A Large US University

CASE STUDY

A Large US University

Industry: HIGHER EDUCATION

A Large US University Freed Up Precious Resources and Solidified its Account Protection Using the Automated Capabilities of SpyCloud

Challenge

With few resources to dedicate to account takeover prevention, this large US university was settling for a mediocre security solution that required too much manual effort.

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Solution

The university leverages SpyCloud’s seamless integration with Splunk to automate its account takeover prevention strategy, enabling the institution to strengthen its security stance.

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Result

Using SpyCloud automation and data, the university consistently discovers more account exposures and remediates in a fraction of the time as before and with fewer resources.

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A Large US University Finds More Exposed Credentials 10X Faster with SpyCloud

Challenge

Keeping Information Accessible While Protecting Accounts

This featured university takes cyber security seriously and is aware of the constant threats to its students, faculty and staff. Like many higher education institutions, however, this university has few dedicated security professionals on staff to implement and manage technologies and processes.

For security professionals at higher education institutions, there is often an identity access management dilemma. On the one hand, they want to restrict account access to only authorized individuals, yet they also want to remain “open” for students and staff to get any information they may need. This transparent framework fosters self-reliance and efficiency, but it makes it challenging to limit and control security.

The university understands account takeover is a pervasive problem throughout the college systems that is growing exponentially. They believed they were addressing threats with a product, but it failed to live up to its sales pitch, leaving them to perform additional work to get the most from the solution. “We had to do so many manual tasks after finding any issues and knew we might be missing other ATO threats. These efforts took time away from performing other necessary tasks in our security cycles,” says a manager in the Office of Information Technology at the university. “We were introduced to SpyCloud and were eager to compare credential matches. Even more so, we wanted to see how the integrations would speed remediation with fewer resources.”

Solution

Integrate SpyCloud and Splunk for Automation Efficiencies

The institution chose SpyCloud for several reasons, including the fact that the SpyCloud API could dump their robust breach data into its Splunk instance. According to the manager, integration into Splunk was key. “Our previous tool lacked Splunk integration, forcing us to use up resources to investigate suspicious accounts and take manual action in Splunk,” he says. “Splunk scripts pull in the SpyCloud data automatically to provide instant visibility into which of student’s or staff’s credentials have been exposed. The quantity and quality of their data is amazing, we’ve never seen anything like it.”

The Splunk integration means developers no longer have to take extra manual steps to consume the SpyCloud data. The SpyCloud API provides an efficient and reliable way for the Office of IT to access their exposed credentials that are being traded in underground communities.

Many other account takeover prevention solutions and tools find exposed credentials only after they are on public forums, much too late for remediation efforts to secure accounts.

“As a higher education institution with students, faculty and staff using school emails to access everything from financial aid to housing data to meal plans, we have a responsibility to protect those accounts as best we can from cyber criminals who hope to gain access to those accounts,” says the manager. “With SpyCloud, we feel like our security staff finally have the tool they require to know the who, what, when and where as it relates to compromised accounts.”

Results

Faster, More Reliable Results with Fewer Resources

Since implementing SpyCloud, the school finds more exposed credentials than ever before. Thanks to the seamless API integration with Splunk, they are finding those exposures and taking action ten times faster than in the past.

“We have to do more with fewer resources every year,” says the manager. “SpyCloud digs deeper into the dark web and cyber underground than other tools and finds more stolen credentials sooner. We have more hits than we did with the other system because SpyCloud data is fresher and more complete.”

Exposures found 10X faster than with previous tools

The SpyCloud Difference

Current, Relevant, Truly Actionable Data

SpyCloud’s account takeover prevention and fraud investigation solutions are backed by the world’s most current and comprehensive repository of recovered stolen credentials and PII. More data, particularly plaintext passwords, means more matches and stronger account protection.

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Oklahoma University

CASE STUDY

Oklahoma University

Industry: HIGHER EDUCATION

University of Oklahoma Remediates 1,000 Exposed Email Accounts in Less than 24 Hours with SpyCloud

Challenge

With few internal resources or sufficient tools to identify and remediate exposed student, faculty and staff email accounts, OU was at constant risk for accounts being compromised.

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Solution

OU chose SpyCloud for its user-friendly API and comprehensive and operationalized exposure data it could quickly compare with its Active Directory accounts to automatically stop bad guys from compromising accounts.

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Result

OU is now able to take proper remediation action based on reliable SpyCloud data and student employee ingenuity, saving thousands of accounts from being taken over and causing harm to users and the university.

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University of Oklahoma Remediates 1,000 Exposed Email Accounts in Less than 24 Hours with SpyCloud

Founded in 1890, the University of Oklahoma (OU) is a public research university located in Norman, Oklahoma. With just over 21,000 undergraduate students, 6,000 full-time employees and 80,000 active accounts, the institution realizes the potential for cybercrime activity is a constant threat. It approaches security with a proactive stance but needed automation and good data to make a real difference.

Challenge

Establishing Internal Means of Identifying Exposed Accounts

OU faces the same challenge that most higher education institutions face: students and staff use school email accounts for personal use, often reusing their OU passwords on multiple sites. When they do, they make it easy for cyber criminals to get into not only the personal sites but find their way into the school accounts as well.

