What's up with the Anonymous hackfest?

Hackers apparently linked to the hactivist group Anonymous today kept up a hacking spree to dump data they said they stole from Symantec, VMware, PayPal, Hyundai, and the U.S. Department of Energy and Transportation, among others.

Symantec says it's still "investigating the recent claims made online regarding the security of our networks," and adds that it has found "no evidence that customer information was exposed or impacted," and "will continue to monitor the situation and aggressively investigate these and any related claims." But at least one other security vendor that's looked at the data dumped online says it does seem to be Symantec employee names and password hashes.

MORE: Hitting back at cyberattackers: Experts discuss pros and cons

BACKGROUND: Hackers claim attacks against ImageShack, Symantec, PayPal, other websites

"This link shows, with a high degree of confidence, that the attackers were able to penetrate to an internal database of Symantec," said Tal Beery, security researcher at security firm Imperva. "Most likely, the Symantec support content management system database. They had published the contents of one database, which included e-mail addresses, hashed passwords and some phone numbers of Symantec employees."

The hackers included a message directed at Alexander Trinkis, integration manager at Symantec, that reads, "Saved by your WAF [Web application firewall]? You wish. All the other major AV [antivirus] corps are owned, too, your just pissed us off the most. Oh, and if you think we're listing everything here, take the blue pill. Oh, and nice JBoss on VeriSign, by the way. We've always been entertained by Symantec partnerships. (especially Huawei)."

The ongoing hacker spree, also said to include a data spill of some additional amount of source code related to VMware ESX that dates back to 2004, is apparently being carried out in celebration of Guy Fawkes Day, a holiday in the United Kingdom that for years has been invoked as a symbol by Anonymous. Yesterday, in the apparent ramp-up to all, the hackers claimed hits to deface websites, including those related to NBC, a Lady Gaga fan site and several Australian websites.

The hactivists also claimed to have hit PayPal, the e-commerce payments provider which is a subsidiary of eBay, but PayPal maintains it sees no evidence of that.

"Security of our customers' data is the top priority at PayPal. We're aggressively investigating this but to date we have been unable to find any evidence that validates this claim," a PayPal spokesperson said.

In a blog post on Sunday, VMware said it became aware of ESX source code that had been published online, which it says dated back to 2004 and is related to source code that had been leaked in April.

The leak was officially announced on Twitter by user STUN, who links Anonymous to the breach when announcing the leak.

VMware said more related files could be released as well. "As a matter of best practices with respect to security, VMware strongly encourages all customers to apply the latest product updates and security patches made available for their specific environment," wrote VMware Director of Platform Security Iain Mulholland, adding a recommendation for customers to review security hardening guidelines posted by VMware. Additional requests for comment form VMware on Monday regarding the situation were not responded to.

Jon Oltsik, an ESG senior principal analyst, says the newest release of ESX code raises the risk exposure for customers. Patches and service bulletins should be monitored closely in the coming days by concerned users. "Even though the source code is old, some of it is likely the foundation of modern day ESX," he says. "Cybercriminals now have a recipe for potential vulnerabilities to research and exploit. I would imagine a spike in VMware-focused malware as a result."

Oltsik recommends that customers assess their data center securities at both the network and host-based levels for things like network segmentation and ACLs, and ensure that security controls such as firewalls, IDS/IPS and WAF are all up to date. As a precaution, customers can also block access to data center VMs that don't need to be accessed over public networks.

VMware, meanwhile, needs to do its due diligence as well. "VMware needs to be extremely visible with security even if this turns out to be a non-issue," Oltsik says. "There are a lot of nervous folks out there."

Read more about wide area network in Network World's Wide Area Network section.

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