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1/30/2019
05:29 PM
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Rubrik Data Leak is Another Cloud Misconfiguration Horror Story

A server security mishap exposed vast stores of data belonging to clients of Rubrik, a security and cloud management firm.

Rubrik, an enterprise software company focused on cloud data management, has been exposing data related to major customers, due to a misconfigured AWS Elasticsearch server.

Security researcher Oliver Hough discovered the data, according to TechCrunch, which first reported the news. Rubrik was alerted to the issue on Jan. 29 and took the server offline. Because the server lacked password protection, anyone who knew its location could access it.

The exposed information reportedly dates back to Oct. 2018, timestamps indicate. Rubrik officials report that other than Hough, no external parties accessed the environment. However, the server was indexed on Shodan, a search engine for the exposed devices and databases.

Data leaks due to misconfigured servers are common and the industry has seen many in recent years. Yet it's ironic to see this happen at Rubrik, an enterprise company providing data services.

California-based Rubrik recently raised $261 million in Series E funding at a $3.3 billion valuation, Forbes reported earlier this month. This more than doubled its last raise in April 2017, when it was valued at $1.3 billion. It has thousands of major clients; among them the US Department of Defense, UK National Health Service and Homeland Security, Deloitte, and Shell.

Rubrik's full roster of corporate clients, and some federal government departments, was in the database. In a disclosure on the incident, cofounder and CTO Arvind Nithrakashyap says the data repository included customer names, business contact information, and support requests, in addition to customer support chats. He confirmed no customer-owned data was exposed.

"While building a new solution for customer support, a sandbox environment containing a subset of our customer corporate contact information and support interaction data was potentially accessible for a brief period of time," a Rubrik spokesperson said.

An investigation found that the cause was developer error, Nithrakashyap said. The sandbox development data repository defaulted to a lower security access level; Rubrik failed to follow its security procedure to correctly set the access control. It has since rectified the issue and rolled out multiple levels of approvals and security reviews to ensure it doesn’t happen again.

A Trend Poised to Continue

If it doesn't happen at Rubrik, it's likely to happen somewhere else, says Terry Ray, senior vice president and Imperva fellow, who predicted these incidents would continue. In the day since the Rubrik discovery went public, the State Bank of India was found to have made a similar error. An unprotected server left millions of customers' balances and transactions exposed.

"What we've seen — and continue to see — is companies are accelerating their use of technologies more than they're enabling their teams or hiring effective people," he says. This isn't a breach, he points out. It's a simple misconfiguration that should have been properly set.

This should be the first thing you do; an obvious step, says Ray. The first question admins should ask is "How am I preventing anybody else from connecting to this system?" Shodan scours the Web for public information, most of which tend to be Internet-accessible data lakes. The problem of misconfiguration is generally more common at large companies than smaller ones, where "everyone can look at everything." 

"The bigger the company, the harder it is to maintain process," Ray adds.

So why do these incidents keep happening? Part of the problem is the complexity of multi-cloud environments, says Ratinder Ahuja, cofounder and CEO at ShieldX. Businesses have traditionally depended on a set of boundary controls for data centers. Now they're embracing public and private clouds, making the boundary protecting their data increasingly more elastic.

"You need to have visibility inside these environments," he continues, and the key is understanding your risks and implementing controls to mitigate them. He recommends a layered approach: starting with a set of operating principles and backing them up with compensating controls in case they're not followed. In the Rubrik case, a database was created and customer information was stored, but no controls protected it from public access.

Without question, Ray says, the environments in which employees and admins operate is significantly more complex than it was five years ago. The evolution of IT is creating a high-risk environment for organizations with limited expertise on their tech staff, he notes.

Ray also points to a lack of education in organizations, where not everybody who works with data understands its value. When you're in a bank, you understand the value of cash when you see it. People who work with diamonds know value when they see it. But oftentimes it's hard to grasp the value of sensitive data or the consequences that could occur if it were exposed.

"[They] need education to understand the criticality of handling data," he says. Help employees understand where the data is and the type of data they're responsible for protecting.

Related Content:

Kelly Sheridan is the Staff Editor at Dark Reading, where she focuses on cybersecurity news and analysis. She is a business technology journalist who previously reported for InformationWeek, where she covered Microsoft, and Insurance & Technology, where she covered financial ... View Full Bio

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