Facebook exposed private photos from up to 6.8 million users to apps that weren’t supposed to see them, the company said today. These apps were authorized to see a limited set of users’ photos, but a bug allowed them to see pictures they weren’t granted access to. These included photos from people’s stories as well as photos that people uploaded but never posted (because Facebook saved a copy anyway).
The exposure occurred between September 12th and September 25th. Facebook toldTechCrunch that it discovered the breach on the 25th; it isn’t clear why the company waited until now to disclose it. (Perhaps it’s because the company was dealing with a separate and substantially larger breach that it also discovered on September 25th.)
Affected users will receive a notificationalerting them that their photos may have been exposed. Facebook also says it’ll be working with developers to delete copies of photos they weren’t supposed to access. In total, up to 1,500 apps from 876 different developers may have inappropriately accessed people’s pictures.
Facebook said the bug had to do with an error related to Facebook Login and its photos API, which allows developers to access Facebook photos within their own apps. All of the impacted users had logged into a third-party app using their Facebook accounts and granted them some degree of access to view their photos.
“We’re sorry this happened,” writes Tomer Bar, engineering director at Facebook. The disclosure comes exactly one day after Facebook opened a pop-up installation in New York to show people how “you can manage your privacy” on the site.
Facebook has been in hot water again and again this year over data breaches and exposures, most notably with Cambridge Analytica. In many cases, the problems haven’t been caused by hackers, but they have stemmed from issues within Facebook itself. The Cambridge Analytica breach happened because of Facebook’s lax oversight of developers and data sharing; today’s issue happened because of another breakdown in communication between Facebook and developers.
Google has already pledged to shut down Google+ over similar issues. Twice this year, the service exposed information inappropriately to developers.
Updated A US Congressional report outlining the breakdowns that led to the 2017 theft of 148 million personal records from Equifax has revealed a stunning catalog of failure.
The 96-page report (PDF) from the Committee of Oversight and Government Reform found that the 2017 network breach could have easily been prevented had the company taken basic security precautions.
“Equifax, however, failed to implement an adequate security program to protect this sensitive data,” the report reads.
“As a result, Equifax allowed one of the largest data breaches in US history. Such a breach was entirely preventable.”
The report noted some of the previously-disclosed details of the hack, including the expired SSL certificate that had disabled its intrusion detection system for 19 months and the Apache Struts patch that went uninstalled for two months because of that bad cert.
The report states that Equifax’s IT team did scan for unpatched Apache Struts code on its network. But it only checked the root directory, not the subdirectory that was home to the unpatched software. ®
Both issues were blamed for allowing an attacker to compromise the Equifax Automated Consumer Interview System and then spend weeks moving throughout the network to harvest personal records from other databases. It was only when the certificate was renewed that Equifax saw the massive amounts of data being copied from its servers and realized something was very wrong.
While those two specific issues were pinpointed as the source of the attack, the report finds that the intrusion was allowed to happen because the IT operation at Equifax had grown far too large far too fast, without a clear management structure or coherent policies across various departments.
Lousy IT security by design
“In 2005, former Equifax CEO Richard Smith embarked on an aggressive growth strategy, leading to the acquisition of multiple companies, IT systems, and data. While the acquisition strategy was successful for Equifax’s bottom line and stock price, this growth brought increasing complexity to Equifax’s IT systems, and expanded data security risks,” the committee found.
“In August 2017, three weeks before Equifax publicly announced the breach, Smith boasted Equifax was managing ‘almost 1,200 times’ the amount of data held in the Library of Congress every day.”
What’s more, the report notes that Equifax had been aware of these shortcomings for years, with internal audits that found problems in their software patching process back in 2015, and in both 2016 and 2017 a report from MSCI Inc. rated Equifax network security as a “zero out of ten.”
A 2015 audit found that ACIS, a Solaris environment that dated back to the 1970s, was not properly walled off from other databases, a fault that allowed the attackers to access dozens of systems they would not have otherwise been able to get to.
“Although the ACIS application required access to only three databases within the Equifax environment to perform its business function, the ACIS application was not segmented off from other, unrelated databases,” the report noted.
“As a result, the attackers used the application credentials to gain access to 48 unrelated databases outside of the ACIS environment.”
After the pwning of its servers was revealed Equifax blamed its woes on an IT staffer who hadn’t installed the Apache patch, and fired the person. The report makes it clear that there were many more people involved in Equifax’s failings than this one scapegoat.
To help prevent similar attacks from occurring, the report recommends a number of additional requirements for credit reporting agencies to tell people what information is being gathered, how it is stored, and who it is shared with. The report also suggests moving away from social security numbers as personal identifiers and recommends that companies in the finance and credit sectors be pushed to modernize their IT structure. ®
Updated to add
Equifax sent the following statement to The Register
“We are deeply disappointed that the Committee chose not to provide us with adequate time to review and respond to a 100-page report consisting of highly technical and important information,” the company said.
“During the few hours we were given to conduct a preliminary review before they released it yesterday, we identified significant inaccuracies and disagree with many of the factual findings. This is unfortunate and undermines our hope to assist the Committee in producing a credible and thorough public resource for those who wish to learn from our experience managing the 2017 cybersecurity incident.”
The credit biz has yet to identify what in the report is inaccurate.
With cyber-attacks rising all across the Caribbean, Andre Thomas, Chief Executive Officer of the CICCD- Caribbean Israel Centre For Cyber Defense, has advised the local authorities in Barbados and the region responsible for law enforcement and better legislation, to counter this issue.
He revealed yesterday that, “They’ve been major hacks recently in the last six weeks. There was a major hack in St. Maarten, another one in Guyana…. We’re aware of hacks taking place all over the region. And they’re mostly under-reported.”
However, Andre Thomas did not classify which entities came under this cyber-attack, but he did noted that this region is viewed as an easy target by cyber-criminals due to the inadequate cyber-security infrastructure.
While he expressed concern over the unwillingness to report such cyber-incidents, the CICCD official claimed that unsatisfactory training and legislative provisions were some of the reasons for the hindrances.
He added saying, “[Hacks] are under-reported because our law enforcement agencies, though very passionate and very willing to make a difference in this area, still have areas of development in terms of being able to deal with cyber-crime.
Most of the jurisdictions do not have cyber-crime legislation. Most of the police departments do not have forensic cyber detection capacity. There’s so much that has to be done.”
He promised and guaranteed the organization’s support to aid regional countered, especially since the General Data Protection Regulation that was introduced by the European Union will go into effect by the 25th of May, 2018.
Under this regulation, any organization or company will be held legally responsible if personal information that belongs to a business or an EU citizen gets stolen via a cyber-attack. Included in the specifications is a financial penalty which means that the entity would have to forfeit four percent of its inclusive turnover or be fined to a maximum of 20 million Euros.