US National Vulnerability Database infected with malware

A malware infection has led to the US National Institute of Standards and Technology's (NIST) National Vulnerability Database being unavailable for almost a week.

The discovery of malware on the database, which lists different types of malware itself, was made last Friday. It is not know how long the database had been compromised before that.

According to a post on Google+ by Kim Halavakoski, chief security officer at Crosskey Banking Solutions in Finland, he was trying to look up vulnerability information on the database and noticed that it was offline. He then emailed the organisations to find out what was going on.

Halavakoski later got a reply from Gail Porter, Director of Public Affairs at the NIST telling him that the list was offline because of an infection on its web servers.

"The National Vulnerability Database public-facing Web site and several other NIST-hosted Web sites are currently unavailable due to discovery of malware on two NIST Web servers,"

"On Friday March 8, a NIST firewall detected suspicious activity and took steps to block unusual traffic from reaching the Internet. NIST began investigating the cause of the unusual activity and the servers were taken offline. Malware was discovered on two NIST Web servers and was then traced to a software vulnerability," said Porter.

"Currently there is no evidence that NVD or any other NIST public pages contained or were used to deliver malware to users of these NIST websites."

She said that the organisations was continuing in its response to the incident and was acting to "limit the impact of malware on its systems."

"We regret the impact this has had on our services," added Porter.

At the time of writing the website is still down, it displays a message reading: "The NIST National Vulnerability Database (NVD) has experienced an issue with its web wervices and is currently not available. We are working to restore service as quickly as possible. We will provide updates as soon as new information is available."

Later research carried out by Halavakoshi found that the web server the database was running on was Windows Server 2008 and IIS 7.5. Post breach, an investigation by Halavakoski found the servers running Linux and Apache from 9 March.

"Hacking the NVD and planting malware on the very place where we get our vulnerability information, that is just pure evil!" said Halavakoski.

Rene Millman

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.