Security Vendor Imperva Reports a Breach

Imperva, a US-based cybersecurity company known for its web application security and data protection products, has disclosed a breach of their customer data. According to the announcement, a subset of the customers for its cloud-based Web Application Firewall solution (formerly known as Incapsula) had their data exposed, including their email addresses, password hashes, API keys, and SSL certificates.

Adding insult to injury, this breach seems to be that of the worst kind: it happened long ago, probably in September 2017, and was unnoticed until a third party notified Imperva a week ago. Even though the investigation is still ongoing and not many details are revealed yet, the company did the right thing by providing a prompt full disclosure along with recommended security measures.

Still, what can we learn or at least guess from this story? First and foremost, even the leading cybersecurity vendors are not immune (or should I say, “impervious”?) to hacking and data breaches, exposing not only their own corporate infrastructures and sensitive data, but creating unexpected attack vectors for their customers. This is especially critical for SaaS-based security solutions, where a single data leak may give a hacker convenient means to attack multiple other companies using the service.

More importantly, however, this highlights the critical importance of having monitoring and governance tools in place in addition to traditional protection-focused security technologies. After all, having an API key for a cloud-based WAF gives a hacker ample opportunity to silently modify its policies, weakening or completely disabling protection of the application behind it. If the customer has no means of detecting these changes and reacting quickly, he will inevitably end up being the next target.

Having access to the customer’s SSL certificates opens even broader opportunities for hackers: application traffic can be exposed to various Man-in-the-Middle attacks or even silently diverted to a malicious third party for all kinds of misuse: from data exfiltration to targeted phishing attacks. Again, without specialized monitoring and detection tools in place, such attacks may go unnoticed for months (depending on how long your certificate rotation cycles are). Quite frankly, having your password hashes leaked feels almost harmless in comparison.

So, does this mean that Imperva’s Cloud WAF should no longer be trusted at all? Of course not, but the company will surely have to work hard to restore its product’s reputation after this breach.

Does it mean that SaaS-based security products, in general, should be avoided? Again, not necessarily, but additional risks of relying on security solutions outside of your direct control must be taken into account. Alas, finding the right balance between complexity and costs of an on-premises solution vs. scalability and convenience of “security from the cloud” has just become even more complicated than it was last week.

The bottom line is that although 100% security is impossible to achieve, even with multi-layered security architecture, the only difference between a good and a bad strategy here is in properly identifying the business risks and investing in appropriate mitigation controls. However, without continuous monitoring and governance in place, you will inevitably end up finding about a data breach long after it has occurred – and you’ll be extremely lucky if you learn it from your security vendor and not from the morning news.

The ultimate security of an organization, and thus its residual risk, depends on the proper mix of complementary components within an IT security portfolio. Gaps in safeguarding of sensitive systems must be identified and eliminated. Functional overlaps and ineffective measures must give way to more efficient concepts. The KuppingerCole Analysts Portfolio Compass Advisory Services offers you support in the evaluation and validation of existing security controls in your specific infrastructure, with the aim of designing a future-proof and cost-efficient mix of measures. Learn more here or just talk to us.


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