Ok, I’ve been pretty involved in the latest data breach, so here’s my side of the story.
At around 11pm last Friday, I got a query from Zurairi at The Malay Mail, asking for a second opinion on a strange email the newsdesk received from an ‘anonymous source’. The email was regular vulnerability disclosure, but one that was full of details, attached with an enormous amount of data.
This wasn’t a two-liner tweet, this was a detailed email with outlined sub-sections. It covered why they were sending the email, what the vulnerable system was, how to exploit the vulnerability and finally (and most importantly!) a link to a Google Drive folder containing Gigabytes of data.
The email pointed to a Ministry of Education site called SAPSNKRA, used for parents to check on their children’s exam results. Quick Google searches reveal the site had security issues in the past including one blog site advising parents to proceed past the invalid certificate warning in firefox. But let’s get back to the breach.
My first reaction was to test the vulnerability, and sure enough, the site was vulnerable to SQL Injection, in exactly the manner specified by the email. So far email looked legitimate.
Next, I verified the data in the Google Drive folder, by downloading the gigabytes of text files, and checking the IC Numbers of children I knew.
I further cross-checked a few parents IC numbers against the electoral roll. Most children have some indicator of their fathers name embedded in their own, either through a surname or the full name of the father after the bin, binti, a/l or a/p. By keying in the fathers IC number, and cross-referencing the fathers name against what was in the breach, it was easy to see that the data was the real deal.
So I called back Zurairi and confirmed to him that the data was real, and that the site should be taken offline. I also contacted a buddy of mine over at MKN, to see if he could help, and Zurairi had independently raised a ticket with MyCert (a ticket??!!) and tried to contact the Education Minister via his aide.
Obviously neither Zurairi nor myself, or any of the other journalist I kept in touch with, could report on the story. The site was still vulnerable, and we didn’t want someone else breaching it.
The next morning, I emailed the anonymous source and asked them to take down the Google Drive, explaining that the breach was confirmed, and people were working to take down the site. Hence there was no reason to continue exposing all of that personal information on the internet.
They agreed, and wiped the drive clean, and shortly after I got confirmation that the SAPSNKRA website had been taken down. So with the site down, and the Google Drive wiped cleaned, it seemed the worst was behind us.
Danger averted…at least for now.
But, since Data breaches last forever, and this was a breach, we should talk about what data was in the system. Zurairi did a good job here, but here’s my more detail take on the issue.