Sunday, May 19, 2013

My Take on the City of Akron Hack

On Thursday, May 16, 2013, a Turkish hacking group called Turkish Ajan hacked into the City of Akron and released a number of files that contain personal information on a number of Akron citizens. According to the city, the attackers were able to gain access into some internal systems where they obtained tax information.

The news has died down on this for the moment, but from the information that has been released, there are some things we can infer:

1. The attackers compromised the city's public website. From the errors that were being displayed on the site, information that has been released from the city, and the way this group works, it was likely through SQL injection (although this has not been specifically stated yet).

2. The attackers compromised the city's internal systems and obtained access to tax systems. It is unknown if they were able to do from the city's public website, through the tax paying system, or some other server. In any case, this appears to be where the attackers got the files they posted.

3. Around 25K people are affected.

4. The FBI is involved and was called in quickly after the compromise was discovered. IMO, this is good.

Any additional information on what happened is pretty much speculation. Trust me, I've been speculating alot and have a pretty good idea of what happened, but I have no proof. Hopefully whoever is doing the forensics for the city will have their findings released at some point. As an Akron citizen, and tax payer, I want to know this information.

However, there is one thing that I think needs brought up. Why was this information stored unencrypted? If it was encrypted, how did the attackers obtain access to the keys to decrypt it?

The information that was released contains social security numbers of both the taxpayer and their spouse, and credit card numbers. According to PCI standards (and my understanding), the credit card numbers should have been encrypted. The federal government is required to comply with PCI, what about the city of Akron government?

As for the SSNs, I don't know of any specific regulations that requires that information to be encrypted (please let me know if there is), but I can't imagine that there is any reason it shouldn't be. I have a feeling there are at least 25,000 people who agree with me.

One final item of note. The press has been getting quotes from Deputy Mayor Rick Merolla. With all due respect sir, shut up. I can only imagine your IT and information security people are cringing whenever they read your quotes pertaining to the security of the city of Akron systems.

I'm sure you are very smart, but its obvious you are not familiar with information security. Quotes such as "Our systems are all, all our virus protection, intrusion protection systems, all of our virus software is still up to date so we are still not sure how they got in" show this. Let those performing the investigation or the talented IT personnel you employ speak on these things.

If you like, I am personally offering to give you a training course on information security, hackers, and how attacks take place. This will at least give you an idea on why the things you have been quoted as saying are cringe-worthy.