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Database Misconfiguration Leaks 26 Million SMS Messages

A San Diego, California–based communications provider, Voxox, exposed a database containing at least 26 million text messages, including password reset links, two-factor authentication (2FA) codes and shipping notifications. The database was not password protected, which lead to the exposure of the personal information, phone numbers and 2FA codes in near real time.

“Unfortunately, these 26 million 2FA codes, password reset links and delivery tracking details leave the exposed individuals easy targets for threat actors engaged in account hijacking,” said Mark Weiner, CMO, Balbix. “A basic misconfiguration like the one that caused this exposure should never occur; implementing a password is a simple but crucial first step in securing data.  The organization and its customers might still be secure if they had early visibility into vulnerabilities across their entire attack surface –including passwords – and been able to correct it shortly after launching the service.

“It is mathematically impossible for humans to conduct the continuous monitoring of all IT assets and infrastructure needed to stay ahead of attack vectors. Security platforms developed with artificial intelligence and machine learning are essential to support security teams and proactively manage risk.”

The latest exposure raises questions about whether organizations have become too reliant on passwords and 2FA to verify user identities and whether user credentials can ever be fully secured.

“In this latest example, the use of a simple two-factor authentication method – a one-time passcode sent over SMS – could be easily intercepted in near time, eroding any possibility of establishing a level of trust,” said Keith Graham, chief technology officer of SecureAuth. “As organizations seek to prevent credential-based breaches, they must move beyond password and simple two-factor authentication methods, which are no longer enough to safeguard against today’s attacks.”

Still, the messages were sent in clear text with the ability to link a user’s mobile phone number to a service provider, which Michael Magrath, director, global regulations and standards, OneSpan Inc., said opens the door to serious privacy infringements. "The fact that one-time password (OTPs) codes were sent via SMS in clear text reinforces NIST’s decision to classify SMS-OTP as a restricted form of authentication in its 2017 revision of Special Publication 800-63-3, Digital Identity Guidelines. Like passwords, SMS OTPs are vulnerable to attacks and can be intercepted and reused.

“The only good news to come out of this for California-based Voxox is that these security infractions occurred before the California Consumer Privacy Act of 2018 goes into effect in January 2020.”

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