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Cybersecurity Horror Stories

October 30, 2023

There is no doubt plenty of horror stories working in cybersecurity. For cybersecurity awareness month and Halloween, we teamed up with industry leaders and partners and asked them a simple question, “tell us a cybersecurity horror story.”

” When I first got into the field as an admin, I was informed that one of our Domain Admin accounts was a user called ‘hdesk’ and the password was ‘help’ and everyone in the company was aware of it. And I mean EVERYBODY! You can imagine how that went over at our security audit. Suffice to say, it was changed shortly after that.” – Daniel Lowrie, IT Pro TV

” I once got a call from one of our vendors telling us they found the entire code of one of our critical applications including secrets in clear text in an open GitHub repository. The developer thought the GitHub repo was secure by default. This became an escalated incident of course but also a great opportunity to educate developers on secure coding practices. ” – VCISO Carlos Rodriguez

” Client had serious concerns regarding the physical security controls of their main campus. My team was engaged to attempt to breach the primary building with no stated limitations.

The client’s facility was a large campus comprising multiple buildings supporting various corporate functions and operations. Upon completion of the reconnaissance phase, it was determined that we’d attempt to scale the first story of the target building via grappling hook and climbing gear.

Literally picture Batman & Robin slowly walking up the side of a building and that is exactly what we looked like, minus the costumes.

Upon gaining a successful foothold with the grappling gear and securing the belay lines, we began our single-story ascent. Within minutes, we noticed the beam of a flashlight slowly approaching our position and with the belay lines dangling on the ground, there was no mistaking what we were up to!

This is where the story gets good, so the security guard, Chad, approaches us and demands we come down. Once back on the ground knowing full well that our cover was about to be blown, we throw caution to the wind and tell Chad at least most of the truth, that we’re here on a consulting engagement. Fully expecting Chad to raise the alarm to call the police, we were in total shock when Chad said “Okay, cool, but please be careful not to damage the building.

Um, wait what? Chad never asked us for identification, a get of jail free letter or even our names!

So once the coast is clear, we return to our superhero’s scaling that daunting first story wall. Upon reaching the summit a solid 12-15 feet above ground, we stumble over the perimeter wall and discover an exterior glass door leading into an employee break room, adjoining what turned out to be the primary data center!

Once inside, we were successful in gaining access to pretty much the entire facility without being challenged again by Chad.

The irony of this cyber horror story is that the client was a security firm and the lack of any semblance of security awareness by their security officer underscores the fact that even security companies are vulnerable to the same tactics & techniques that malicious threat actors utilize, regardless of their target or intentions.” – Todd Salmon, Cybersecurity executive and former CISO

” During a recent Ransomware attack, we noticed threat actors stealing administrative credentials and logging on to security portals to disable EDR products within their environment. They used a weakness and privileged access management to uninstall security agents without the victim’s knowledge, until after the security incident had occurred. These attackers were even responding towards threats in the portal to avoid suspicion. Eventually they locked out the customer from their own security portal and executed Ransomware within the environment taking the company down.” – Josh Nicholson, DeepSeas VP

” One that I remember really vividly, we did some work with an insurance provider a property insurance company and we demonstrated that in the web app they put on the Internet for all their policyholders and their agents to use that it was possible to sign up for a free account, gain access to other people’s information, and then actually act as a not only an agent but actually somebody for the company to create our own claim, approve our own claim and mail ourselves a check. All that happened 5 vulnerabilities we found in the web application.” – Ben Finke, OnDefend CTO

Whether you need a Ransomware readiness assessment or advanced email phishing training, OnDefend can provide any professional service your company may need. Check out a full listing of our services here: Services > OnDefend


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