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  1. Twitter discloses security incident involving the abuse of one of its official API features. In a statement published today, Twitter disclosed a security incident during which third-parties exploited the company's official API (Application Programming Interface) to match phone numbers with Twitter usernames. In an email seeking clarifications about the incident, Twitter told ZDNet that they became aware of exploitation attempts against this API feature on December 24, 2019, following a report from tech news site TechCrunch. The report detailed the efforts of a security researcher who abused a Twitter API feature to match 17 million phone numbers to public usernames. Twitter says that following this report it intervened and immediately suspended a large network of fake accounts that had been used to query its API and match phone numbers to Twitter usernames. During its investigation into the report, the social network told ZDNet that it also discovered additional evidence that this API bug had also been exploited by other third-parties, beyond the security researcher at the heart of the TechCrunch report. Twitter did not clarify who these third-parties were, but it did say that some of the IP addresses used in these API exploitation attempts had ties to state-sponsored actors, a term used to described either government intelligence agencies, or third-party hacking groups that benefit from a government's backing. The company said it is disclosing today the findings of its investigation "out of an abundance of caution and as a matter of principle." The Twitter API bug that was abused in the attack According to Twitter, the attackers exploited a legitimate API endpoint that allows new account holders to find people they know on Twitter. The API endpoint allows users to submit phone numbers and matches them to known Twitter accounts. Twitter says the attacks did not impact all Twitter users, but only those who enabled an option in their settings section to allow phone number-based matching. "People who did not have this setting enabled or do not have a phone number associated with their account were not exposed by this vulnerability," Twitter said. The social network said it immediately made a number of changes to this endpoint after it detected the attack "so that it could no longer return specific account names in response to queries." Source
  2. Attackers love exploiting the naivety of users because it’s so easy. All it takes is one successful phishing email to persuade just one user to hand over their organizations login details. Once that hacker gains entry to your systems, you’re not going to find out until it’s too late — your anti-virus and perimeter systems aren’t programmed to pick up on access using legitimate login details, giving snoopers all the time in the world to, well, snoop. And if it’s not exploiting them, well then we can always rely on good old fashion ‘careless’. It was only recently that UK political leaders were publicly (and almost proudly) proclaiming their own particularly poor password habits on Twitter. MP Nadine Dorries admits she regularly shouts the question “What is my password?” across the office, and after her being criticized on Twitter, MP Nick Boles defended her by agreeing with a journalist that password sharing is rife among MPs. As much as it’s easy to poke holes in politicians’ hapless knowledge of IT security, the truth is that most employees within the business world share passwords too. So while users remain the biggest threat to a company’s security, blaming employees is never the right route to take. Employers are (usually) human. They are careless, flawed and often exploited. So, how are you supposed to spot inappropriate user access when it’s already been defined as appropriate? Spotting the threat Security must be there to protect users from both careless and malicious behavior and to protect the business from outsiders trying to gain access by pretending to be employees. When you boil it down, the only way to really tell if someone is a malicious insider or an intent external threat actor is by allowing them to perform actions (such as launching applications, authenticating to systems, accessing data, etc.) and determine whether the actions are inappropriate. But given the majority of your user population doesn’t act the same way everyday – let alone the next week or month – it makes more sense to spot the threat actor by looking at leading indicators of threat activity, rather than waiting for the threat activity itself. One of the most accurate leading indicators is one no malicious insider or external threat actor can get around – the logon (local, remote, via SMB, via RPC, etc.). Endpoints require logons for access, lateral movement of any type requires authentication to access a target endpoint, and access to data first requires an authenticated connection. The leveraging of Logon Management solutions provides organizations with not only the ability to monitor logons and identify suspicious logon activity, but to also craft logon policies to limit the scope of account use and automatically shut down access based on inappropriate logon behavior. By using the contextual information around a user’s logon (origin, time, session type, number of access points, etc.) genuine logins become useless to would-be attackers. So, while there might not be a patch for the user quite yet, keep in mind that you do have a foolproof way to make sure authenticated users are who they say they are, identify any ‘risky’ user behavior and put a stop to it before it ends up costing you capital, customers and your company’s reputation. To read more about external attacks and how to detect and stop them, read our latest whitepaper “Stopping the External Attack Horizontal Kill Chain”. Source
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