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Ethical hacker backer hacked, warns of email ransack

Switches registrars, tightens security after 'upsetting' incident

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

The IT security certification body that runs the Certified Ethical Hacker programme has itself been hacked.

The EC-Council said the same hackers who ran the DNS poisoning attack that resulted in the defacement of its website in late February had also managed to access the control panel for its website after breaking into the systems of a third-party registrar. This compromised access allowed the miscreants to circumvent security controls and get into the security organisation's email system, as a breach notice from the EC-Council to its members explains.

EC-Council uses a cloud service provider for enterprise email. Once the domain privilege was attained, the hacker then issued a password reset request to the email service provider. This circumvented EC-Council's best practices of using complex passwords and 2-factor authentication. We have informed the service provider of this password reset policy vulnerability and are hopeful that they have already rectified it for the benefit of the IT community in general.

With administrative access to the email service provider, the hacker was able to compromise a small number of email accounts before the EC-Council security team was able to respond to the breach.This resulted in unauthorized access to messages in those specific email boxes for a short duration of time.

The investigation into the breach is still ongoing and it's unclear which member data, if any, has been exposed. Credit card transactions are run through a different system that wasn't exposed by the attack but any private information sent by email might have been compromised, although this is uncertain.

"As a precautionary measure, we are writing to notify members that have sent any personally identifiable information to EC-Council via email that there is a possibility that these may have been exposed through email," the breach notification from the EC-Council explains. "No credit card data was compromised."

The US-based EC-Council runs the Certified Ethical Hacker programme, C|EH and other certifications. The organisation – whose tagline is Hackers are here. Where are you? – asks members to submit sensitive data such as passport details as part of its registration process. The leak of this data is obviously the main concern raised by the breach.

In response to the incident, the EC-Council has promised to tighten up its security procedures.

The organisation said in a statement on the breach that went out on yesterday:

EC-Council strives to set a very high bar for how they serve their community, and this incident is upsetting. EC-Council has since transferred their domain to another registrar, changed policies on management of personal information, improved existing data retention policies, introduced two-factor authentication for member portals, and improved security procedures and systems. ®

Bootnote

A shout-out to Mark, an infosec contractor going for CEH accreditation, who tipped us off about the EC-Council's breach notification to its members.

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