Researchers: Flaws In Vendor Security Software Could Leave Some Federal Buildings Vulnerable

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Poor credential management could let bad actors enter secure buildings, lock doors and download or change federal employee and contractor data.

Researchers at cybersecurity firm Tenable have discovered a number of previously unknown vulnerabilities in the access control systems of an ID card manufacturer and service provider used by federal agencies, including the Executive Office of the President.

Tenable researchers announced Monday they had found several weaknesses in the control system used by IDenticard, called PremiSys, which if exploited could allow an unauthorized person to gain access to secure buildings and disable locks, as well as exfiltrate user data or otherwise modify accounts using administrator privileges.

According to a blog posted Monday, the PremiSys system uses hardcoded usernames and passwords for administrator credentials that cannot be changed by the customers. The system also uses default usernames and passwords for database access, which the users can only change by sending preferred passwords to IDenticard, an additional step that some might not take, opting instead to leave the default credentials in place.

“These known credentials can be used by attackers to access the sensitive contents of the databases,” the blog states.

Tenable researchers reached out to IDenticard, per the firm’s vulnerability disclosure process, but didn’t receive a response until after Tenable published its finding.

“At IDenticard, we pride ourselves in listening and responding to our customers. Regrettably, we overlooked the communication attempts from Tenable,” the company told Nextgov in a statement Wednesday. “This is unacceptable for us and we are currently reviewing our inbound communication practices to ensure it does not happen in the future. We have reached out to Tenable to engage in further dialogue.”

The company said it is incorporating these issues in upcoming software updates and will inform customers on its progress.

“It’s unconscionable in 2019 for any company to be shipping products with default, hardcoded passwords that can’t be changed,” Jeremy Grant, former senior executive adviser for the National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace and current managing director of technology business strategy at Venable, told Nextgov after reviewing Tenable’s post. “It’s especially awful for any company in the security business to be doing this.”

Grant said there are two ways this could affect federal agency customers, depending on what services IDenticard is providing. If the agency is merely contracting with the company to print badges, then the risk appears to be limited to potential exposure of employee and contractor data. However, if an agency uses the full suite of IDenticard services, including the PremiSys control system, a bad actor could get full access to secure federal buildings.

He also noted an additional threat if those services are connected to the internet or otherwise available through the cloud, allowing remote access.

Either way, “more than 80 percent of breaches each year happen specifically because of compromised credentials,” Grant said. “If you’re in the security business and haven’t put mitigations in place to address the number one vector of attacks—that’s very concerning.”

Software and service offerings appear to be a minor part—approximately 10 percent—of IDenticard’s federal business, according to data compiled by big data and analytics firm Govini. From 2011 to the end of fiscal 2018, the Justice Department and the Army were the biggest customers, though the Army has not issued any new awards to the vendor since fiscal 2017.

In 2017, OPM took over as the largest federal customer for IDenticard with a “large purchase of credential supplies” totaling about $56,000, according to Govini research, which included card stock, laminated pouches and other supplies but not necessarily software and ongoing services.

Since fiscal 2014, nine agencies have contracted with IDenticard for software and services including PremiSys for a total of $73,000 over the last four years. Those agencies include the General Services Administration, Executive Office of the President, Navy, Army, Environmental Protection Agency, and the Labor, Veterans Affairs, Interior and Health and Human Services departments.

Govini researchers note that some fiscal 2018 data might be underreported, as well, as agencies can delay reporting for sensitive security issues.

“IDenticard PremiSys customers who have questions about how this report may impact them are encouraged to contact us right away,” the company said in its statement, noting the exposure will vary depending on how agencies have configured the software.