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Data Breaches

Personal and Chemical Facility Information Potentially Accessed in CISA Hack

CISA says CFATS program data was likely accessed after an Ivanti Connect Secure appliance was hacked in January.


The US cybersecurity agency CISA is notifying participants of the Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards (CFATS) program that personal information and user accounts may have been compromised after the Chemical Security Assessment Tool (CSAT) was hacked in January 2024.

Attackers exploited an Ivanti Connect Secure appliance zero-day to access CISA’s tool, only days after the agency had released an alert on the same vulnerability.

The incident, which came to light in early March, is said to potentially impact more than 100,000 individuals, being considered “a major incident” under FISMA. CISA now says it has found no evidence that the hackers exfiltrated any data from its systems, but some information may have been accessed by the hackers. 

However, the attackers likely accessed “Top-Screen surveys, Security Vulnerability Assessments, Site Security Plans, Personnel Surety Program submissions, and CSAT user accounts”, the agency says.

“We are notifying all impacted participants of the Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards (CFATS) program out of an abundance of caution that this information could have been inappropriately accessed,” CISA says in a notification to the affected organizations.

Impacted individuals, the agency says, include those who had their personally identifiable information (PII) submitted for vetting under the Personnel Surety Program between December 2015 and July 2023.

The potentially compromised information, CISA says, includes name, date of birth, citizenship or gender, alias, place of birth, passport number, and other details submitted by employers.

Names, titles, business addresses, and business phone numbers might have been accessed from compromised CSAT user accounts, the agency adds.

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CISA says it does not collect the address or contact information of the vetted individuals and is requesting chemical facilities to notify the affected people of the potential data breach.

“Should facilities decline to notify these individuals, CISA requests that facilities provide CISA with the contact information for individuals submitted under the CFATS Personnel Surety Program on a voluntary basis so that CISA can notify impacted individuals,” CISA says.

The hackers, CISA says, had access to the CSAT appliance between January 23 and January 26, and installed a webshell on the Ivanti device, which they accessed several times during the timeframe. No lateral movement was observed.  

“Our investigation has concluded and did not identify adversarial access beyond the Ivanti device nor data exfiltration from the CSAT environment. All information in CSAT was encrypted using AES 256 encryption and information from each application had additional security controls limiting the likelihood of lateral access,” CISA says.

Individuals who had CSAT accounts are encouraged to reset their passwords as well as the passwords of any other accounts that might have been using the same passwords, to prevent possible password spraying attacks in the future.

Other information potentially accessed during the hack, CISA says, includes chemical facilities names and addresses, chemicals of interest (COI) information, cyber and physical security features of high-risk facilities, location of security features, use of COI, vulnerabilities remediation reports, security measures for COI, and whether these measures met or exceeded CFATS risk-based performance standards (RBPS).

Related: In Other News: Fuxnet ICS Malware, Google User Tracking, CISA Employee Scams

Related: CISA Calls for Expedited Adoption of Modern Authentication Ahead of Deadline

Related: CISA-Funded Project Enables Students With Disabilities to Learn Cybersecurity

Written By

Ionut Arghire is an international correspondent for SecurityWeek.


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