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A recently disclosed data leak impacts around 700,000 AmEx India customers, exposing Personally Identifiable Information (PII) like Names, Emails & Telephone numbers. This leak highlights the perils of Shadow IT, and why organizations should look into building a continuous digital risk monitoring program. Here’s a brief on what you need to know:
An unprotected MongoDB instance, containing nearly 3 Million records, of which roughly 700,00 were unencrypted, containing PII like Name, Email, Phone numbers etc.
As per Bob Diachenko, from Hacken, who discovered the leak on 23rd October : “Files hosted on the AmEx India website (links to which were also included in the exposed database) contained detailed unencrypted information on hundreds of thousands of AmEx customers, incl. names, mobile phones, and PANcard numbers.”
Lax security practices by one of Amex’s vendors handling SEO or Lead Generation was highlighted as probable cause by Bob, who mentions: “Upon closer examination, I am inclined to believe that the database was not managed by AmEx itself but instead by one their subcontractors who were responsible for SEO or lead generation. I came to this conclusion since many of the entries contained fields such as ‘campaignID’, ‘prequalstatus’ and ‘leadID’ etc.” . The vendor remains unidentified so far.
The leak was discovered using publicly accessible IoT search engines like Shodan and BinaryEdge. Based on queries on the IoT search engines, Bob was able to identify exposed MongoDB server running on public IP, containing data which appeared to belong to Amex, and was later confirmed through manual analysis. The data was indexed at least 5 days prior to discovery.
Misconfigured, publicly accessible IT infrastructure leaking sensitive data has become a common occurrence, and has led to a number of leaks in the past, including ones impacting Verizon Wireless, Booz Allen, Accenture etc. This infrastructure is often referred to as “Shadow IT”, i.e. IT infrastructure which might not be in IT’s radar, due to various reasons (e.g.: Marketing applications put up online without informing IT). Shadow IT infrastructure often also includes misconfigured cloud infrastructure which organizations might be using (e.g.: S3 Buckets), and may be managed by organization’s vendors (like in the case of Amex).
Get a Complete Understanding of Organizations Digital Attack Surface: Most organizations do not have a complete view of their digital attack surface. Common gaps include an incomplete list of domains, subdomains, Server / IPs, IoT, 3rd Party Services etc. A single unsecured server can lead to a catastrophic breach.
Continuously Monitor for Digital Risks: Digital assets go online and offline on a continuous basis. Digital assets need to be continuously monitored to minimize window of exposure. In the era of DevOps, organization should have complete visibility on a near real-time basis on what assets are getting exposed.
Include Vendors as Part of Digital Risk Monitoring: Organizations often neglect vendors from the purview of security monitoring, often relying on questionnaire-based assessments, which is grossly insufficient. Progressive organizations are leveraging OSINT (Open Source Intelligence) to monitor their vendors, and minimize the risks.
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