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GitHub sued for aiding hacking in Capital One breach

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Capital One and GitHub have been sued this week as part of a class-action lawsuit filed in California on allegations of failing to secure or prevent a security breach during which the personal details of more than 106 million users were stolen by a hacker.

While Capital One is named in the lawsuit because it was its data that the hacker stole, GitHub was also included because the hacker posted details about the hack on the code-sharing site.

Lawsuit claims GitHub failed to detect stolen data

The lawsuit claims that “decisions by GitHub’s management […] allowed the hacked data to be posted, displayed, used, and/or otherwise available.” According to the lawsuit, details about the Capital One hack were available from April 21, 2019, to mid-July before they were taken down.

“GitHub knew or should have known that obviously hacked data had been posted to GitHub.com,” the lawsuit claims.

The lawsuit said GitHub had an obligation under California law and industry standards to keep off or remove the Social Security numbers and personal information from its site. The plaintiffs believe that because Social Security numbers had a fixed format, GitHub should have been able to identify and remove this data, but they chose not to and allowed the stolen information to be available on its platform for three months until a bug hunter spotted the stolen data and notified Capital One.

The lawsuit alleges that by allowing the hacker to store information on its servers, GitHub violated the federal Wiretap Act.

However, spokespersons from both Capital One and GitHub have told ZDNet that the data uploaded on GitHub by the hacker did not contain any personal information.

“The file posted on GitHub in this incident did not contain any Social Security numbers, bank account information, or any other reportedly stolen personal information,” a GitHub spokesperson told us. “We received a request from Capital One to remove content containing information about the methods used to steal the data, which we took down promptly after receiving their request.”

Lawsuit claims GitHub actively encouraged hacking

The lawsuit also makes a bold claim that “GitHub actively encourages (at least) friendly hacking.” It then links to a GitHub repository named “Awesome Hacking.”

Plaintiffs might have a hard time proving that GitHub promoted hacking as this repository is not associated with GitHub staff or management, but owned by a user who registered on the platform and claims to live in India.

There are thousands of similar GitHub repositories hosting hacking, pen-testing, cyber-security, and reverse engineering resources and tutorials — all of which are not illegal.

Furthermore, other sites like Pastebin or AnonFile are also abused in a similar way that GitHub was during the Capital One breach, with hackers uploading stolen information on their respective servers, or hosting hacking tutorials.

The lawsuit seems to gloss over the fact that users are responsible for abiding by a platform’s rules and terms of service, and not the platform itself.

All in all, the chances of GitHub being found guilty are slim, as this just just another classic case of “guns don’t kill people; people kill people.” Otherwise, Apple might be similarly held accountable when someone uses an iPhone to commit a crime.

But while Microsoft might have a case to convince the court to drop GitHub out of the lawsuit, Capital One does not, and will have to defend its cyber-security lapses in court.

The lawsuit pointed out that Capital One had suffered previous security breaches before in November 2014, July 2017, and September 2017.

The class-action lawsuit complaint is available here. Newsweek and Business Insider first reported the lawsuit.

The hacker responsible for the Capital One breach, Paige Thompson, was arrested earlier this week. She is believed to have hacked multiple other companies, besides Capital One. The list includes Unicredit, Vodafone, Ford, Michigan State University, and the Ohio Department of Transportation.

Updated on August 3, 6:10pm ET with statement from GitHub.

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Data Management and Secure Data Storage for the Enterprise

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This free 1-hour webinar from GigaOm Research brings together experts in data management and security, featuring GigaOm Analyst Enrico Signoretti and special guest from RackTop Systems, Jonathan Halstuch. The discussion will focus on data storage and how to protect data against cyberattacks.

Most of the recent news coverage and analysis of cyberattacks focus on hackers getting access and control of critical systems. Yet rarely is it mentioned that the most valuable asset for the organizations under attack is the data contained in these systems.

In this webinar, you will learn about the risks and costs of a poor data security management approach, and how to improve your data storage to prevent and mitigate the consequences of a compromised infrastructure.

