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Tuesday, 22 October 2019 10:09

VPN provider NordVPN suffers breach through third-party data centre Featured

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VPN provider NordVPN suffers breach through third-party data centre Image by Stefan Coders from Pixabay

Virtual private network provider NordVPN has suffered an embarrassment, with one of the data centres in Finland it was using having been infiltrated in March 2018 through what it said was "an insecure remote management system".

An unidentified security researcher pointed to the breach, indicating that an expired private key had been exposed, meaning that someone else could masquerade as NordVPN.

Another unidentified researcher tweeted that two other VPN providers, VikingVPN and TorGuard — which has no connection to the Tor browser — had also been compromised.

In a blog post on Monday, the company's blog editor Daniel Markuson did not name the data centre provider in Finland.

NordVPN does not keep logs and therefore could not ascertain the credentials that had been used to gain entry.

"The server itself did not contain any user activity logs; none of our applications send user-created credentials for authentication, so usernames and passwords couldn’t have been intercepted either," Markuson said.

"The exact configuration file found on the Internet by security researchers ceased to exist on 5 March 2018. This was an isolated case, and no other data centre providers we use have been affected."

Markuson said the data centre operator had noticed the vulnerability and had deleted the remote management account but had not informed NordVPN about it.

"The expired TLS key was taken at the same time the data centre was exploited," he said.

"However, the key couldn’t possibly have been used to decrypt the VPN traffic of any other server.

"On the same note, the only possible way to abuse website traffic was by performing a personalised and complicated MiTM attack to intercept a single connection that tried to access nordvpn.com."

Markuson said that NordVPN was not trying to play down the severity of the incident. "Even though only 1 of more than 3000 servers we had at the time was affected, we are not trying to undermine the severity of the issue," he wrote.

"We failed by contracting an unreliable server provider and should have done better to ensure the security of our customers."

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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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