Okta breach happened after employee logged into personal Google account

Okta has revealed details about a recent breach which exposed files belonging to customers.

As we explained in our article about 1Password being a victim of this breach, it’s normal for Okta support to ask customers to upload a file known as an HTTP Archive (HAR) file. Having this file allows the team to troubleshoot issues by replicating what’s going on in the browser. As such, a HAR file can contain sensitive data, including cookies and session tokens, that cybercriminals can use to impersonate valid users.

After 1Password, BeyondTrust, and Cloudflare detected unauthorized log-in attempts to their in-house Okta administrator accounts, they reported the incidents to Okta who started an investigation.

Okta says it found that from September 28 to October 17, 2023 an attacker had unauthorized access to files inside Okta’s customer support system associated with 134 Okta customers.

The attacker gained access using stolen credentials of a service account stored in the system itself, which had permissions to view and update customer support cases.

To gain access to that service account, the attacker compromised an Okta employee. The employee logged into the service account while they were signed in to their personal Google profile in Chrome on their Okta-managed laptop. That meant that the credentials of the service account were stored in the employee’s personal Google account.

How they got from that account into the attacker’s hands is unknown, but likely the attacker compromised that personal account or one of the employee’s devices fell into the attacker’s hands, from where they could accessed the Google account and harvested the credentials.

Once in, the attacker was able to use session tokens in the HAR files to impersonate staff and hijack the legitimate Okta sessions of five customers, including 1Password, BeyondTrust, and Cloudflare.

Okta says it has now locked down personal Google access on company-managed computers:

“Okta has implemented a specific configuration option within Chrome Enterprise that prevents sign-in to Chrome on their Okta-managed laptop using a personal Google profile.”

In general, it’s hard to strictly separate the use of devices for work purposes— in a 2020 survey by Malwarebytes, we found that the majority of people do use work devices for personal use. When a device gets assigned to an employee, they consider it more or less as “theirs” and there’s a tendency to start using it for personal matters. Okta could have anticipated this behavior and added additional security measures for such an important account.

A remediation task that is important to note for Okta customers is:

“Okta has released session token binding based on network location as a product enhancement to combat the threat of session token theft against Okta administrators. Okta administrators are now forced to re-authenticate if we detect a network change. This feature can be enabled by customers in the early access section of the Okta admin portal.

Protecting yourself from a data breach

There are some actions you can take if you are, or suspect you may have been, the victim of a data breach.

  • Check the vendor’s advice. Every breach is different, so check with the vendor to find out what’s happened, and follow any specific advice they offer.
  • Change your password. You can make a stolen password useless to thieves by changing it. Choose a strong password that you don’t use for anything else. Better yet, let a password manager choose one for you.
  • Enable two-factor authentication (2FA). If you can, use a FIDO2-compliant hardware key, laptop or phone as your second factor. Some forms of two-factor authentication (2FA) can be phished just as easily as a password. 2FA that relies on a FIDO2 device can’t be phished.
  • Watch out for fake vendors. The thieves may contact you posing as the vendor. Check the vendor website to see if they are contacting victims, and verify any contacts using a different communication channel.
  • Take your time. Phishing attacks often impersonate people or brands you know, and use themes that require urgent attention, such as missed deliveries, account suspensions, and security alerts.
  • Set up identity monitoring. Identity monitoring alerts you if your personal information is found being traded illegally online, and helps you recover after.