News broke yesterday that more than 60,000 sensitive US military files have been found on a publicly accessible Amazon server by a security researcher. The files contained passwords for US government systems and the security credentials of a senior engineer at defence contractor Booz Allen Hamilton (BAH). Andrew Clarke. EMEA Director at One Identity commented below.

Andrew Clarke, EMEA Director at One Identity: 

“While the details to this latest breach are still nascent, there are signs of some problematic behaviour.  First, while there were seemingly no passwords to classified data stored on the Amazon server, that simply serves to add a step to the process for the hacker.  Stated another way, the comment implies that passwords to non-classified data *were* stored.  Suppose that non-classified data includes email addresses and passwords for employees without clearance.  All the hacker needs to do is log into that person’s system, pretend to be him or her and start the phishing process for classified data *from the inside* so to speak.  Second, and perhaps more ominous, is that fact that someone created a file to store passwords (I certainly hope they didn’t name is passwords.xlsx).  A solution to this problem is single sign-on (SSO).  If this agency had an SSO solution, then users and admins (cleared and non-cleared alike) would only need to remember a single password which increases the likelihood of that password being strong with CAPS, numeric and special characters.  Because users only need one password, there’s no need to write them down…or place them in a file…or store them on Amazon.  As it relates to SSO, an accompanying best practice is to couple that with multi-factor authentication (MFA).  SSO and MFA go hand in hand insofar as access being defined by something you know (password) and something you have (an MFA keyfob or “soft token” created from an app on your smartphone).  This means that even if the password file is created and posted on Amazon and then stolen and then used by a hacker, access would be impossible because the hacker would also need the second factor of authentication.”

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