Just another week in ThreatWatch, our regularly updated index of noteworthy data breaches.
In case you missed our coverage this week in ThreatWatch, Nextgov’s regularly updated index of cyber breaches:
The Illinois State Board of Elections online voter registration has been hacked.
“The attackers took advantage of a programming flaw in the website’s database," The Hill explains. The attack, known as a ‘SQL injection,’ occurs in databases using the SQL programming language."
Unless properly configured, SQL databases can be tricked into running commands entered by any website visitor.
The attack on the statewide Illinois Voter Registration System occurred July 12, and the system was shut off July 13 as a precaution once the board realized the severity of the attack.
The registration database is a frequent target of cyberattacks, said Ken Menzel, the board’s general counsel, but “this is the first time that we’re aware of that anybody’s gotten into anything -- not for lack of trying.”
A statement from Kyle Thomas, director of the board’s voting and registration systems division, says the board believes the attack was the work of foreign hackers.
Board officials are in the process of determining the number of records exposed and the names of all the individuals affected.
Officials have no evidence the attackers added, changed or deleted any information in the database. Efforts to extract voter signature images and voter histories were not successful.
Incident cleanup has caused online voting outages for about a week.
The correspondence of a programmer for a top-tier ISIS web forum has been compromised.
On July 17, an independent researcher known as “Switched” tweeted content from a data dump that allegedly contained messages belonging to Abu Alaaina Khorasani, who is an administrator of the “Shumukh al Islam” website. Shumukh al Islam, or “Glory of Islam,” regularly hosts official ISIS propaganda.
The hacker apparently broke into the account to prove his worth to the administrators. Before the leak, he had asked for a position in the forum as its “tech guy.”
“He posted as the admin that he was one of the brothers, 'but if you don't do as I say, I'll dump the [database],’” Switched told Motherboard.
It’s not totally clear how the account was hacked. Switched tweeted message screenshots that suggest part of the gambit involved a phishing email attempt.
Laith Alkhouri, the director of research and analysis for the Middle East and North Africa at security firm Flashpoint, said Khorasani has been an administrator on the forum since around 2009 or 2010.
The breach "shows that the myth of a highly secure jihadi underground, is exactly that: It's a myth,” he said.
Alkhouri said he was able to authenticate some of the names dumped, and said they all appear to be members of Shumukh al Islam. The messages deal with the conflict between ISIS and al-Quaida supporters, the procedures around obtaining new members for the forum and other correspondence with current members.
Motherboard notes, "A small number of messages also appear to have been encrypted with Asrar al-Mujahideen, a custom jihadi encryption program similar to PGP."
Immediately after the leak became public, the forum went down, “under repair,” Alkhouri noted.
The workplace ratings website sent out an email announcing it had changed its terms of service, but instead of blindly copying recipients, Glassdoor pasted their addresses in the clear.
The error was inadvertent and because of a technical glitch, company spokeswoman Samantha Zupan said. She declined to elaborate further.
Each recipient was able to see the email addresses of 999 other Glassdoor users.
The company sent out the message to multiple sets of users, 1,000 at a time, Zupan said. Ultimately, the messages exposed the addresses of more than 2 percent of the company’s users, she said.
Last month, the company said it had some 30 million monthly active users, meaning more than 600,000 were affected by the exposure.
“Among those affected by the gaffe was Larry Karson, an assistant professor of criminal justice at the University of Houston-Downtown. Karson, who’s used Glassdoor for about 18 months, was outraged his and other email addresses were exposed. But he was even more upset that when he tried to contact the company about the problem, no one picked up the phone or quickly responded to his message,” Silicon Beat reports.
The breach was disclosed after someone claimed to have a copy of the database behind UbuntuForums.org, a discussion group for users of the popular Linux distribution.
An investigation revealed an attacker indeed did obtain access to the website’s user records through a software flaw.
The SQL injection flaw was located in the Forum Runner add-on for vBulletin, widely used web forum software that powers more than 100,000 community websites on the internet. The vulnerability was known and publicized, but the company that builds Ubuntu, Canonical, had failed to apply the patch.
“The attacker had the ability to inject certain formatted SQL to the Forums database on the Forums database servers,” Canonical's security team said in a blog post. “This gave them the ability to read from any table, but we believe they only ever read from the ‘user’ table.”
The user table contained usernames, email addresses and internet protocol addresses for 2 million users.
Although the community relied on Ubuntu's single sign-on service, the passwords were hashed and salted. The encryption technique turned them into randomized strings of data. But the company's disclosure notice did not say which hashing algorithm was used -- some algorithms, like MD5, can be easily cracked.
The company announced the security incident on its website July 15.
"While there is no immediate danger to Ubuntu Forums accounts, users should be wary of potential spam and phishing emails that might attempt to distribute malware," PCWorld reports. "Attackers typically launch such attacks following large data breaches, since they can take advantage of known relationships between users and the compromised websites."