RSA, the security division of EMC and producer of the SecurID systems used by countless corporations (and the Department of Defense), has been hacked. The company sent out messages to its clients and posted an open letter stating that it’s been the victim of an “advanced” attack that “resulted in certain information being extracted from RSA’s systems” — information “specifically related to RSA’s SecurID two-factor authentication products.” The copy of the letter can be found at this link-http://www.rsa.com/node.aspx?id=3872
The worry is that source code to the company’s SecurID two-factor authentication product was stolen, which would possibly allow hackers to reverse-engineer or otherwise break the system.
Initially, it released no details about how the attack was carried out. Now, RSA–which is a unit of storage giant EMC–has gone into some detail concerning how its systems were breached, in a blog post by Uri Rivner, whose title is Head of New Technologies, Identity Protection and Verification. It all started with phishing emails.
Over the course of two days, two groups of emails were sent to a small group of employees, none of them high profile, nor apparently especially senior. Though RSA doesn’t spell out who received them, the emails may well have gone to the human resources department or some other quiet corner of the company. The emails contained an Excel spreadsheet attachment entitled “2011 Recruitment Plans.” Naturally it was created to look just believable enough that one of the employees who received it fished it out of the spam folder to which it was initially directed and opened it. You can probably fill in most of the blanks from here.
The spreadsheet contained a Zero-day exploit that took advantage of a weakness in Adobe Flash, which has since been patched. Through that hole, attackers were able to install anything they wanted on the target machine. They chose a version of a program called Poison Ivy RAT, and in this case RAT stands for “remote administration tool,” a program that is used to control one computer from another in a different location.
Still unexplained at this point: What information was taken, and does it in any way affect the integrity of its own security products? When the attack was first disclosed, the company said that some information about its SecureID products was taken by the attackers. This has led to a lot of questions and speculation by security pros who naturally have to think about the worst-case scenario, and frankly, there are many for which the adjective “worst” would apply.
The big looming question is whether or not the attacker gained access to the seeds–the random keys embedded in each token–that are used to generate the constantly changing numeric codes that appear on the device’s display.