University of Colorado responds to Accellion breach

California-based Accellion has already released statements about a breach they experienced.  And they have already been hit with at least one lawsuit over the breach. But we are still first learning about how some of their clients were impacted.

Today we learned that the University of Colorado is investigating whether there was any personal, confidential, or sensitive data in files transferred using the compromised system.

On January 12, Accellion issued a press release that said, in part:

Accellion, Inc., provider of the industry’s first enterprise content firewall, today issued a statement about a recently reported security incident regarding one of its legacy products.

In mid-December, Accellion was made aware of a P0 vulnerability in its legacy File Transfer Appliance (FTA) software. Accellion FTA is a 20 year old product that specializes in large file transfers.

Accellion resolved the vulnerability and released a patch within 72 hours to the less than 50 customers affected.

On February 1, Accellion provided an update that claimed that affected customers were “promptly notified of the attack on December 23, 2020.”  That claim conflicts with a statement by the University of Colorado that they were first notified on January 25. The State of Washington also claimed that they were first notified on January 25.

In its update, Accellion also expanded on the attack:

In mid-December, Accellion was made aware of a zero-day vulnerability in its legacy FTA software. Accellion released a fix within 72 hours. This initial incident was the beginning of a concerted cyberattack on the Accellion FTA product that continued into January 2021. Accellion identified additional exploits in the ensuing weeks and rapidly developed and released patches to close each vulnerability. Accellion continues to work closely with FTA customers to mitigate the impact of the attack and to monitor for anomalies.

Accellion’s claims of its prompt notification to clients was also disputed by the Royal Bank of New Zealand, who claims that Accellion kept them in the dark for five crucial days.

In the meantime, University of Colorado is asking all those who transferred files during the critical window to review what is in the files they transferred. CBSN reports:

Officials said the service is used primarily by employees on the Boulder campus to send large files, but some data from the Denver campus was also involved.

The university’s Office of Information Security determined CU Boulder’s service was compromised and files uploaded by 447 CU users were at risk of unauthorized access. These users were notified of the cyberattack on Feb. 1 and asked to report any confidential data within the files.



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