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Equifax and Beyond: How Can the Loss of 100 Million+ Records Go Undetected?

Equifax and Beyond: How Can the Loss of 100 Million+ Records Go Undetected?

September 14, 2017 | Eva Hanscom

Equifax, Yahoo!, Friend Finder Networks.

At first glance, these companies appear unrelated. However, each organization has been the victim of a data breach that involved the loss of over 100 million records. During the aftermath of breaches that result in the theft of massive amounts of data, many people wonder how cyber criminals could exfiltrate so much data without being detected.

Unfortunately, cyber criminals have become quite adept at using our most powerful security solutions against us. From hiding in encryption to issuing their own fraudulent certificates, attackers understand how to use encrypted

Sadly, many organizations are not actively examining their encrypted traffic to catch nefarious actors. According to a recent Venafi survey, nearly a quarter (23%) of security professionals don’t know how much of their encrypted traffic is decrypted and inspected. Cyber criminals can easily take advantage of this blind spot. For example, A10 Networks recently found that 41% of cyber attacks use encryption to evade detection and this percentage is only expected to grow.

Despite their lack of active inspection, organizations often display overconfidence in their ability to detect a breach. The 2017 Mandiant M-Trends report stated that the average time it takes to detect a cyber attack is 99 days, but 41% of security professionals believe they can detect and respond to a cyber attack hidden in encrypted traffic within one week. Additionally, 20% believe they can detect and respond to a cyber attack within one day.

When you combine overconfidence with a lack of cohesive action, it’s easier to understand how even companies with large security investments suffer breaches regularly. Nefarious actors know where sensitive data can be found and they can export I through encrypted tunnels t without being noticing. And while encryption is used to keep data safe, accessing encrypted tunnels may not pose much of a problem for many attackers.

For example, during the aftermath of the first Yahoo! Data breach, Venafi Labs discovered that 27% of the certificates on external Yahoo! websites had not been reissued after the breach. Replacing certificates after a breach is a critical mitigation practice; unless certificates are replaced, breached organizations cannot be certain that attackers do not have ongoing access to encrypted communications.

These statistics may seem depressing, but luckily there are steps every organization can take to protect themselves that will prevent undetected data exfiltration.

First, organizations should focus on implementing centralized intelligence and systems that can revoke, replace, renew and rotate keys and certificates automatically. This will ensure their security tools will maintain a continuously updated list of all the relevant keys and certificates an organization needs to inspect encrypted traffic. By knowing which keys and certificates they can trust, and by integrating this data into security tools, security professionals can finally shine a light into the encrypted tunnels cyber criminals are so fond of misusing.

In addition, businesses should invest in technologies like Certificate Reputation to identify machines using malicious or rogue certificates. These tools use data from Certificate Transparency logs, along with analytics and machine learning, to score certificates. Certificate Reputation services also help enterprises identify certificates issued in their own name, whether they’re purchased on the inside by marketing or obtained fraudulently by cyber criminals.

Unfortunately, we should expect more massive data breaches in the future. But with the proper technology and inspections, many organizations can defend their encrypted traffic to help keep their customer records from being exfiltrated by attackers.

If cyber criminals steal your business’s records, will you notice?

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About the author

Eva Hanscom
Eva Hanscom

Eva Hanscom writes for Venafi's blog and is an expert in machine identity protection.

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