The roughly 240GB database was not password protected, meaning anyone who knew where to look could find the records held within.
A total of 1,148,327,940 records belonging to the US health care and pharmaceutical behemoth, which owns CVS Pharmacy and Aetna, were found. The database contained production records that exposed Visitor ID, Session ID, and device information (i.e., iPhone, Android, iPad, etc.).
Worryingly, the files also gave threat actors a clear understanding of configuration settings, where data is stored, and a blueprint of how the logging service operates from the backend.
Researchers also found multiple records of visitors’ search histories, including medications, COVID-19 vaccines, and other CVS products.
"Hypothetically, it could have been possible to match the Session ID with what they searched for or added to the shopping cart during that session and then try to identify the customer using the exposed emails," researchers said.
The investigation also carried out a sampling search query that revealed emails hackers could target in a phishing attack or potentially use to cross-reference other actions.
The secure cloud configuration imperative
The central role of cloud security posture management
After discovering the unprotected database on March 21, the researchers immediately sent a responsible disclosure notice to CVS Health. The company restricted public access the same day.
In a statement, CVS Health said, “We were able to reach out to our vendor and they took immediate action to remove the database. Protecting the private information of our customers and our company is a high priority, and it is important to note that the database did not contain any personal information of our customers, members or patients.”
Paul Norris, a senior systems engineer at Tripwire, told ITPro that misconfigurations like these are becoming all too common.
“Exposing sensitive data doesn’t require a sophisticated vulnerability, and the rapid growth of cloud-based data storage has exposed weaknesses in processes that leave data available to anyone. A misconfigured database on an internal network might not be noticed, and if noticed might not go public, but the stakes are higher when your data storage is directly connected to the Internet,” he said.
“Organizations should identify processes for securely configuring all systems, including cloud-based storage, like Elasticsearch and Amazon S3. Once a process is in place, the systems must be monitored for changes to their configurations. These are solvable problems, and tools exist today to help."
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Rene Millman is a freelance writer and broadcaster who covers cybersecurity, AI, IoT, and the cloud. He also works as a contributing analyst at GigaOm and has previously worked as an analyst for Gartner covering the infrastructure market. He has made numerous television appearances to give his views and expertise on technology trends and companies that affect and shape our lives. You can follow Rene Millman on Twitter.