar Kalyana presents. Only the most exceptional IBMers are appointed with the rare distinction of IBM Fellow, the highest technical honor in the company. Shankar has also receive...
DXWorldEXPO LLC announced today that ICOHOLDER named "Media Sponsor" of Miami Blockchain Event by FinTechEXPO. ICOHOLDER gives detailed information and help the community to invest in the trusty projects. Miami Blockchain Event by FinTechEXPO has opened its Call for Papers. The two-day event will present 20 top Blockchain experts. All speaking inquiries which covers the following information can be submitted by email to [email protected] Miami Blockchain Event by FinTechEXPOalso offers sp...
Headquartered in Plainsboro, NJ, Synametrics Technologies has provided IT professionals and computer systems developers since 1997. Based on the success of their initial product offerings (WinSQL and DeltaCopy), the company continues to create and hone innovative products that help its customers get more from their computer applications, databases and infrastructure. To date, over one million users around the world have chosen Synametrics solutions to help power their accelerated business or per...
DXWordEXPO New York 2018, colocated with CloudEXPO New York 2018 will be held November 11-13, 2018, in New York City and will bring together Cloud Computing, FinTech and Blockchain, Digital Transformation, Big Data, Internet of Things, DevOps, AI, Machine Learning and WebRTC to one location.
@DevOpsSummit at Cloud Expo, taking place November 12-13 in New York City, NY, is co-located with 22nd international CloudEXPO | first international DXWorldEXPO and will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. The widespread success of cloud computing is driving the DevOps revolution in enterprise IT. Now as never before, development teams must communicate and collaborate in a dynamic, 24/7/365 environment. There is no time t...
When talking IoT we often focus on the devices, the sensors, the hardware itself. The new smart appliances, the new smart or self-driving cars (which are amalgamations of many ‘things'). When we are looking at the world of IoT, we should take a step back, look at the big picture. What value are these devices providing. IoT is not about the devices, its about the data consumed and generated. The devices are tools, mechanisms, conduits. This paper discusses the considerations when dealing with the...
Charles Araujo is an industry analyst, internationally recognized authority on the Digital Enterprise and author of The Quantum Age of IT: Why Everything You Know About IT is About to Change. As Principal Analyst with Intellyx, he writes, speaks and advises organizations on how to navigate through this time of disruption. He is also the founder of The Institute for Digital Transformation and a sought after keynote speaker. He has been a regular contributor to both InformationWeek and CIO Insight...
Digital Transformation is much more than a buzzword. The radical shift to digital mechanisms for almost every process is evident across all industries and verticals. This is often especially true in financial services, where the legacy environment is many times unable to keep up with the rapidly shifting demands of the consumer. The constant pressure to provide complete, omnichannel delivery of customer-facing solutions to meet both regulatory and customer demands is putting enormous pressure on...
Machine learning has taken residence at our cities' cores and now we can finally have "smart cities." Cities are a collection of buildings made to provide the structure and safety necessary for people to function, create and survive. Buildings are a pool of ever-changing performance data from large automated systems such as heating and cooling to the people that live and work within them. Through machine learning, buildings can optimize performance, reduce costs, and improve occupant comfort by ...
SYS-CON Events announced today that IoT Global Network has been named “Media Sponsor” of SYS-CON's @ThingsExpo, which will take place on June 6–8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. The IoT Global Network is a platform where you can connect with industry experts and network across the IoT community to build the successful IoT business of the future.