September 5, 2023

Strengthening Cybersecurity: Part 1 - Tackling Clear Text Password Storage

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In the world of cybersecurity, threats are constantly evolving, and it's crucial for individuals and organizations to stay ahead of the curve. In this three-part series, we'll dive into some common but often overlooked vulnerabilities and explore practical ways to enhance your cybersecurity posture. Our first topic is a vulnerability that has plagued systems for years – clear text password storage.

Understanding the threat

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology Research and Engineering Adversarial Tactics Techniques, and Common Knowledge (MITRE ATT&CK®) framework is a valuable resource for understanding various cyber threats based on real-world observations. One such threat is T1552, which focuses on clear text password storage. Unlike vulnerabilities that can be detected by conventional vulnerability scanners, clear text password storage is often hidden in plain sight, making it a particularly insidious risk. This type of attack can take over a fully patched system with the most sophisticated Endpoint Detection and Response (EDR) solution, an endpoint security solution that continuously monitors end-user devices to detect and respond to cyber threats like ransomware and malware, installed.

Picture this: you're a cyber attacker, and you've found a treasure trove of clear text passwords on an IT file share. The implications are staggering. Armed with these credentials, you can gain unauthorized access, potentially leading to lateral movement within a network or even privilege escalation. It's an attacker's dream come true and a nightmare for those tasked with securing sensitive data.

Common, yet often unnoticed

Clear text password storage might seem like an obscure issue, but it's far more common than you might think. Over the years, security professionals have encountered this problem time and time again. And while you might expect sophisticated vulnerability scanners or unstructured data scanners to flag this vulnerability, they often focus on more obvious targets like credit card data or social security numbers and miss these passwords.

Addressing Clear Text Password Storage

So, how can you address this subtle yet critical cybersecurity vulnerability? Think in terms of people, processes, and technology.

  1. Awareness: The first step is to make users aware of the impact of storing passwords in clear text. Often, employees unknowingly contribute to this problem because they're unaware of the risks. Training programs and regular cybersecurity awareness sessions can go a long way in educating users about the importance of secure password storage.
  2. Password Managers: Password managers are invaluable tools in addressing clear text password storage. These tools not only encourage users to create strong, unique passwords but also store them securely in an encrypted format. Encourage your team or organization to adopt password managers to minimize the risk of clear text storage.
  3. Professional Assistance: Even after implementing awareness programs and password managers, you might still need professional assistance. The Elliott Davis Cyber Team can help you hunt for clear text passwords, identify vulnerabilities, and provide tailored solutions to mitigate risks effectively. Don't hesitate to reach out if you need further support.

Clear text password storage may be an overlooked vulnerability, but its potential impact is significant. As we've seen, it can provide cyber attackers with a golden ticket to infiltrate your systems, leading to data breaches and compromised security. By raising awareness among users, promoting password manager adoption, and seeking professional guidance, you can take a proactive stance against this threat.

Stay tuned for the next installment in our series, where we'll explore another crucial aspect of cybersecurity and provide actionable steps to bolster your defenses. Remember, in the ever-evolving landscape of cyber threats, staying informed and prepared is your best defense. Please reach out to us for more information or assistance.

The information provided in this communication is of a general nature and should not be considered professional advice. You should not act upon the information provided without obtaining specific professional advice. The information above is subject to change.

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