Earlier this year, Tesla’s Cloud was hijacked and used to mine cryptocurrency, exploiting a vulnerability in the company’s Kubernetes cluster. A mountain of FedEx data was recently exposed, affecting 119,000 individuals. The Equifax breach garnered international attention after an estimated 145.5 million Americans were jeopardized. In other news, we’ve reported on how the Vine Docker registry fiasco was hacked, leaving an embarrassing PR trail in its wake.
What is common across all these scenarios? They arguably could have been avoided with basic safeguards underpinned by a healthy dose of DecSecOps. In hindsight, let’s see what specific strategies developers can adopt to avoid such horrendous leaks.
Basic DevSecOps Can Prevent Vulnerabilities
DevSecOps is described as placing security at the forefront of every action. Within the world of cloud tooling, this means instilling protection at every point of the build life cycle. You would think this equates to advanced container and orchestration security, powerful access management and establishing hardened oversight for internal applications, right? Actually, many modern exploits simply involve a lack of basic password protection.
Case Study No. 1: Tesla Cloud Cryptojacking
In mid–2018, Tesla’s Amazon servers were hijacked by malware and used to mine cryptocurrency for rogue agents. Similar cryptojacking has transpired at Gemalto, Aviva and others. According to RedLock’s report, the hackers infiltrated the Kubernetes console, which was not password-protected. In one pod, they found access credentials to Tesla’s AWS environment. The breach exposed sensitive telemetry data, though was limited to “internally used engineering test cars only,” according to Tesla.
How to Prevent
Password protection for Kubernetes administrative consoles is a readily apparent lesson here. All cloud accounts, even if used internally, must be better-equipped and access credentials sequestered. Surely, instilling a “security by design” mentality can help limit the number of such consoles left accessible.
Case Study No. 2: Vine Registry Breach
In 2016 a white hacker by the alias avicoder was able to infiltrate Vine, the video-sharing social network. The hacker used tools to discover subdomains and behind one—
https://docker.vineapp.com—found an open Docker private registry that housed the Vine source code. Such a vulnerability could have been used to collect user details or inject malware for malicious purposes. Thankfully, no users were compromised, and the Twitter Bug bounty program awarded avicoder a handsome sum for the discovery.
How to Prevent
In this particular incident, there was nothing at fault with Docker or Docker containers. The service (which was meant to be private) was simply left public and devoid of access controls. The lesson is that URLs on the world wide web are just that—publicly exposed to the world. It does not matter if no documentation links to them; such subdomains are easy to discover with crawlers and will be exploited if found.
Case Study No. 3: Equifax Exploits
In the Equifax breach, millions of customer records were stolen. The Equifax report notes that hackers exploited a “website application vulnerability.” Further reports detailed that the 2017 breach utilized flaws in Apache Struts, likely through a zero-day exploit, according to the Apache Struts Project Management Committee.
How to Prevent
Some note that the deserialization of untrusted data inherent in Apache Struts applications leaves some major vulnerabilities and potentially malicious code execution.
Containers, due to their short lifespan, are not persistent, therefore making consistent hacking harder. They can also isolate functionalities so as to decrease attack vector. Regarding the Equifax breach, Aquasec speculates that container usage could have lessened the impact:
“… it’s likely that such a breach would have been more difficult with containers, and that if successful, it would have been less persistent, not as widespread, and mitigated sooner.”
Some view containers as a formidable force if armed with behavioral analysis and firewalls for network connections. Still, others note flaws in assuming containers are safer.
Regardless of architecture, In DevSecOps, security for customer data isn’t drafted into the background; rather, it is imbued into the entire tooling process and holds equal footing within each build.
Instilling a DevSecOps Culture
Instead of a build-now, secure-later attitude, DevSecOps seeks to elevate security into every decision. With each build, security is melded with greater forethought regarding the repercussions for how data is treated.
Admin consoles for Kubernetes clusters must be armed and password-protected, and the same goes for private GitHub repositories or Docker registries. Any traversal of data through cloud SaaS services must have authorization in place. A most obvious lesson is to password protect those “hidden” registries with discoverable URLs.
Bounty programs for white hackers continue to lead to successful bug detection. At least for these institutions, there is less evidence of compromised user data and remediation is quickened.
Much of this can be distilled by due diligence and through breeding a culture of security. While that’s a little fluffy for some, it apparently still requires repeating for institutions that continually de-privilege these basic safeguards.