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CISO Podcast: Talking Anti-Phishing Solutions

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Simon Gibson earlier this year published the report, “GigaOm Radar for Phishing Prevention and Detection,” which assessed more than a dozen security solutions focused on detecting and mitigating email-borne threats and vulnerabilities. As Gibson noted in his report, email remains a prime vector for attack, reflecting the strategic role it plays in corporate communications.

Earlier this week, Gibson’s report was a featured topic of discussions on David Spark’s popular CISO Security Vendor Relationship Podcast. In it, Spark interviewed a pair of chief information security officers—Mike Johnson, CISO for SalesForce, and James Dolph, CISO for Guidewire Software—to get their take on the role of anti-phishing solutions.

“I want to first give GigaOm some credit here for really pointing out the need to decide what to do with detections,” Johnson said when asked for his thoughts about selecting an anti-phishing tool. “I think a lot of companies charge into a solution for anti-phishing without thinking about what they are going to do when the thing triggers.”

As Johnson noted, the needs and vulnerabilities of a large organization aligned on Microsoft 365 are very different from those of a smaller outfit working with GSuite. A malicious Excel macro-laden file, for example, poses a credible threat to a Microsoft shop and therefore argues for a detonation solution to detect and neutralize malicious payloads before they can spread and morph. On the other hand, a smaller company is more exposed to business email compromise (BEC) attacks, since spending authority is often spread among many employees in these businesses.

Gibson’s radar report describes both in-line and out-of-band solutions, but Johnson said cloud-aligned infrastructures argue against traditional in-line schemes.

“If you put an in-line solution in front of [Microsoft] 365 or in front of GSuite, you are likely decreasing your reliability, because you’ve now introduced this single point of failure. Google and Microsoft have this massive amount of reliability that is built in,” Johnson said.

So how should IT decision makers go about selecting an anti-phishing solution? Dolph answered that question with a series of questions of his own:

“Does it nail the basics? Does it fit with the technologies we have in place? And then secondarily, is it reliable, is it tunable, is it manageable?” he asked. “Because it can add a lot overhead, especially if you have a small team if these tools are really disruptive to the email flow.”

Dolph concluded by noting that it’s important for solutions to provide insight that can help organizations target their protections, as well as support both training and awareness around threats. Finally, he urged organizations to consider how they can measure the effectiveness of solutions.

“I may look at other solutions in the future and how do I compare those solutions to the benchmark of what we have in place?”

Listen to the Podcast: CISO Podcast

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Phish Fight: Securing Enterprise Communications

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Yes, much of the world may have moved on from email to social media and culturally dubious TikTok dances, yet traditional electronic mail remains a foundation of business communication. And sadly, it remains a prime vector for malware, data leakage, and phishing attacks that can undermine enterprise protections. It doesn’t have to be that way.

In a just released report titled “GigaOm Radar for Phishing Prevention and Detection,” GigaOm Analyst Simon Gibson surveyed more than a dozen enterprise-focused email security solutions. He found a range of approaches to securing communications that often can be fitted together to provide critical, defense-in-depth protection against even determined attackers.

Figure 1. GigaOm Radar for Email Phishing Prevention and Detection

“When evaluating these vendors and their solutions, it is important to consider your own business and workflow,” Gibson writes in the report, stressing the need to deploy solutions that best address your organization’s business workflow and email traffic. “For some it may be preferable to settle on one comprehensive solution, while for others building a best-of-breed architecture from multiple vendors may be preferable.”

In a field of competent solutions, Gibson found that Forcepoint, purchased recently by Raytheon, stood apart thanks to the layered protections provided by its Advanced Classification Engine. Area 1 and Zimperium, meanwhile, are both leaders that exhibit significant momentum, with Area 1 boosted by its recent solution partnership with Virtru, and Zimperium excelling in its deep commitment to mobile message security.

A mobile focus is timely, Gibson says in a video interview for GigaOm. He says companies are “tuning the spigot on” and enabling unprecedented access and reliance on mobile devices, which is creating an urgent need to get ahead of threats.

Gibson’s conclusion in the report? He singles out three things: Defense in depth, awareness of existing patterns and infrastructure, and a healthy respect for the “human factor” that can make security so hard to lock down.

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