Okta and the Lapsus$ breach: 5 huge questions

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We actually have extra particulars on the Lapsus$ breach of a third-party Okta assist supplier than we did yesterday at the moment. However some main unanswered questions nonetheless stay.

David Bradbury, CSO on the distinguished id and entry administration vendor, launched two extra updates and gave a webinar presentation through the previous 24 hours. Microsoft additionally launched its personal findings on the Lapsus$ hacker group, providing some clues concerning the menace actor’s ways and motives.

However quite a few questions stay, together with concerning the timing for the disclosure of the incident; the primary few days of the hacker group’s entry; the potential affect on prospects; the “blast radius” of the assault; and the motives of the Lapsus$ hacker group.

I’ve compiled particulars on these 5 questions beneath, after connecting in the present day with a Forrester analyst and various safety vendor executives who’ve been following the state of affairs carefully.

Okta didn’t have a response to those questions, saying that its public statements on the Lapsus$ breach are contained in its weblog posts.

On Tuesday, Okta acknowledged that Lapsus$ — a bunch that has additionally hacked Microsoft, Nvidia and Samsung —had accessed the account of a buyer assist engineer, who labored for a third-party supplier, in January.

“The Okta service has not been breached and stays absolutely operational,” Bradbury mentioned in one of many posts.

Okta has recognized the breached third-party supplier as Sitel, which offers Okta with contract employees for buyer assist. Sitel, in its personal assertion, mentioned the breach was contained to “components of the Sykes community” — referring to Sykes Enterprises, which was acquired by Sitel final 12 months.

What follows are particulars on 5 of the most important remaining questions on Okta and the Lapsus$ breach.

1. Why didn’t Okta disclose the incident sooner?

The precise reply, after all, is that Okta didn’t should disclose something (although that is probably not the case for for much longer, if the U.S. Securities and Alternate Fee adopts proposed guidelines for cyber incident disclosure).

However that doesn’t imply that Okta couldn’t have disclosed that one thing had occurred, says Andras Cser, vp and principal analyst for safety and threat administration at Forrester.

Okta’s timeline of occasions exhibits that on January 20, the corporate investigated an alert associated to the cyber incident. (The alert was prompted by a brand new issue being added to the Okta account of a Sitel worker in a brand new location.) Okta escalated it to a safety incident that very same day, and the subsequent day, Sitel reported that it retained “a number one forensic agency” to do a full investigation of the incident.

Okta, nonetheless, didn’t disclose something concerning the incident till Tuesday, after Lapsus$ posted screenshots on Telegram as proof of the breach.

“The ethical of the story is that if in case you have an issue [of this magnitude], you may wish to simply disclose this when it’s contemporary — and never wait two months,” Cser mentioned.

For Okta, “that [delay in disclosure] is why that is that is dangerous, proper?” he mentioned. “It’s not as a result of they received breached — that occurs. The very fact is that they didn’t make any kind of disclosure.”

And whereas firms on this place should not at all times legally required to reveal something, “plenty of firms truly select to take action,” Cser mentioned.

The underside line is that “if in case you have a safety incident, perhaps it’s value disclosing it to the general public and getting it over with. As a result of in any other case, one thing like this will occur,” he mentioned.

Bradbury has mentioned he was “vastly dissatisfied” by how lengthy it took for Okta to obtain a report on the incident, however has not indicated he believes Okta ought to have disclosed the incident sooner. The closest he got here was to say that after Okta acquired a abstract report concerning the assault on March 17, “we should always have moved extra swiftly to know its implications.”

Cser mentioned that a lot of the backlash about Okta’s lack of disclosure stems from the truth that the corporate is a distinguished vendor within the cybersecurity business, and thus is being held to the next normal than another firms may be. Okta’s inventory worth plunged 10.8%, or $17.88 a share, in the present day.

A disclosure doesn’t have to be substantial, Cser famous. It may be so simple as saying, “We noticed this downside, we’re investigating — and as soon as we all know extra, we’ll let all people know what occurred,” he mentioned.

Safety researcher Runa Sandvik mentioned on Twitter that some could also be “confused about Okta saying the ‘service has not been breached.’”

“The assertion is only a authorized phrase soup,” Sandvik mentioned. “Truth is {that a} third-party was breached; that breach affected Okta; failure to reveal it affected Okta’s prospects.”

“The ethical of the story is that if in case you have an issue [of this magnitude], you may wish to simply disclose this when it’s contemporary — and never wait two months.”

Andras Cser, principal analyst for safety and threat administration, Forrester

2. What occurred from January 16-20?

In Bradbury’s unique weblog publish Tuesday on the Lapsus$ breach, he mentioned that the menace actor was in a position to entry the third-party assist engineer’s laptop computer for 5 days in January. This five-day window occurred from January 16-21, he mentioned.

This info was based mostly on the report from the cyber forensic agency, in response to Bradbury.

Subsequently, Bradbury shared the Okta publish that includes a timeline of occasions surrounding the incident. The timeline begins at January 20 (at 23:18 UTC), which is when Okta acquired the alert concerning the new issue being added the Sitel worker’s Okta account.

Nonetheless, that leaves a number of days unaccounted for, famous Ronen Slavin, cofounder and CTO at software program provide chain safety agency Cycode. Maybe the timeline doesn’t begin till January 20 as a result of that’s when Okta first received concerned — however regardless, the forensic agency presumably has gathered info on what occurred previous to January 20.

When it comes to what occurred earlier than that time, “we do hope to study extra from Okta,” Slavin mentioned. “We’re desperate to study what occurred through the days prior.”

