New reports have found that hackers were able to exploit a security vulnerability at Equifax 2 months after an industry group discovered the coding flaw and offered a solution for it, leaving many to wonder why Equifax didn’t upgrade its software correctly when the flaw was originally found.

The Equifax hack is one of the largest breaches of consumer private financial data in history- 143 million consumers and access to the credit card data of 209,000 consumers.  

Information potentially accessed by hackers in ludes Social Security numbers, Dates of Birth, and Full Names, putting millions of people at risk of identity theft.

The Apache Foundation, which oversees the commonly used open source software made a statement Thursday claiming, “The Equifax data compromise was due to failure to install the security updates provided in a timely manner.”

Hackers were able to exploit Apache Struts CVE-2017-5638. The vulnerability was patched March 7, the same day it was announced. Cyber professionals had shared their discovery with the industry group, making the fix known to any company using the software.

Researchers who found the vulnerability created two plug-ins that could be used as a drop-in solution and posted them online. The company using the software was simply responsible for upgrade to a more recent version of the Apache Struts program. Patching said flaw requires researching the company’s entire portfolio of application to look for known and newly reported vulnerabilities, then updating to the latest version of those applications. It’s often times necessary to rewrite the application so that they match the other software the company is using, then everything needs to be retested and redeployed.

While Equifax sat around ignoring security alarms, hackers were able to take advantage of the vulnerability beginning in mid-May.

The vulnerability should have been patched the moment the red flag was raised, or at least within a few days’ time. Now federal regulators are investigating whether Equifax is at fault and dozens of state attorneys are investigating the breach. Several individuals have already threatened plans to sue the company for violating state consumer protection laws.

NNT recommends hardening systems to maintain security and hack-proof systems. Hardening a device requires known security vulnerabilities to be eliminated or mitigated. Vulnerability management and maintaining a hardened build standard are inextricably linked to tight change control. Any configuration changes, be it a through patching or other system maintenance, may introduce vulnerabilities so visibility and control of changes is an essential security best practice.


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