Unprotected Elasticsearch Server Leaves 85% Of All Panama Citizens Data Exposed

By   ISBuzz Team
Writer , Information Security Buzz | May 14, 2019 09:38 am PST

A security researcher has discovered an Elasticsearch server that was left connected to the internet without a password, or firewall protection and has leaked what appears to be personal records and patient information for roughly 85 percent of Panama’s citizens.  

Experts Comments:

Hugo van den Toorn, Manager Offensive Security at Outpost24:

isbuzz expert 4“At first glance, it seems an almost classical mistake of a system that should not have been accessible over the Internet. 

Unfortunately, this still is something we see all too frequent. A system that is brought up for probably all the right use cases, but security is either added later or completely forgotten in the process. What is interesting is that whenever you mention something like this, where a system is completely unprotected and connected to the Internet, the responses are almost always along the lines of ‘that would never happen to us’ or ‘that is just silly’. But as proven once again, mistakes are easily made. Even with our private data, one such mistake is enough for the data to be exposed. 

The process to prevent this from happening can be relatively straight forward. Before connecting any system to the internet, ask yourself the questions: Who should have access to this data, would this data be considered sensitive and would I do this if this was my own personal data? The first two will help in determining the confidentiality of the data. The golden rule is; least access and privileges. Even without embracing a full ‘zero-trust’-approach, you should restrict access only on a need to have access basis. If you can, keep the data on your local network only. If possible, provide third-party access only through a secure connection such as a VPN. The last question clearly is a moral one, when you have to think about this you should not consider making the data public at all.”   

Warren Poschman, Senior Solutions Architect at comforte AG:

Warren Poschman Headshot“It seems that in 2019, the Island of Misfit Toys seems to be overrun with misconfigured Elastisearch, MongoDB, Big Data, and other Open Source instances.  As in the latest revelation in Panama, there has been a near continuous string of incidents and findings showing that personal, health, and financial data is vulnerable.  There is still a need to perform basic due diligence to properly configure all publicly available instances, regardless of if it is an Open Source or Commercial product – just because a product is freely available and highly scalable doesn’t mean you can skip the basic security recommendations and configurations.  Beyond ensuring that products and services are properly deployed and maintained by competent, experienced staff, organizations must also secure their cloud-based data by adopting a data-centric security model that protects the data at rest, in motion, and in use – even if the properly configured system is compromised.”   

Ryan Wilk, Vice President at NuData Security:  

Ryan Wilk“The flood of personal information hitting the Internet is reaching new heights. Cybercriminals are using every piece of personal information to create synthetic identities, take over online accounts or open new lines of credit steal assets from the global market. Many companies are fighting back the devastating effects of stolen credentials and passwords by employing a multi-layered authentication platform that can identify customers by their behavior instead of compromised credentials.”   

Anjola Adeniyi, Technical Leader at Securonix:   

isbuzz expert 9“It is hardly surprising news that once again citizens personal records have been found on an Elasticsearch server left connected to the internet without a password, or firewall protection. The lack of cyber hygiene demonstrated here tells us a lot about current cyber security culture.  

If the data was “accessible to anyone with an internet connection” chances are they have already been accessed by unintended parties. Data breaches involving Personally Identifiable Information (PII) often lead to huge fines, reputation damage, and loss of trust. Not to mention the enormous impact on the individual from identity theft to financial compromise.”