A breach that reportedly exposed data on millions of passengers of two Lion Air airline subsidiaries is another example of the massive exposure that organizations face from leaving data in poorly secured cloud storage.
The breach — like hundreds of others — resulted when files containing the Indonesian airlines’ passenger names, passport numbers, birth dates, home addresses, and other data — was left openly accessible in an Amazon Web Services (AWS) storage bucket.
The data belonged to passengers of Malindo Air and Thai Lion Air. A Dark Web operator known as Spectre later dumped four files — two containing data from Malindo and two with data on Thai Lion Air — online, South China Morning Post (SCMP) reported this week.
Malindo Air confirmed the breach in a statement on its website but did not provide any details on the scope of the compromise. The company said it was in the midst of notifying passengers about the data compromise, while adding that no payment card details had been exposed in the incident.
“Our in house teams along with external data service providers, Amazon Web Services (AWS) and GoQuo, our e-commerce partner, are currently investigating into this breach,” Malindo Air said.
The Lion Air breach is one of many involving Amazon’s S3 storage service. Some of them have been massive in scope and resulted from victim organizations themselves not properly securing access to their data in S3. In other instances, the compromises have resulted from third parties making the same mistake.
In June, Australian cybersecurity vendor UpGuard reported on data integration firm Attunity’s exposing a terabyte’s worth of backups belonging to companies including Ford, Netflix, and TD Bank by putting the data in three publicly accessible S3 buckets. Recently, a Mexican media company exposed more than 540 million records containing comments and interests of Facebook users by leaving the data in an unprotected S3 container.
UpGuard has described detecting literally thousands of breaches over the past few years resulting from poorly configured S3 security settings. The bigger of those have included a breach that exposed GoDaddy’s trade secrets and infrastructure details, a leak of 14 million customer records by Verizon, and the breach of a Chicago voter’s database in 2016 right around the general elections.
Amazon S3 misconfigurations have become one of the most common and widely targeted attack vectors across all industries, says Anurag Kohli, CTO at Bitglass. “It does not take much for outsiders to find unsecured databases and access sensitive information” on services like S3, he says. Tools are available that let people search for misconfigured and easily abused cloud storage buckets, he notes. “[Internet-as-a-service] platforms are not inherently unsafe – organizations just have to use them safely,” Kohli says.
Organizations that use services like Amazon often mistakenly believe the provider or service itself is responsible for the vast majority of the work when it comes to ensuring proper cybersecurity. However, it is ultimately up to the customer to use and configure these platforms appropriately, Kohli says.
According to UpGuard, with S3 related breaches, AWS itself may be making it easy for users to make mistakes even though it has introduced improvements overall to help organizations detect and avoid common configuration errors.
Easy to Misconfigure
In an August blog, UpGuard pointed to two product features it said could trip up S3 users. One of them is a feature that, if not used correctly, would allow any authenticated user with an AWS account to see content in another user’s storage bucket. “It’s like if your Internet banking credentials worked to log into someone else’s bank account,” UpGuard said.
The second issue has to do with people misunderstanding how S3 settings for access control lists (ACLs) and policies governing access to storage buckets work, the vendor said. It is an easily misunderstood issue that has led to major S3-related breaches. According to UpGuard, organizations can lock down ACLs to an Amazon S3 bucket but still leave data wide open by misconfiguring the bucket policy itself.
Chris DeRamus, CTO of DivvyCloud, says Amazon has been actively working to help companies avoid breaches caused by misconfigurations. It has also added a number of new features to augment data protection and simplify compliance. For instance, AWS has made it easier for organizations to ensure encryption of all new objects, along with monitoring and reporting on their encryption status. AWS also has guidance on using tools like AWS Config to monitor and respond to S3 buckets that allow public access, DeRamus says.
“Breaches of data in the cloud are on the rise, not breaches of the underlying cloud provider’s infrastructure,” he notes. “The cloud provider is responsible – and typically successful in – securing the underlying components of cloud services.”
It is up to the customer to ensure secure use by properly configuring identity and access management, storage, and compute settings, and using threat analysis and defense tools to mitigate threats, DeRamus says. Automated tools are available that allow organizations to perform real-time, continuous discovery of cloud infrastructure resources and to identify risks and threats that need to be remediated, he adds.
“There’s no excuse for leaving data unprotected in AWS storage,” says Tim Erlin, vice president of product management and strategy at Tripwire. “This isn’t a new problem, and it’s not a technically complex issue to address.”
Jai Vijayan is a seasoned technology reporter with over 20 years of experience in IT trade journalism. He was most recently a Senior Editor at Computerworld, where he covered information security and data privacy issues for the publication. Over the course of his 20-year … View Full Bio