ICANN has known about the data leakage vulnerability in its TLD Application System since at least last week, according to one new top-level domain applicant.
The applicant, speaking to DI on the condition of anonymity today, said he first noticed another applicant’s files attached to his gTLD application in TAS last Friday, April 6.
“I could infer the applicant/string… based on the name of the file,” said the applicant.
He immediately notified ICANN and was told the bug was being looked at.
ICANN revealed today that TAS has a vulnerability that, in the words of COO Akram Atallah, “allowed a limited number of users to view some other users’ file names and user names in certain scenarios.”
The actual contents of the files are not believed to have been visible.
But other applicants, also not wishing to be identified, today confirmed that they had uploaded files to TAS using file names containing the gTLD strings they were applying for.
It’s not yet known how many TAS users were able to see files belonging to others, or for how long the vulnerability was present on the system.
However, it now does not appear to be something that was accidentally introduced during yesterday’s scheduled TAS maintenance.
This kind of data leakage could prove problematic — and possibly expensive — if it alerted applicants to the existence of competing bids, or caused new competing bids to be created.
ICANN shut down TAS yesterday and does not expect to bring it back online until Tuesday.
The window for filing applications, which had been due to close yesterday, has been extended until 2359 UTC next Friday night.
April 14 Update
ICANN today released a statement that said in part:
we are sifting through the thousands of customer service inquiries received since the opening of the application submission period. This preliminary review has identified a user report on 19 March that appears to be the first report related to this technical issue.
Although we believed the issues identified in the initial and subsequent reports had been addressed, on 12 April we confirmed that there was a continuing unresolved issue and we shut down the system.
The bug that brought down ICANN’s TLD Application System yesterday was actually a security hole that leaked data about new gTLD applications.
The vulnerability enabled TAS users to view the file names and user names of other applicants, ICANN said this morning.
COO Akram Atallah said in a statement:
We have learned of a possible glitch in the TLD application system software that has allowed a limited number of users to view some other users’ file names and user names in certain scenarios.
Out of an abundance of caution, we took the system offline to protect applicant data. We are examining how this issue occurred and considering appropriate steps forward.
Given the level of secrecy surrounding the new gTLD application process, this vulnerability ranks pretty highly on the This Is Exactly What We Didn’t Want To Happen scale.
It’s not difficult to imagine scenarios in which a TAS user name or file name contains the gTLD string being applied for.
This is important, competition-sensitive data. If it’s been leaked, serious questions are raised about the integrity of the new gTLD program.
How long was this vulnerability present in TAS? Which applicants were able to look at which other applicants’ data? Did any applicants then act on this inside knowledge by filing competing bids?
If it transpires that any company filed a gTLD application specifically in order to shake down applicants whose data was revealed by this vulnerability, ICANN is in for a world of hurt.
Verisign today reiterated that the recently revealed 2010 security breaches on its corporate network did not affect its production domain name system services.
In a statement, Verisign said:
After a thorough analysis of the attacks, Verisign stated in 2011, and reaffirms, that we do not believe that the operational integrity of the Domain Name System (DNS) was compromised.
We have a number of security mechanisms deployed in our network to ensure the integrity of the zone files we publish. In 2005, Verisign engineered real-time validation systems that were designed to detect and mitigate both internal and external attacks that might attempt to compromise the integrity of the DNS.
The statement followed several news reports that covered the hacks and speculated about the mayhem that could ensue if Verisign’s root or .com zone systems were ever breached.
The information the company has released so far suggests that the attacks were probably against back-office targets, such as user desktops, rather than its sensitive network operations centers.
Hackers broke into Verisign’s corporate network and made out with sensitive data, it emerged today.
The attacks happened in 2010 and the company does not believe its all-important domain name infrastructure – which supports .com and several other top-level domains – was compromised.
In 2010, the Company faced several successful attacks against its corporate network in which access was gained to information on a small portion of our computers and servers. We have investigated and do not believe these attacks breached the servers that support our Domain Name System (“DNS”) network. Information stored on the compromised corporate systems was exfiltrated.
The filing, which was required under recent SEC disclosure rules, goes on to say that the attacks were “not sufficiently reported to the Company’s management” until September 2011.
It adds that Verisign does not know whether the “exfilitrated” – ie, stolen – data was used by the attackers. The filing does not say what was taken.
Back in 2010, Verisign was still a security company. It did not sell off its SSL business to Symantec until August that year. The filing does not say whether SSL data was breached.
As one of the logical single points of failure on the internet, Verisign is of course the subject of regular attacks, mainly of the performance-degrading distributed denial of service variety.
The bigger worry, as Reuters rather breathlessly notes, is that if hackers could compromise the integrity of the DNS root or .com/.net zones, it could lead to mayhem.
In unrelated news, the domain name registrar Blacknight today revealed that it got hacked on Tuesday.
The attackers may have got away with contact information – including email addresses and telephone numbers – for up to 40,000 customers, the company said.
Financial information such as credit card numbers was not compromised, Blacknight said.
The company has contacted Irish data protection regulators and will also inform the police. Customers are advised to change their passwords.
If you’re a Blacknight customer you’ll also want to be on the lookout for “spear-phishing” attacks in the near future. When the bad guys know your name, it can lead to a more convincing phish.
BITS, the technology arm of the Financial Services Roundtable, has published a set of specifications for new “high-security” generic top-level domains such as .bank and .pay.
The wide-ranging spec covers 31 items such as registration and acceptable use policies, abusive conduct, law enforcement compliance, registrar relations and data security.
It would also ban Whois proxy/privacy services from financial gTLDs and oblige those registries to verify that all Whois records were fully accurate at least once every six months.
The measures could be voluntarily adopted by any new gTLD applicant, but BITS wants them made mandatory for gTLDs related to financial services, which it calls “fTLDs”.
A letter sent by BITS and the American Bankers Association to ICANN management in late December (pdf) is even a bit threatening on this point:
We strongly urge that ICANN accept the [Security Standards Working Group's] proposed standards and require their use in the evaluation process. We request notification by 31 January 2012 that ICANN commits to use these fTLD standards in the evaluation of the appropriate gTLD applications. BITS, the American Bankers Association (ABA), and the organizations involved in this effort are firmly committed to ensuring fTLDs are operated in a responsible and secure manner and will take all necessary steps to ensure that occurs.
BITS, it should be pointed out, is preparing its own .bank bid (possibly also .invest and .insure) so the new specs give a pretty good indication of what its own gTLD applications will look like.
ICANN’s Applicant Guidebook does not currently mandate any security standard, but it does say that security practices should be commensurate with the level of trust expected from the gTLD string.
Efforts within ICANN to create a formal High Security Zone Top Level Domain (HSTLD) standard basically fizzled out in late 2010 after ICANN’s board said it would not endorse its results.
That said, any applicant that chooses to adopt the new spec and can demonstrate it has the wherewithal to live up to its very strict requirements stands a pretty good chance of scoring maximum points in the security section of the gTLD application.
Declining to implement these new standards, or something very similar, is likely to be a deal-breaker for any company currently thinking about applying for a financial services gTLD.
Even if ICANN does not formally endorse the BITS-led effort, it is virtually guaranteed that the Governmental Advisory Committee will be going through every financial gTLD with a fine-toothed comb when the applications are published May 1.
The US government, via NTIA chief Larry Strickling, said this week that the GAC plans to reopen the new gTLD trademark protection debate after the applications are published.
It’s very likely that any dodgy-looking gTLDs purporting to represent regulated industries will find themselves under the microscope at that time.
The new spec was published by BITS December 20. It is endorsed by 17 companies, mostly banks. Read it in PDF format here.