What you should know about the RSA SecurID breach

RSA’s disclosure last Thursday that it has suffered a sophisticated cyberattack in which attackers obtained some type of information about RSA’s SecurID product for two-factor authentication is prompting a variety of suggestions in how customers should deal with the problem.

RSA Executive Chairman Art Coviello in a public statement says RSA was breached by a so-called Advanced Persistent Threat attack, a phrase often given to mean a stealthy and sometimes long-term attack (some would say by a foreign country or rival organization) aimed at obtaining valued corporate information, including customer data and intellectual property, such as source code.

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RSA has not yet divulged specifics about the APT attack of which it has found evidence and says it’s now interacting with customers of its SecurID product on the situation. But security analysts are also quickly trying to size up the situation, advising their clientele who are RSA customers about a stance they might take.

In a blog posting, security analyst Rich Mogull of firm Securosis offered advice for confronting RSA directly with a few main questions. These were:

  • While RSA may not provide details, say “we need to know something about the attacker to evaluate our risk. Can you (RSA) reveal more details?”
  • “How is SecurID affected and will you be making mitigations public?”
  • “Are all customers affected or only certain product versions and/or configurations?”
  • “What is the potential vector of the attack?”
  • “Will you, after any investigation is complete, release details so the rest of us can learn from your victimization?”

In his blog, Mogull, who notes, “Sorry to you folks at RSA,” says late last night RSA let them know that they’ve filed an 8K form with the SEC and that there’s an active investigation and the government is involved, so RSA is fairly limited in what they can say.

As part of the 8K filing, RSA includes a note it has sent out to RSA SecurCare customers, in which it offers its own advice:

  • “We recommend customers increase their focus on security for social media application and the use of those applications and Web sites by anyone with access to their critical networks.”
  • “We recommend customers enforce strong password and PIN policies.”
  • “We recommend customers follow the rule of least privilege when assigning roles and responsibilities to security administrators.”
  • “We recommend customers re-educate employees on the importance of avoiding suspicious e-mails, and remind them not to provide user names or other credentials to anyone without verifying that person’s identity and authority. Employees should not comply with e-mail or phone-based requests for credentials and should report any such attempts.”

In addition to several other general recommendations, the RSA note to its customers offer 1-800 numbers for assistance with questions. The RSA note also says that while “certain information” has been extracted from RSA’s systems, RSA at this point is “confident that the information extracted does not enable a successful direct attack on any of our RSA SecurID customers, but this information could potentially be used to reduce the effectiveness of a current two-factor authentication implementation as part of a broader attack.”

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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