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Apache Foundation rebuffs allegation it allowed Equifax attack

Timeline explains that either Equifax didn't patch old bugs, or was zero-dayed

By Simon Sharwood, 11 Sep 2017

The Apache Software Foundation has defended its development practices in the face of a report alleging its code was responsible for the Equifax data leak.

QZ.com, an outlet run by Atlantic Media, alleged that the hack was the result of an attack on Apache Struts, which as we reported last week was found to have a flaw allowing malware to be injected into corporate networks. The outlet pointed out that the flaw may have been present in Struts for nine years.

Which has Apache antsy, as it's not willing to wear responsibility for a hack that took place before it knew it had a problem, or to be labelled as the kind of outfit that lets bugs go un-patched for years at a time.

As the veep for Struts, René Gielen, explained in rebuttal post, “We are sorry to hear news that Equifax suffered from a security breach and information disclosure incident that was potentially carried out by exploiting a vulnerability in the Apache Struts Web Framework. At this point in time it is not clear which Struts vulnerability would have been utilized, if any.”

The post went on to explain that Equifax said it was breached in May 2017 and the problem was discovered in July 2017. The recent Struts bug, CVE-2017-9805, was announced in early September 2017. Other problems in the code were revealed in March 2017.

Gielen therefore suggests “the attackers either used an earlier announced vulnerability on an unpatched Equifax server or exploited a vulnerability not known at this point in time [July] - a so-called Zero-Day-Exploit.”

While nobody wants to have bugs in their code, Apache argued it responded properly to the bugs revealed in September.

“Regarding the assertion that especially CVE-2017-9805 is a nine year old security flaw, one has to understand that there is a huge difference between detecting a flaw after nine years and knowing about a flaw for several years. If the latter was the case, the team would have had a hard time to provide a good answer why they did not fix this earlier. But this was actually not the case here - we were notified just recently on how a certain piece of code can be misused, and we fixed this ASAP.”

QZ has since altered its allegation: “An earlier version of this article said the vulnerability exploited by the hackers who broke into Equifax was the one disclosed on Sep. 4. It’s possible that the vulnerability that was targeted was one disclosed in March.”

To make the matter even odder, Equifax hasn't said how it was breached. Just that it was breached by something to do with a web app. ®

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