Security Experts:

Equifax Shares More Details About Breach

Equifax has shared more details about the recent breach that affects roughly 143 million U.S. consumers, including how it discovered the unauthorized access and the number of individuals impacted by the incident in the United Kingdom.

The credit reporting agency announced on Friday that Chief Security Officer Susan Mauldin and Chief Information Officer David Webb had retired from the company effective immediately, and Russ Ayres and Mark Rohrwasser have been appointed interim CSO and CIO, respectively.

Many rushed to point out last week that Mauldin’s LinkedIn profile showed she was a music major with no background in cyber security or even technology. Mauldin has since made her profile private.

“Some people mock Equifax's CSO's music masters degree, however I doubt that many professional cybercriminals have any masters degree at all,” said Ilia Kolochenko, CEO of High-Tech Bridge. “Therefore I'd refrain from judging someone's skills only by his or her education. Only a scrupulous and rigorous investigation can point towards the people who should be responsible and liable for this disastrous breach.”

Equifax also revealed that the breach affected less than 400,000 U.K. consumers. Their data had been stored in the United States due to a “process failure” between 2011 and 2016. It’s still unclear how many Canadians are impacted by the breach.

The company discovered the intrusion on July 29 after its security team noticed suspicious traffic to a web application associated with its U.S. dispute portal. The suspicious traffic was blocked, but more unauthorized activity was detected the following day, which led to the decision to take the affected web app offline.

That was when Equifax’s security team discovered that the attackers had exploited an Apache Struts flaw to access its systems on May 13. The vulnerability in question, CVE-2017-5638, has been exploited in the wild since the first half of March.

Equifax said its team had known about the Struts vulnerability since it was disclosed and it took steps to patch systems. The organization is still reviewing the facts in an effort to determine why the dispute portal remained unpatched. FireEye-owned Mandiant has been called in to assist in conducting a comprehensive forensic investigation.

“The word patch is a bit inappropriate for this problem, since what Equifax would have had to do is replace the vulnerable Struts library with the latest one,” explained Jeff Williams, co-founder and CTO at Contrast Security. “Because this flaw has been in the Struts library for many years, there have been many other changes. That means that Equifax would have had significant rewriting to do in order to update. The process of rewriting, retesting, and redeploying can take months.”

“I think it’s outrageous that companies haven’t deployed the technology they need to protect applications from vulnerabilities during development and from attacks in operations,” Williams told SecurityWeek. “Companies that have been relying on legacy application security tools from the early 2000’s to protect their enterprise have a very false sense of their security. Those tools are simply too slow, inaccurate, and manual intensive to provide protection for modern applications and modern threats.”

Related: U.S. Watchdog Confirms Probe of Huge Equifax Data Breach

Related: Scammers Offer to Sell Data Stolen in Equifax Hack

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Related: Industry Reactions to Equifax Hack

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Eduard Kovacs (@EduardKovacs) is a contributing editor at SecurityWeek. He worked as a high school IT teacher for two years before starting a career in journalism as Softpedia’s security news reporter. Eduard holds a bachelor’s degree in industrial informatics and a master’s degree in computer techniques applied in electrical engineering.