Security Market Segment LS
Friday, 20 December 2019 09:57

Honda North America left user data exposed on Web: researcher

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Honda North America left user data exposed on Web: researcher Image by StockSnap from Pixabay

A security researcher has discovered an unprotected Elasticsearch cluster containing 976 million records belonging to Honda North America, and accessible to anyone who has a Web browser.

Bob Diachenko said in a blog post that, by his estimates, there were about a million records about Honda owners and their vehicles. The company has said that there about 26,000 unique consumer-related records.

He said the database was first indexed on 4 December by the BinaryEdge search engine. Seven days later, Diachenko said he had found the data and alerted Honda's security team the following day.

On December 13, the server was shut down. 

"The records appear to have been exposed for over a week, which would have allowed malicious parties ample time to copy the data for their own purposes if they found it," Diachenko said.

The identifying information which was exposed included:

  • Full name;
  • Email address;
  • Phone number;
  • Mailing address;
  • Vehicle make and model;
  • Vehicle VIN number;
  • Agreement ID; and
  • Other service information.

The server also hosted some internal logs and maintenance records, he added.

Diachenko pointed out that Honda had suffered two major data leaks in the recent past. One, in 2010, led to the leaking of 2.2 million customer details of Honda and Acura owners in the US. This leak was caused by someone breaking into the database in question.

This year, Honda leaked about 40GB of employee data from a server that had been left open without any authentication needed to access it.

"Instead of user data, however, this database contained information about Honda’s security systems and networks, such as IP addresses, operating systems, and update logs. Analysts feared it would allow attackers to launch further attacks against the company," Diachenko said.

Commenting on the incident, Chris DeRamus, chief technology officer of the cloud security firm DivvyCloud, said: "Unfortunately, this isn’t the first time Honda left a database exposed without any protection. Earlier this year, Honda suffered a breach after it left another database open without password protection.

"Companies that manage consumer data are obligated to keep it secure. Suffering two incidents within the same year should signal to Honda that it is time to enact the proper security controls.

"The truth is that misconfigured databases have been one of the most common causes of breaches in the past year. However, the self-service nature of cloud means that users not familiar with security settings and best practices can easily create databases or alter configurations, which results in massive leaks of data, unbeknownst to them.

"Organisations need to transform their security strategies as they adopt cloud and implement automated security solutions that can detect misconfigurations and either alert the appropriate personnel of the issue so that it can be fixed or trigger an automated remediation.”

Stephan Chenette, co-founder and chief technology officer at security outfit AttackIQ, said: "Databases that hold personally identifiable information should be secure at all times. Throughout the course of 2019, we witnessed several companies make the simple mistake of leaving their database exposed with no password protection in place.

"Unfortunately, these incidents, including this one of more than a million records, could have easily been prevented if the impacted companies were continuously validating the efficacy of their security controls.

"Through this process, organisations would be able to identify controls that are overlapping in coverage, not configured correctly and even assets that are not protected. As a result, companies can ensure that their assets are defended against the latest attacker tactics, techniques and procedures and that any vulnerabilities are proactively remediated.”

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Sam Varghese

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Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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