Research has shown that people with the GG genotype are able to quickly learn from their mistakes. We are starting the “Cybersecurity GG Genotype” blog series where we will analyze breaches and provide prescriptive guidelines on how to avoid becoming a victim.
On May 31st, OneLogin reported an attack on their AWS cloud infrastructure. In this blog, we have analyzed the incident based on the statements provided by OneLogin and suggested best practices to avoid these issues.
Let us begin with some background information on Amazon Web Services (AWS) keys - what are they and why do they matter? AWS keys are associated with an AWS IAM account and are generated as a pair - AWS access key and AWS secret key. Conceptually, the AWS access key is similar to a username and the AWS secret key is similar to a password. In this specific instance, the attacker acquired the pair which implies that he or she can now perform actions permitted for that account.
The question that arises is how the attacker may have acquired these credentials. The OneLogin blog is light on details but we can assume that one of the following two things happened:
The key takeaway here is that the attacker was able to use the stolen access keys from an untrusted IP address range, assuming that OneLogin did not have a trust relationship with the “smaller service provider” in the US.
Restrict the use of AWS access keys and accounts to your trusted networks. If this is not possible, monitor the geolocation of the IP addresses making administrative changes to your environment and investigate any anomalous activity.
This is a bit perplexing - we are not sure why the attacker had to create instances to do reconnaissance. However, the key observation here is that the stolen access keys were associated with a user account or role with elevated privileges that allowed the attacker to launch instances.
Most likely, either the attacker obtained access to the database credentials or he or she used the master password reset functionality provided by AWS.
Review permissions assigned to access keys, security groups, NACLs, etc. You will mostly likely find cases where elevated permissions were assigned for a specific purpose but were not revoked after.
It appears that it took OneLogin seven hours to detect the attack. We are not sure if this is due to the unavailability of staff during non-business hours, or if it took seven hours for their monitoring systems to detect the issue. Either way, the attacker had a free pass to the environment for seven hours and which is plenty of time to perform malicious activity.
Invest in a tool that provides detailed context on the issue so that you can detect issues faster. Many tools generate alerts with very little context. For example, an alert that notifies you when a large number of instances are created is not sufficient. It could be a false positive caused by an auto-scaling system that spins up instances on-demand.
A more helpful alert would be the following:
User “prod-db-back-up” just launched 3 instances (i-123,i-456,i-789) in the us-east-1 region from a previously unknown location (Wichita,Kansas,USA) and these instances are connected to following internet IPs 18.104.22.168:53,22.214.171.124:53
For a tool to be able to generate a contextual alert such as the one above, it must correlate configuration, user activity, and network traffic data.