User information disclosure

Febna V M
Published on
11 Mar 2024
5 min read

Managing data is a critical responsibility for any web application, particularly given the potential inclusion of sensitive information. This data can encompass a wide array of details, ranging from essential product functionality information to a plethora of other sensitive data points.

Older versions of SIPS (0.2.2 and lower) stores sensitive information under the web root with insufficient access control. This negligence by the SIPS will allow a remote attacker to obtain the password and other sensitive user information via a direct request to a user-specific configuration directory.

The intensity of damage can only be measured depending upon the data leaked. The information leakage for server might range from server’s critical and sensitive server configuration to user account details.

The different attacks possible under information disclosure are:

  • Banner grabbing: The attacker grabs information about the server by sending different requests to the victim server.

  • Source code disclosure: If the victim server is not properly configured, the attacker can gain access to the source code of the application. The attacker can scan the code to hardcoded user credentials, API keys and many more.

  • Unsafe handling of sensitive data: If the applications handle the data in an unsafe manner, the attacker can use attacks like MITM attack to sniff data off the communication channel.

  • File names and path: If an attacker gets access to any files or path of the application, the attacker can use directory traversal attack to go unauthorized paths of the server.

Example[sips_directory] /sipssys/users/[first_letter_of_UserID]/

The above URL will give the attacker access to usernames and passwords of all the application’s users.

What are the impacts of user information disclosure?

User information disclosure can have various impacts, both on the affected individuals and the organizations responsible for safeguarding this information.

Here are some of the key impacts of user information disclosure:

1. Privacy violation

The most immediate impact is a violation of individuals’ privacy. Their personal information, which they entrusted to an organization, has been exposed without their consent.

2. Identity theft

User information disclosure can lead to identity theft.

Attackers may use the exposed data to impersonate individuals, open fraudulent accounts, or conduct financial transactions in their name.

3. Phishing and social engineering

Attackers may use the exposed information to craft convincing phishing emails or messages, making it easier to deceive individuals into revealing more sensitive data or login credentials.

Organizations that fail to protect user information may face legal actions and regulatory fines. Many jurisdictions have data protection laws that require organizations to secure user data.

5. Operational disruption

Handling the aftermath of a user information disclosure incident can be disruptive to an organization’s operations.

This includes responding to inquiries, investigations, and implementing security improvements.

6. Costs of remediation

Remediation efforts, such as notifying affected users, providing credit monitoring services, and enhancing security measures, can be costly.

7. Competitive disadvantage

Organizations that experience user information disclosure incidents may be at a competitive disadvantage compared to competitors with strong security practices.

8. Increased scrutiny

After a disclosure incident, organizations may face increased scrutiny from regulatory bodies, customers, and the public, which can lead to additional audits and investigations.

How can you prevent user information disclosure?

Preventing and mitigating user information disclosure is essential for protecting both individuals and organizations from the negative consequences of data breaches.

Here are ways you can take to prevent and mitigate user information disclosure:

1. Data classification and segmentation

Classify user data according to its sensitivity. Implement strict access controls to limit who can access and modify sensitive information.

2. Encryption

Encrypt sensitive data both at rest and in transit. Use strong encryption algorithms to protect data stored in databases, files, and communication channels.

3. Access controls

Implement strong access controls, including role-based access control (RBAC), to ensure that only authorized personnel can access and modify user data.

4. Data minimization

Collect and retain only the data necessary for the intended purpose. Avoid storing excessive or unnecessary user information.

5. Regular data audits

Conduct regular audits and reviews of user data to identify and remove outdated or unnecessary information.

6. Secure authentication

Use strong authentication methods, such as multi-factor authentication (MFA), to verify the identities of users accessing the system.

7. Security training

Train employees and contractors on security best practices, including the importance of protecting user data and recognizing social engineering attacks.

8. Vendor security assessment

If you rely on third-party vendors for services that involve user data, assess their security practices and ensure they meet your data protection standards.

9. Incident response plan

Develop and test an incident response plan to address user information disclosure incidents promptly and effectively.

10. Data masking and redaction

Implement data masking and redaction techniques to replace sensitive information with placeholders or generic data in logs, reports, and user interfaces.

11. Data breach notification

Have a clear process for notifying affected individuals, regulators, and the public in the event of a data breach as required by applicable laws and regulations.

Preventing user information disclosure is an ongoing effort that requires a combination of technical controls, organizational policies, and user awareness.

A comprehensive approach to data security helps protect both individuals’ privacy and the organization’s reputation.

Additionally, it’s crucial to continuously assess and improve security measures as the threat landscape evolves.

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Written by
Febna V M
Febna V M
Cyber Security Engineer
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