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11 Attacks in 13 Months: The New Generation of Supply Chain Attacks

11 Attacks in 13 Months: The New Generation of Supply Chain Attacks

Blog Article Published: 12/06/2023

Originally published by Astrix.

Written by Dana Katz.

A new generation of supply chain attacks has been rising in recent years. In such attacks, hackers abuse third-party & internal non-human access as a means of accessing core business systems. While many conversations about supply chain security risks focus on vulnerabilities in software application components themselves, or in their human-to-app connections, they overlook a critical area of supply chain security risk: non-human identities and their ungoverned access to core business and engineering environments.


The threat is real: A new generation of supply chain attacks

Security issues related to app-to-app connections are not theoretical. A variety of recent incidents highlight the risk posed by insecure non-human access:

  • Okta (October 2023): Attackers managed to steal credentials and access Okta's support case management system. This allowed the attackers to view files uploaded by some Okta customers as part of recent support cases.
  • GitHub Dependabot (September 2023): Hackers stole GitHub Personal Access Tokens (PAT). These tokens were then used to make unauthorized commits as Dependabot to both public and private GitHub repositories.
  • Microsoft SAS Key (September 2023): A SAS token that was published by Microsoft’s AI researchers actually granted full access to the entire Storage account it was created on, leading to a leak of over 38TB of extremely sensitive information. These permissions were exposed to attackers for over 2 years.
  • Microsoft365 Forged Access Token (July 2023): Inactive signing key was stolen from a possibly breached enterprise Azure system, and used to sign and create valid email access tokens, which were erroneously accepted by the Azure AD cloud system of several of its customers. This allowed the hackers to expand their reach to Office365 used by all organizations sharing the same Azure AD cloud environment.
  • Jumpcloud (July 2023): During an ongoing investigation of a breach, Jumpcloud invalidated all API keys and later urged its customers to rotate all tokens provided.
  • Wordpress Ultimate Member plugin (July 2023): A critical vulnerability enabled full takeover of a WebPress website exploiting the vulnerable plugin, allowing any unauthenticated attacker to create users with full, administrative permission at will.
  • Slack GitHub Repositories (January 2023): In this incident, threat actors gained access to Slack’s externally hosted GitHub repositories via a “limited” number of stolen Slack employee tokens. From there, they were able to download private code repositories.
  • CircleCI (January 2023): In this attack, engineering employees’ computer, which was compromised by malware that bypassed their antivirus solution. The compromised machine allowed the threat actors to access and steal session tokens. Stolen session tokens give threat actors the same access as the account owner, even when the accounts are protected with two factor authentication.
  • GitHub Personal Access Token (December 2022): On December 6, 2022, repositories from GitHub’s atom, desktop, and other deprecated GitHub-owned organizations were cloned by a compromised Personal Access Token (PAT) associated with a machine account. The malicious actor then used the PATs to read these repositories, which contained sensitive information.
  • Microsoft OAuth Phishing Attack (December 2022): Malicious OAuth apps were used to steal customers’ emails. The threat actors then used these accounts to register verified OAuth apps in Azure AD for consent phishing attacks targeting corporate users in the UK and Ireland.
  • Microsoft OAuth (September 2022): By exploiting OAuth integrations, malicious applications were deployed on compromised cloud tenants. From there, they modified Exchange Online settings to spread spam.


What is causing the spike in supply chain attacks?

Securing human access via IAM tools is no longer enough. These days, every employee delegates access, on average, to ten third-party cloud services and Gen-AI tools to automate tasks and increase efficiency. This sprawl of third party non-human access to core systems (such as Salesforce, GitHub, Microsoft 365) via service accounts, OAuth tokens, API keys, etc., creates an ungoverned attack surface.

To make matters worse, internal services and resources connected via secrets are created and scattered all over by R&D teams that are not responsible for securing them, with zero visibility for security teams, and existing solutions are not built to solve these problems. Vaults only store your secrets without any context like secret risk severity or usage insight, and secret scanners only find exposed secrets, again without any context.

Think about these daily scenarios:

  • An engineering team lead using a new cloud-based dev productivity tool that relies on API access to your source code repositories.
  • A marketing operations manager trialing a new SaaS prospecting tool – and integrating it directly with your Salesforce instance to sync leads automatically.
  • A software engineer sends a teammate an access secret for an internal IT Slack Bot app so they can investigate a bug together

Improperly secured non-human access, both external and internal, massively increases the likelihood of supply chain attacks, data breaches, and compliance violations, as recent attacks reveal. In these attacks, attackers take advantage of the access granted to third-party and internal cloud services as a backdoor into the companies’ most sensitive core systems.


Non-human access attacks frequency and intensity will increase

Unfortunately, the size and scale of the problem is only worsening. Here are 3 of the major reasons for this:

  1. Business app environment – With core systems like Slack offering at least 2,000 integrations in their marketplace alone, ‘non-technical’ employees can freely connect third-party apps to these core systems. These ‘non-technical’ employees usually lack cybersecurity awareness, and therefore may unknowingly connect untrusted, over-privileged, and later unused third-party apps to their accounts.
  2. Engineering environment – IT teams, DevOps and others are increasingly providing API-based access to third-party applications from core systems like GitHub or Snowflake. These shadow integrations (created using API keys, service accounts, webhooks, OAuth tokens, or even just SSH keys) create another whole ecosystem of supply chain dependencies.
  3. Low-code/no-code platforms – Tools like Zapier, Workato and Microsoft Power Apps are allowing “citizen developers” to integrate and automate processes with a flip of a switch. The ease with which these tools enable anyone to create advanced integrations between critical systems and third-party apps amplifies the web of tangled app integrations even more. In fact, the threat posed by these platforms is so great that analyst firm Forrester believes we will see a major breach in 2023.


Why security solutions fall short

If you look at how third-party app integrations typically work, and the level of visibility that businesses have into them, it’s not hard to understand why hackers would focus on exploiting supply chains. We live in a world of “extended enterprises,” meaning that organizations rely heavily on third-party app integrations. For example, the average enterprise employs about 1400 cloud-based apps, generating even more integrations.

And simply keeping track of all of these integrations is a huge task. User Access Management solutions (such as Okta, Auth0, and Cisco Duo) and Cloud Access Security Broker (CASB) platforms focus solely on securing user credentials and user-to-application connections. They do not monitor and govern app-to-app connections and ensure core systems are securely connected to third party cloud services.

API keys, Oauth token, webhooks and any other programmable access keys are powerful credentials and should be protected as vigorously as user passwords. Leaking an API key can be more consequential than leaking a username and password login since logins are often protected by two-factor authentication nowadays, whereas API keys are not.

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