OU knew some of its 80,000 active accounts were periodically exposed to cyber criminals. It just didn’t have an effective way to monitor these accounts and discover all of the exposures. It was relying on third parties, and open source resources such as Pastebin and Have I Been Pwned sites.

“We look at Pastebin and they will alert us of exposed credentials, but that only gives us part of the story because not everything gets posted publicly when there’s a data breach,” says Aaron Baillio, deputy CISO at the University of Oklahoma. “There are a lot of dark web and non-public sites that have our information but we can’t see it using open sources. We had to find a more reliable way to get alerts and manage exposures.”

Managing those credential exposures was no easy feat. Even when OU received a breach alert, they didn’t have the resource capacity to investigate and determine if all of the accounts belonged to active students or staff, if the exposed password matched their current OU password, or when the exposure occurred. The institution also had no password policy in place to secure active accounts. Baillio and his team made it a priority to protect the institution on the front and back ends.

Solution

Use SpyCloud API to Integrate SpyCloud Data with Internal Tools

The first thing OU did was establish a campus-wide password policy. Students, faculty and staff are obligated to reset their passwords every year with an eight-character minimum and complexity requirements. The same password cannot be reused for five cycles. Once good password habits were enforced, the school moved on to automating account takeover precautions.

OU had a few credential exposure products in their security stack but none with the scale and capabilities they required. They chose SpyCloud because the solution not only shows them where the credentials are located but gives them plaintext passwords and hashes so exact matches can be more easily found. It also reveals exposures in the dark web, those that aren’t listed in open sources. By catching the exposures before they are on public forums, OU can take more preemptive actions before criminals do harm.

“We don’t want to block an account if we don’t have to, so having such detailed and usable data from SpyCloud helps our security team be more discerning,” says Baillio. “We see the date of the breach, when the exposure was discovered, and its severity. If SpyCloud flags an incident with 10 emails affected but leaked more than a year ago, we hope our password policies forced a reset already and we wouldn’t need to lock the account.”

OU decided to integrate SpyCloud with its internal SOAR platform (security, orchestration, automation and response). Using the SpyCloud API, they pull SpyCloud breach data into their platform. When there is an alert about a particular data breach or credential leak, a ticket is automatically created.

As part of their practical application initiative, instead of using the SpyCloud Active Directory Guardian to generate automated scripts, the school selects a few SOC student employees to practice their skills to create homegrown scripts that check the SpyCloud data against the school’s Active Directory. These scripts determine if active accounts and passwords are the same.

“The SpyCloud API automates the heavy lifting and data gathering for us,” says Baillio. “Our student employees integrate SOAR and SpyCloud so we can quickly react. Having the API documentation in Apiary clearly defined, allows our team and students who have limited security experience to build effective automations. We can’t get that with other platforms out there.”

Results

Fast Remediation with Minimal Resources

Using the SpyCloud API, a student employee was able to take a list of more than 7,000 exposed emails from SpyCloud, run it through their own script, and discover over 1,000 Active Directory accounts with matching passwords.

“Before SpyCloud, if we were alerted to 7,000 exposed passwords to manually check, we would most likely have had to ignore them due to a lack of resources,” says Baillio. “With SpyCloud, we can get that information in less than 30 minutes. We passed that information along to our help desk and in a matter of hours, 1,000 accounts were secured. Using SpyCloud and the ingenuity of our student employees, we are legitimately preventing bad guys from compromising accounts.”

Baillio believes the university is in a much better place now that they have SpyCloud in their security stack. Because SpyCloud enables them to quickly and efficiently identify compromised accounts using their own tools and in-house integrations, they can make decisions and remediate much quicker.

He and his team are focusing on training and outreach to educate students, faculty and staff on the dangers of password reuse, as well as phishing campaigns he says can generate up to a 60 percent click rate from students. “If you get your password compromised in one place, you can bet it’s compromised everywhere you reuse passwords. We need users to understand the many dangers that are inherent with emails and passwords. OU is striving to be a place of learning that goes beyond the classroom and impacts their everyday lives.”

7,000 emails checked with 1,000 exposed password matches found in less than 30 minutes

About Aaron Baillio

I’ve spent the first 10 years of my career with the Department of Defense. With them I traveled the world and supported both in garrison and deployed network operations and information assurance. I’ve written compliance documents for AF accreditation and NIST accreditation including policy and technical documents. I’ve also spent a lot of time performing security engineering through the system development process. Currently, I am the managing director of security operations at the University of Oklahoma. We cover the whole range of security operations from day to day sustainment to incident response. We’ve planned for and developed tool sets for malware detection, DNS security, vulnerability discovery and remediation and incident response maturity. We support the entire university in security operations and advise on departmental security projects.

The SpyCloud Difference

Current, Relevant, Truly Actionable Data

SpyCloud’s account takeover prevention and fraud investigation solutions are backed by the world’s most current and comprehensive repository of recovered stolen credentials and PII. More data, particularly plaintext passwords, means more matches and stronger account protection.

Download the PDF version of the case study to print or share with others.