Okta specified that it “acquired the entire investigation report” on the breach from Sitel on Tuesday.

3. How had been prospects impacted?

On Tuesday, Bradbury mentioned that as many as 366 prospects could have been impacted by the Lapsus$ breach (roughly 2.5% of Okta’s 15,000 prospects).

Within the webinar on Wednesday, the Okta CSO clarified that the corporate has, in truth, “recognized 366 prospects … whose Okta tenant was accessed by Sitel throughout that interval” of January 16-21.

These prospects’ information “could have been considered or acted upon,” Bradbury mentioned in one of many weblog posts, with out providing additional specifics.

The statements by Okta to this point haven’t defined how prospects have been affected by the breach, in response to Emsisoft menace analyst Brett Callow. “The affect just isn’t but clear,” Callow mentioned in a message to VentureBeat on Wednesday.

And whereas Sitel says it has not discovered proof of an information breach of buyer techniques, “absence of proof just isn’t proof of absence,” Callow mentioned.

Previously, prospects disclosed by Okta have included JetBlue, Nordstrom, Siemens, Slack and T-Cellular. In 2017, Okta mentioned that the U.S. Division of Justice was a buyer.

4. Why is Okta defining the “blast radius” on this approach?

In cybersecurity parlance, the time period “blast radius” refers back to the affect {that a} sure cyberattack has delivered. Okta has contended the the blast radius of the Lapsus$ breach was restricted to a “small proportion of consumers.”

“In attempting to scope the blast radius for this incident, our workforce assumed the worst-case state of affairs and examined the entire entry carried out by all Sitel staff to the SuperUser utility for the five-day interval in query,” Bradbury mentioned in a weblog publish.

Thus, the 366 prospects which will have been impacted by the Lapsus$ breach signify the entire Okta prospects that Sitel had entry to through the five-day interval in January.

What isn’t clear, nonetheless, is why Okta has chosen to outline the “blast radius” on this approach.

“If the incident was remoted to at least one assist engineer at Sitel, we’d like to know why the blast radius just isn’t restricted to what that particular person accessed,” Slavin mentioned.

Okta has particularly acknowledged that their “SuperUser” app for assist engineers didn’t have “god-like” performance — couldn’t entry all customers — and was constructed with least-privilege as a core precept, Slavin famous. Primarily based on what’s now recognized, it is sensible that the blast radius must be remoted simply to what Sitel may presumably have accessed, he mentioned.

And but, least privilege is an idea for particular person customers, not groups. “This begs the query of why Okta’s scope [included] the whole lot the workforce may entry, reasonably than the whole lot the person did entry,” Slavin mentioned.

Okta’s statements that it has finished this out of “an abundance of warning” — and in an curiosity in conveying the worst-case state of affairs — are “completely legitimate solutions,” Slavin mentioned. Nonetheless, “we’re merely hoping to see extra clarification because the investigation unfolds.”

5. What was Lapsus$ attempting to perform?

Maybe most perplexing of all is the query of the menace actor’s motive within the Okta assault. In contrast to cybercriminals centered on breaching a system to ultimately solicit a ransomware cost, as an example, the actions taken by Lapsus$ to breach Okta’s service supplier didn’t have an apparent monetary angle.

If the hacker group was attempting to achieve entry to Okta prospects, to be able to monetize that down the highway, publicly disclosing the assault wouldn’t make any sense, mentioned Stel Valavanis, founder and CEO of managed safety providers agency OnShore Safety.

When it comes to the objective of the assault, “I’d say it was a solution to acquire a foothold into different organizations. However then why be so vocal about it?” Valavanis mentioned.

It’s additionally noteworthy that Lapsus$ didn’t make any calls for in any respect — not less than not on its Telegram channel — previous to posting the screenshots this week.

The closest factor to a clue on motive is the group’s assertion, within the Telegram publish about Okta, that “for a service that powers authentication techniques to most of the largest firms (and FEDRAMP permitted) I believe these safety measures are fairly poor.”

Lapsus$ adopted up with one other publish on Tuesday, criticizing Okta for various its safety measures.

Cser mentioned these statements recommend that, not less than within the Okta incident, Lapsus$ has been aiming to ship reputational injury to Okta for some motive.

“It might be that they wish to attempt to weaken Okta’s place available in the market, and attempt to tarnish their model picture,” he mentioned.

That, after all, simply results in one other query: Why? And at their very own behest, or another person’s?

The attainable reply to these questions would require some wilder hypothesis, so I gained’t go there. However the truth that some within the business are even speculating about these types of prospects is proof that Lapsus$, to this point, is proving very tough to learn.

Throughout the group’s collection of latest assaults, there was “a mixture of monetary concentrating on and a few hacking of IP,” mentioned Oliver Pinson-Roxburgh, CEO at cybersecurity providers agency Bulletproof. “There is no such thing as a one clear route or motive for the group.”

Researchers at Microsoft — which confirmed this week that it has been among the many Lapsus$ victims — imagine that Lapsus$ is “motivated by theft and destruction.” The group has in some circumstances extorted victims to stop the discharge of information, however in others has leaked information with out making any calls for, the researchers mentioned.

Primarily based on the proof to this point, there’s additionally one other risk, mentioned Demi Ben-Ari, cofounder and CTO at third-party safety administration agency Panorays.

The method by the group appears to indicate that, not less than partly, “their ways listed here are for enjoyable,” Ben-Ari mentioned.

Although any “enjoyable” — linked to a collection of incidents that has now impacted not less than 4 world tech powerhouses, within the span of a month — has most undoubtedly been one-sided.

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