It’s 2014. Does anyone in the domain name business still fall for phishing attacks?
Apparently, yes, ICANN staff do.
ICANN has revealed that “several” staff members fell prey to a spear-phishing attack last month, resulting in the theft of potentially hundreds of user credentials and unauthorized access to at least one Governmental Advisory Committee web page.
According to ICANN, the phishers were able to gather the email passwords of staff members, then used them to access the Centralized Zone Data Service.
CZDS is the clearinghouse for all zone files belonging to new gTLD registries. The data it stores isn’t especially sensitive — the files are archives, not live, functional copies — and the barrier to signing up for access legitimately is pretty low.
But CZDS users’ contact information and login credentials — including, as a matter of disclosure, mine — were also accessed.
While the stolen passwords were encrypted, ICANN is still forcing all CZDS users to reset their passwords as a precaution. The organization said in a statement:
The attacker obtained administrative access to all files in the CZDS. This included copies of the zone files in the system, as well as information entered by users such as name, postal address, email address, fax and telephone numbers, username, and password. Although the passwords were stored as salted cryptographic hashes, we have deactivated all CZDS passwords as a precaution. Users may request a new password at czds.icann.org. We suggest that CZDS users take appropriate steps to protect any other online accounts for which they might have used the same username and/or password. ICANN is providing notices to the CZDS users whose personal information may have been compromised.
As a victim, this doesn’t worry me a lot. My contact details are all in the public Whois and published on this very web site, but I can imagine other victims might not want their home address, phone number and the like in the hands of ne’er-do-wells.
It’s the second time CZDS has been compromised this year. Back in April, a coding error led to a privilege escalation vulnerability that was exploited to view requests by users to new gTLD registries.
Also accessed by the phishers this time around were several pages on the GAC wiki, which is about as interesting as it sounds (ie, not very). ICANN said the only non-public information that was viewed was a “members-only index page”.
User accounts on the ICANN blog and its Whois information portal were also accessed, but apparently no damage was caused.
In summary, the hackers seem to have stolen quite a lot of information they could have easily obtained legitimately, along with some passwords that may allow them to cause further mischief if they can be decrypted.
It’s embarrassing for ICANN, of course, especially for the staff members gullible enough to fall for the attack.
While the phishers made their emails appear to come from ICANN’s own domain, presumably their victims would have had to click through to a web page with a non-ICANN domain in the address bar order to hand over their passwords.
That’s not the kind of practice you’d expect from the people tasked with running the domain name industry.