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What Ubers data breach reveals about social engineering

Uber logo seen displayed on a smartphone

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Few techniques are as popular among cybercriminals as social engineering. Research implies that IT staff receive typically 40 targeted phishing attacks per year, and several organizations are struggling to intercept them before its too late.

Just yesterday, Uber was put into the long set of companies defeated by social engineering after an attacker were able to access the organizations internal IT systems, email dashboard, Slack server, endpoints, Windows domain and Amazon Web Services console.

The NY Times [subscription required] reported an 18-year-old hacker sent an SMS message to an Uber employee impersonating support staff to trick them into handing over their password. The hacker then used it to manage the individuals Slack account, before later gaining usage of other critical systems.

The info breach sheds light on the potency of social engineering techniques and shows that enterprises should reevaluate reliance on multifactor authentication (MFA) to secure their workers online accounts.


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In lots of ways, the Uber data breach further illustrates the issue of counting on password-based authentication to regulate usage of online accounts. Passwords are an easy task to steal with brute-force hacks and social engineering scams, plus they give a convenient entry way for attackers to exploit.

Simultaneously, regardless of how good a companys defenses are, if theyre counting on passwords to secure online accounts, it takes merely one employee to talk about their login credentials for a breach to occur.

Uber may be the latest in a string of social engineering attack victims. Employees are just human, and finally, mistakes with dire consequences will undoubtedly be made, said Arti Raman, CEO and founder of Titaniam. As this incident proved, despite security protocols set up, information could be accessed using privileged credentials, allowing hackers to steal underlying data and share them with the planet.

While measures like turning on multifactor authentication can help reduce the odds of account takeover attempts they wont fully prevent them.

Rethinking account security

Generally, user awareness can be an organizations best defense against social engineering threats. Using security awareness training to instruct employees how exactly to detect manipulation attempts by means of phishing emails or SMS messages can decrease the probability of them being tricked into handing over sensitive information.

General cybersecurity awareness training, penetration testing and antiphishing education are powerful deterrents to such attacks, said Neil Jones, director of cybersecurity evangelism at Egnyte.

Organizations just can’t afford to help make the mistake of convinced that multifactor authentication will do to avoid unauthorized usage of online accounts. Instead, company leaders have to assess the degree of risk in line with the authentication options supported by the account provider and implement additional controls accordingly.

Not absolutely all MFA factors are manufactured equal. Factors such as for example push, one-time-passcodes (OTPs), and voice calls tend to be more vulnerable and so are simpler to bypass via social engineering, said Josh Yavor, CISO at Tessian.

Rather than counting on these, Yavor recommends implementing security-key technology predicated on modern MFA protocols like FIDO2 which have phishing resilience included in their designs.These may then be augmented with secure-access controls to enforce device-based requirements before providing users usage of online language resources.

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