(The contents of this article are captured here and reflected back in response to an article posted on SailPoint’s Identity Quotient Blog article entitled “Third-Party Contractors: The Target Breach’s Bulls-eye.” I recommend reading that article to establish context for this article.)
It is fairly well known and pretty much public knowledge that the Target breach took place leveraging 3rd party credentials that were phished from an associated Heating Venting and Air Conditioning (HVAC) vendor. This was the initial point of entry into the Target network.
However, the HVAC credentials were primarily leveraged only for initial access. Credit card data was not being accessed and syphoned using that specific HVAC ID. Nevertheless, controls around time of access and other metadata information that could be policy driven within SailPoint IdentityIQ around that 3rd party access are still cogent to the discussion as per the aforementioned SailPoint article.
What isn’t mentioned in the article is that SailPoint IdentityIQ and ideally any IdM product could and should have a very big part to play in the gathering of and providing governance around Non-User IDs (NUIDs) — testing IDs, training IDs, B2B FTP IDs, generic admin IDs (that should be privileged access managed anyway), application IDs (huge!), etc.
Organizations typically have thousands, tens of thousands and yes, even millions of orphaned and ungoverned NUIDs, in terms of overall access, proliferated, orphaned and laying dormant on end-point servers and systems…
To an attacker, an ID is an ID is an ID. Any ID will suffice in order to establish a beachhead on a system and then begin trying to “walk” systems, ideally though the elevation of access. This is typically how deep penetration and spanning of internal networks has taken place in a lot of recent breaches. When attacking a system and attempting to establish access, it doesn’t matter to the attacker whether the initial ID used is technically a normal and established user ID (with or without governance around it) or a NUID that typically is not being properly tracked and governed within organizations. In fact, NUIDs represent an ideal target due to the fact they don’t have visibility and normal and established governance around them in many organizations.