Anonymous hack of intell company Stratfor was all too easy

The breach of credit card and other data shows that too many organizations still ignore the basics, exposing themselves to serious, if low-level, threats.

The year 2011 ended much like it began, with a high-profile breach by the hacktivist gadflies at Anonymous, who broke into the systems of the intelligence analysis company Strategic Forecasting, stole a lot of personally identifiable information, including credit card account data, and posted it online.

“We are currently investigating this unfortunate event and are working diligently to prevent it from ever happening again,” Stratfor said on its Web homepage.

Except for that notice, the website is down pending a security review and the company is communicating primarily via Twitter and Facebook. The embarrassment of this development is compounded for the company by the level of hostility evidenced in many of the replies to these postings. “Dont **** with the internet, its not only anonymous that hate STRATFOR [sic],” said one fairly typical response.


Related stories:

Army warns of ID theft from Stratfor hack

2011: The year of the breach


Just how the breach was accomplished is not yet clear, but one thing is fairly certain: It need not have happened.

Anonymous is an amorphous group with no fixed membership or agenda, so it is hard to say just what it is. But one thing it has never claimed to be is sophisticated. Its hacks for the most part have used exploits of known vulnerabilities, picking the low-hanging fruit from organizations that should have known better.

To use a hackneyed sports analogy, no matter how good you are, you will not be successful if you do not concentrate first on the basics of blocking and tackling — and avoiding turnovers.

This is sadly lacking in many organizations. Countless small organizations that consider themselves too unimportant to warrant a hacker’s attentions rely on security through obscurity. This is a dangerous gamble. Other organizations that should know better, such as Stratfor as well as the U.S. Senate and the CIA before it, for some reason have not done the basic job of clearing up the obvious weaknesses that can allow easy entrance.

Some of the very public attacks in the past year have been largely cosmetic, consisting of defacements and rummaging through files that are not particularly sensitive. But even these can carry a high price in cleanup and in damage to reputation.

For an organization such as Stratfor, engaged in security and intelligence analysis, the breach is doubly damaging, not even considering the credit card information it managed to lose.

Cleaning up known vulnerabilities and protecting against known exploits and threats will not ensure complete cybersecurity. As other events of the past year have shown, there is a real and ongoing danger from more sophisticated attacks such as advanced persistent threats that are not easily spotted and stopped. But even APTs will take the easy way into a system if one is available, turning to zero-day exploits only when necessary.

Paying attention to the basics and making sure that known, easy-to-exploit vulnerabilities are corrected or defended against is a necessary first step to adequate cybersecurity. It will raise the stakes for the bad guys by increasing the amount of effort needed to break in. It will reduce the attack surface as well as the number of attacks you really have to worry about.

This is not to say taking care of the basics is easy. It can be tedious and expensive and can distract IT teams from other priorities, and when the job is finished there still will be plenty of more vulnerabilities to worry about. But in the long run it is necessary if you expect to have any credibility.

 

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.