Deloitte was hacked in March! Source: The Guardian

Deloitte, One of the world’s biggest accountancy firms was hit by a sophisticated attack last March.

The company, being one of the largest private firms in the US, which reported a record $37bn revenue last year, provides auditing, tax consultancy and high-end cybersecurity advice to some of the world’s biggest banks and multinational companies.

The Guardian, which broke the story, understands that the attack was discovered in March 2017; however, the attackers could have had access since October or November 2016.

The hacker compromised the firm’s global email server through an “administrator’s account” that, in theory, gave them privileged, unrestricted “access to all areas”.

The account required only a single password and did not have “two-step“ verification, sources said.

Emails to and from Deloitte’s 244,000 staff were stored in the Azure cloud service, which was provided by Microsoft. This is Microsoft’s equivalent to Amazon Web Service and Google’s Cloud Platform.

In addition to emails, the attackers may have had access to usernames, passwords, IP addresses and architectural diagrams for some businesses. Some of the emails contained sensitive attachments.

The Guardian has been told the internal inquiry into how this happened has been codenamed “Windham”. It has involved specialists trying to map out exactly where the hackers went by analysing the electronic trail of the searches that were made.

The team investigating the hack is understood to have been working out of the firm’s offices in Rosslyn, Virginia, where analysts have been reviewing potentially compromised documents for six months.

It has yet to establish whether a lone wolf, business rivals or state-sponsored hackers were responsible.

“In response to a cyber incident, Deloitte implemented its comprehensive security protocol and began an intensive and thorough review including mobilising a team of cybersecurity and confidentiality experts inside and outside of Deloitte,” a spokesman said.

“As part of the review, Deloitte has been in contact with the very few clients impacted and notified governmental authorities and regulators.

“The review has enabled us to understand what information was at risk and what the hacker actually did, and demonstrated that no disruption has occurred to client businesses, to Deloitte’s ability to continue to serve clients, or to consumers.

“We remain deeply committed to ensuring that our cybersecurity defences are best in class, to investing heavily in protecting confidential information and to continually reviewing and enhancing cybersecurity. We will continue to evaluate this matter and take additional steps as required.

“Our review enabled us to determine what the hacker did and what information was at risk as a result. That amount is a very small fraction of the amount that has been suggested.”

Deloitte declined to say which government authorities and regulators it had informed, or when, or whether it had contacted law enforcement agencies.

Though all major companies are targeted by hackers, the breach is a deep embarrassment for Deloitte, which offers potential clients advice on how to manage the risks posed by sophisticated cybersecurity attacks.

“Cyber risk is more than a technology or security issue, it is a business risk,” Deloitte tells potential customers on its website.

“While today’s fast-paced innovation enables strategic advantage, it also exposes businesses to potential cyber-attack. Embedding best practice cyber behaviours help our clients to minimise the impact on business.”

Deloitte has a “CyberIntelligence Centre” to provide clients with “round-the-clock business focussed operational security”.

“We monitor and assess the threats specific to your organisation, enabling you to swiftly and effectively mitigate risk and strengthen your cyber resilience,” its website says. “Going beyond the technical feeds, our professionals are able to contextualise the relevant threats, helping determine the risk to your business, your customers and your stakeholders.”

In 2012, Deloitte, which has offices all over the world, was ranked the best cybersecurity consultant in the world.

Earlier this month, Equifax, the US credit monitoring agency, admitted the personal data of 143 million US customers had been accessed or stolen in a massive hack in May. It has also revealed it was also the victim of an earlier breach in March.

Mohamad El Hout, MBA, M.Eng., CISSP

Mohamad is an entrepreneur and a Senior Security Consultant dealing with the design and delivery of standard and complex security gateway solutions, covering a wide range of cutting edge technologies. His interests include business, technology, leadership, sports, and the continuous pursuit of knowledge.

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