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ICANN Targeted in Spear Phishing Attack | Enhanced Security Measures Implemented

[UPDATE – 21 February 2017: ICANN recently became aware that some information obtained in the spear phishing incident we announced in 2014 is being offered for sale on underground forums. Our initial assessment is that it is old data and that no new breach of our systems has occurred. The data accessed in the 2014 incident breach included usernames and hashed passwords for our Centralized Zone Data System (CZDS). Once the theft was discovered, we reset all user passwords, and urged users to do the same for any other accounts where they used the same passwords.]

ICANN is investigating a recent intrusion into our systems. We believe a "spear phishing" attack was initiated in late November 2014. It involved email messages that were crafted to appear to come from our own domain being sent to members of our staff. The attack resulted in the compromise of the email credentials of several ICANN staff members.

In early December 2014 we discovered that the compromised credentials were used to access other ICANN systems besides email:

  • The Centralized Zone Data System (czds.icann.org)
    The attacker obtained administrative access to all files in the CZDS. This included copies of the zone files in the system, as well as information entered by users such as name, postal address, email address, fax and telephone numbers, username, and password. Although the passwords were stored as salted cryptographic hashes, we have deactivated all CZDS passwords as a precaution. Users may request a new password at czds.icann.org. We suggest that CZDS users take appropriate steps to protect any other online accounts for which they might have used the same username and/or password. ICANN is providing notices to the CZDS users whose personal information may have been compromised.
  • The ICANN GAC Wiki (gacweb.icann.org)
    Public information, the members-only index page and one individual user's profile page was viewed. No other non-public content was viewed.

Unauthorized access was also obtained to user accounts on two other systems, the ICANN Blog (blog.icann.org) and the ICANN WHOIS (whois.icann.org) information portal. No impact was found to either of these systems.

Based on our investigation to date, we are not aware of any other systems that have been compromised, and we have confirmed that this attack does not impact any IANA-related systems.

Earlier this year, ICANN began a program of security enhancements in order to strengthen information security for all ICANN systems. We believe these enhancements helped limit the unauthorized access obtained in the attack. Since discovering the attack, we have implemented additional security measures.

We are providing information about this incident publicly, not just because of our commitment to openness and transparency, but also because sharing of cybersecurity information helps all involved assess threats to their systems.

For additional information about the attack, please monitor the ICANN website.


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Internationalized Domain Name ,IDN,"IDNs are domain names that include characters used in the local representation of languages that are not written with the twenty-six letters of the basic Latin alphabet ""a-z"". An IDN can contain Latin letters with diacritical marks, as required by many European languages, or may consist of characters from non-Latin scripts such as Arabic or Chinese. Many languages also use other types of digits than the European ""0-9"". The basic Latin alphabet together with the European-Arabic digits are, for the purpose of domain names, termed ""ASCII characters"" (ASCII = American Standard Code for Information Interchange). These are also included in the broader range of ""Unicode characters"" that provides the basis for IDNs. The ""hostname rule"" requires that all domain names of the type under consideration here are stored in the DNS using only the ASCII characters listed above, with the one further addition of the hyphen ""-"". The Unicode form of an IDN therefore requires special encoding before it is entered into the DNS. The following terminology is used when distinguishing between these forms: A domain name consists of a series of ""labels"" (separated by ""dots""). The ASCII form of an IDN label is termed an ""A-label"". All operations defined in the DNS protocol use A-labels exclusively. The Unicode form, which a user expects to be displayed, is termed a ""U-label"". The difference may be illustrated with the Hindi word for ""test"" — परीका — appearing here as a U-label would (in the Devanagari script). A special form of ""ASCII compatible encoding"" (abbreviated ACE) is applied to this to produce the corresponding A-label: xn--11b5bs1di. A domain name that only includes ASCII letters, digits, and hyphens is termed an ""LDH label"". Although the definitions of A-labels and LDH-labels overlap, a name consisting exclusively of LDH labels, such as""icann.org"" is not an IDN."