SANS Institute Email Breach – 28,000 User Records exposed

Pierluigi Paganini August 12, 2020

The SANS Institute suffered a data breach, 28,000 user records containing personally identifiable information (PII) were exposed.

On August 6, during a review of email configuration and rules, the staff at the SANS Institute discovered a security breach. 28,000 records of personally identifiable information (PII) have been forwarded to an unknown email address.

The SANS Institute is a private U.S. for-profit company founded in 1989 that specializes in information security, cybersecurity training, and selling certificates.

The staff discovered an anomalous forwarding rule on one email account, which was set to forward emails to an unknown external address. The rule was active only for a single email account.

“On August 6th, as part of a systematic review of email configuration and rules we identified a suspicious forwarding rule and initiated our incident response process. This rule was found to have forwarded a number of emails from a specific individual’s e-mail account to a suspicious external email address.” reads the data breach notification published by the organization. “The forwarded emails included files that contained some subset of email, first name, last name, work title, company name, industry, address, and country of residence.”

The messages that were sent to this external address included files containing information user records (i.e. first and last name, email address, physical address, country of residence, work phone, work title, company name, and industry).

Financial information either passwords were not impacted in the incident.

SANS quickly disabled the rule stopping the leak of further information.

The organization declared that a total of 513 emails were forwarded to the external email address, most of them did not contain important information.

“Most of these emails were harmless, but some of these emails contained files with personally identifiable information (PII).” SANS continues. “As a result, approximately 28,000 records of PII were forwarded to an unknown external email address,”

Experts at the organizations revealed that they have identified a phishing email as the initial attack vector, no other email accounts were affected.

“Upon discovery of the malicious activity, our IT and security team removed the forwarding rule and malicious O365 add-in. We have also scanned for any similar occurrences within all other accounts and across our systems. We have found no other indications of compromise,” SANS says.

The company is going to notify the impacted individuals while an investigation is still ongoing.

The SANS Institute invites its users to contact the organization via e-mail ([email protected]) for any question about the security incident.

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Pierluigi Paganini

(SecurityAffairs – hacking, SANS Institute)

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