Home Security Struts flaw may have been entry point for Equifax breach

Struts flaw may have been entry point for Equifax breach

Attackers who caused the data leak at American credit information provider Equifax, that led to the details of about 143 million being made public, are likely to have used a vulnerability in the Apache Struts Web application framework to gain entry.

The website Cyberscoop reported that a senior US government official had said the flaw used by the attackers was likely to be one disclosed in March.

Independent British security researcher Kevin Beaumont was the first to point that the March flaw was the likely entry point, tweeting about it on 8 September soon after news broke about the breach.

The Quartz website carried a misleading report on the same day, claiming that the entry point was a flaw that had been in the software for the past nine months and had been disclosed on 4 September. It later changed its report, saying that the vulnerability targeted was likely to be the one disclosed in March.

The Quartz claim caused a fair bit of angst, with even the Apache Software Foundation, under whose auspices Struts is developed, issuing a statement to refute the incorrect report.

Cyberscoop quoted the official who spoke to its reporter as saying: “I really do believe this is an inflection point. This just as big as Sony, as Target, as OPM."

In the wake of the breach, Equifax has waived fees until 21 November for those who want to freeze their credit.

The magnitude of the breach means that nearly half the adult population of the US may be at risk of having their personal detail such as dates of birth and Social Security numbers exposed.

Details of the March flaw were released by Cisco's Talos intelligence unit. The flaw was a remote code execution bug in the Jakarta Multipart parser of Struts. The RCE was possible when uploading files based on the parser.

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Sam Varghese

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A professional journalist with decades of experience, Sam for nine years used DOS and then Windows, which led him to start experimenting with GNU/Linux in 1998. Since then he has written widely about the use of both free and open source software, and the people behind the code. His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.