Lessons from Ubiquiti breach: Advice on protecting admin user accounts

3 minute read

Recently, Ubiquiti, which has shipped more than 85 million devices related to cloud-enabled Internet of Things (IoT) devices such as routers, network video recorders and security cameras in over 200 countries, got hacked, with hacker getting root administrator access to

all Ubiquiti AWS accounts, including all S3 data buckets, all application logs, all databases, all user database credentials, and secrets required to forge single sign-on (SSO) cookies – which basically means hackers have credentials to remotely access customers' IoT systems.

As per one of the security engineers who helped the company to respond to the breach, such a massive, privileged access to Ubiquiti resources became possible because the hackers got access to privileged admin credentials that were stored in LastPass.

It’s unclear whether the employee’s LastPass account had two-factor authentication (2FA) enabled.

Gaining access to “all AWS accounts” means that the root AWS account was also compromised – likely because it didn’t have 2FA enabled either.

If these were the reasons then it again demonstrates engineers choosing (or forced to choose) convenience over security, hence Zero Trust and specifically its least privilege access model is something the IT industry should embrace, wherein access to resources are granted to identities based on actual need basis.

In relation to hacking of similar nature, I’d also like to emphasize that at least admin-level user accounts should be protected by IP Firewall, which gives following benefits:

  1. Even if credentials are compromised, 2FA is broken, still hackers cannot gain access to the system until the requests are routed through the white-listed networks (which should be very small for admin user accounts at least).
  2. A security event notifications (at least by email) system accompanying the firewall will notify you in case of non-white-listed IP attempting to gain access, which alerts you of potential leak of the credentials immediately.

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Related tags

Breach , Authentication , Zero Trust , Two-Factor Authentication , MFA , IP-Firewall