Friday, March 18, 2011

RSA Hacked by Advanced Persistent Threat (APT)

In the wake of the most highly coveted cyber security conference in the world - The RSA Conference, RSA has reported that they have been the victim to a highly sophisticated cyber attack. RSA, the world's leader in security products and solutions, utilized by countless customers worldwide to secure their business operations, stated in a open letter to customers that it had been infiltrated by a Advanced Persistent Threat (APT). Letter by Art Coviello, Executive Chairman.

APT's are highly skilled individuals who target the victim in various means in highly sophisticated mannerisms and have possible links to nation states. These actors attempt to gain access to the data inside the organization without being detected, presumably for the purpose of intelligence collection and potentially establishing a foothold within the network for destructive or deceptive operations.

The letter states that certain information was extracted from RSA's secure network and that some of the information was specifically related to RSA's SecurID two-factor authentication products. While the letter does state that RSA believes that the information extracted does not enable a successful direct attack on any RSA SecurID customers, the letter did not elaborate on the risk of information stolen which was not related to RSA's SecurID products.

SecurID is a two-factor authentication product allowing more robust authentication's through a requirement for something you know to be added to something you have. In this case your username and password is something you know, while the code provided on the display of your SecurID is something you have. With SecurID an attacker could obtain your username and password but still would not be able to gain access to the system as they would not have the rotating code displayed on the SecurID which is in your possession. If there was a way for the attacker to know the rotating code without having possession, it would pose a significant risk to the mission-critical data and applications that leverage SecurID.

RSA is confident that the information stolen alone does not enable a successful direct attack on any of their RSA SecurID customers. They do go on to state that this information could potentially be used to reduce the effectiveness of a current two-factor authentication implementation as part of a broader attack. Reading between the lines, are they saying that this information makes SecurID ineffective without compromising username and password? If so, I think it's safe to assume that without the protection of SecurID, hundreds or thousands of companies and government agencies could be vulnerable to attack.

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