FirstAm Leak Highlights Importance of Verifying the Basics

FirstAm Leak Highlights Importance of Verifying the Basics
The Fortune 500 giant in the real estate industry missed a basic vulnerability in its website, leaving as many as 885 million sensitive records accessible to attackers. The fix: teaching developers the top 10 security issues and frequent testing.

A simple-to-exploit vulnerability in the website of real estate insurance giant First American Financial that could have resulted in the theft of hundreds of millions of sensitive records underscores the importance of verifying basic security measures and implementing secure programming practices, experts said this week.


The vulnerability, first reported by cybersecurity journalist Brian Krebs, allowed anyone with a valid link to a document on the site to increment the identifier to access the next document in sequence, as processed by the firm. The journalist found that the first record accessible through the site, document 000000075, dated back to 2003.


The basic error is a major misstep for the financial firm. The class of vulnerability is so well known that it had its own slot on the popular Open Web Application Security Project (OWASP) Top 10 list of web security vulnerabilities, "A4-Insecure Direct Object References," for four years, and is so easy to find that a simple Google search often turns up the issue.


"You don't need a sophisticated security solution to find these issues," says Greg Pollock, vice president of products for cloud-security firm UpGuard. "It's not about bulking up on cutting-edge DevOps or continuous integration testing, but back-to-basics engineering practices and having a culture that, if an engineer sees something wrong — and they should have seen something wrong here — they raise the issue and it gets fixed."


Beyond the Top 10The incident underscores that while many security firms urge customers to "go beyond the OWASP Top 10," a la ..