Information Disclosure

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Information Disclosure, also known as Information Leakage, is when a website unintentionally reveals sensitive information. Depending on the context, websites may leak all kinds of information to a potential attacker, including:

  • Data about other users, such as a valid username via failed login messages or personal information that should not be provided to anyone except its owner
  • Sensitive commercial or business data
  • Technical details about the website and its infrastructure

Leaking sensitive user or business data can lead to compromise of the business or the confidentiality of personal information. However, disclosing technical information can be severe as well. Although some of this information will be of limited use, it can potentially be a starting point for exposing additional attack surfaces, containing other vulnerabilities to exploit. For example, disclosing the applications and versions running on a website may reveal the appropriate exploits to run to compromise unpatched applications.

Sensitive information may be unintentionally leaked to users who are simply browsing the website in a normal fashion. More commonly, an attacker causes information disclosure by interacting with the website in unexpected or malicious ways. They will then carefully study the website’s responses to try and identify interesting behavior.

Some examples of information disclosure are found below:

  • Revealing the names of hidden directories, their structure, and their contents via a robots.txt file or directory listing
  • Providing access to source code files via temporary backups not properly protected
  • Explicitly mentioning database table or column names in error messages
  • Unnecessarily exposing highly sensitive information, such as credit card details
  • Hard-coding API keys, IP addresses, database credentials, and so on in the source code
  • Hinting at the existence or absence of resources, usernames, and so on via subtle differences in application behavior

How Does My SMB or MSP Prevent This?

One of the primary prevention methods revolves around developers and those who work administratively within the company website. The recommendations below are strictly for administrators or developers of your website or application: 

First, ensure that developers involved in creating the website are fully aware of what information is considered sensitive. Sometimes seemingly harmless information can be much more useful to an attacker than people realize. Highlighting these dangers can help make sure that sensitive information is handled more securely in general by your organization. 
Second, audit any code for potential information disclosure as part of your QA or build processes. It should be relatively easy to automate some of the associated tasks, such as stripping developer comments.
Third, use generic error messages as much as possible. Don’t provide attackers with clues about application behavior unnecessarily.
Fourth, double-check that any debugging or diagnostic features are disabled in the production environment.
Lastly, make sure you fully understand the configuration settings, and security implications, of any third-party technology that you implement. Take the time to investigate and disable any features and settings that you don’t actually need.

Additional Cybersecurity Recommendations

In addition to the above recommendations, the items below will help you and your business stay secure against many of the threats you may face on a day-to-day basis. All of the suggestions listed below can be gained by hiring CyberHoot’s vCISO services.

  1. Govern employees with policies and procedures. You need a password policy, an acceptable use policy, an information handling policy, and a written information security program (WISP) at a minimum.
  2. Train employees on how to spot and avoid phishing attacks. Adopt a Learning Management system like CyberHoot to teach employees the skills they need to be more confident, productive, and secure.
  3. Test employees with Phishing attacks to practice. CyberHoot’s Phish testing allows businesses to test employees with believable phishing attacks and put those that fail into remedial phish training.
  4. Deploy critical cybersecurity technology including two-factor authentication on all critical accounts. Enable email SPAM filtering, validate backups, deploy DNS protection, antivirus, and anti-malware on all your endpoints.
  5. In the modern Work-from-Home era, make sure you’re managing personal devices connecting to your network by validating their security (patching, antivirus, DNS protections, etc) or prohibiting their use entirely.
  6. If you haven’t had a risk assessment by a 3rd party in the last 2 years, you should have one now. Establishing a risk management framework in your organization is critical to addressing your most egregious risks with your finite time and money.
  7. Buy Cyber-Insurance to protect you in a catastrophic failure situation. Cyber-Insurance is no different than Car, Fire, Flood, or Life insurance. It’s there when you need it most.

All of these recommendations are built into CyberHoot the product or CyberHoot’s vCISO Services. With CyberHoot you can govern, train, assess, and test your employees. Visit and sign up for our services today. At the very least continue to learn by enrolling in our monthly Cybersecurity newsletters to stay on top of current cybersecurity updates.

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