Web hosting company OVH has admitted it suffered a security breach last week.
In an update, the French company said that its internal network at its offices in Roubaix had been compromised and after internal investigations, it discovered that a hacker was able to obtain access to an email account of one of its system administrators.
It said: “With this email access, they [were] able to gain access to the internal VPN of another employee. Then with this VPN access, they were able to compromise the access of one of the system administrators who handles the internal back office.”
After discovering this, it has assumed that the attacker aimed to discover the database of its European customers, and gain access to the installation server system in Canada. It confirmed that the European database includes names, addresses, telephone and fax numbers and encrypted passwords, which are salted and based on SHA-512.
It said: “In the coming months the back office will be under PCI-DSS which will allow us to ensure that the incident related to a specific hack on specific individuals will have no impact on our databases. In short, we were not paranoid enough so now we're switching to a higher level of paranoia.
“The aim is to guarantee and protect your data in the case of industrial espionage that would target people working at OVH. Please accept our sincere apologies for this incident.”
John Worrall, chief marketing officer at Cyber-Ark, said: “This breach is yet another example of why the theft and exploitation of privileged accounts is a critical and devastating part of the advanced threat attack cycle. In this case, the details of how the perimeter was breached have yet to be divulged, however, this is arguably a secondary concern.
“Businesses now have to assume that attackers are already on the inside. Indeed, the critical part of this attack, and what every organisation should take away from it, is the fact that the attacker specifically targeted the system administrator to gain their privileged access. Once successful, the attacker was effectively able to move from system to system undetected until they reached the information they were looking for.”
Sol Cates, chief security officer at Vormetric, said: “The incident paints a disturbing picture of what can happen when the access rights of someone already within the company walls are hijacked for a cyber criminal's own renegade purposes.
“This latest compromise shines a light on a fundamental flaw in our systems. Privileged users are a target because of their access to data, and systems. By taking over the access rights of someone already on the system, hackers are able to easily circumvent the traditional perimeter defences that would have once foiled their efforts, and gain access to the corporate network.
“Decisive action must be taken. It's time to limit what impact these accounts have within our walls, to reduce exposure to data, detect activity, while allowing them to continue to perform their expected functions.”