For mortgage bankers, data security is a major concern. Most of the information with which mortgage companies work is sensitive and personal. Recently, a major threat has been identified that could significantly impact mortgage companies around the world.
A group of researchers and computer scientists has discovered a hole in the protection surrounding some websites, which were previously thought to be entirely secure. This vulnerability, called Logjam, allows cyber criminals and other hackers to attack websites that use https-security encryption. Logjam allows hackers the ability to access sensitive information, and it affects all web browsers. It is estimated that, worldwide, over 80,000 of the top one-million websites are vulnerable.
Computer scientists at Inria, a French public research institution, as well as computer scientists at Johns Hopkins University, Microsoft Research, the University of Michigan, and the University of Pennsylvania, discovered logjam several months ago, and have been working to mitigate the threat with various client and server software developers since that time.
How does Logjam work?
Encryption is a way of turning information into a sort of secret code, when it is sent over the web, to prevent cyber eavesdropping on your private computer communications. For example, when you are browsing, your address bar may have a padlock symbol and a web address that starts with "https." Normally, this means that the communication between your computer and the website you are viewing is encrypted and secure because of security software in place.
Logjam exploits a weakness in a part of the security process, internal to the software, called the Diffie-Hellman key exchange, which is a popular cryptographic algorithm. The Diffie-Hellman key exchange creates and sends a key that unlocks the encryption and allows you to read the information. Unfortunately, Logjam involves capturing the key data and cracking the code. Once hackers gain access to the code, it is possible not only to read the sensitive information sent over the web, but also to alter it for their own purposes.
The vulnerability to Logjam exists because websites and browsers still support weak 512-bit export ciphers. Often, this is because even though U.S.-based technology companies have upgraded to stronger, and harder-to-crack encryption technologies, their products include support for 512-bit export ciphers to maintain compatibility with products used in other countries.
Taking advantage of this weakness, the Logjam threat tricks web browsers and servers into using the weaker encryption standard when communicating with each other. That means that everything appears to be the same to the user, but in actuality, it is not the same at all. Logjam allows a man-in-the-middle attacker to snoop on communications. Cyber criminals can simply sit back and be privy to what others on the same network are doing.
What does Logjam affect?
Logjam affects all web users because it can be used to obtain information from secure websites, secure bank transactions, email communications, and VPN connections. Clients using any of these protocols will need patches that do not support the weak key exchange, and servers need patches that will not offer the weak key exchange. Since much of the work of a mortgage company is done via use of the internet for email, communication with clients, and communications with banks, working within a system such as MortgageWorkSpace is an attractive and safe solution.
What can be done to protect data from the Logjam vulnerability?
It is important to be sure that you are using the most recent version of your browser. Check for updates frequently. If you are unsure about whether your browser is affected by Logjam, you can test your browser here. All major browsers are in the process of creating patches to resolve the weakness. However, at present, Google Chrome has not yet done so.
How does all of this affect mortgage companies? As much of the information gathered by your business is of an extremely sensitive nature, a robust system of security for your data is essential for your protection, as well as the protection of your clients. Regularly checking and updating web-browser versions is best practice for all mortgage companies. Check with your IT staff to ensure this is done, especially in light of threats such as Logjam.
While all of this seems to be scary stuff, there is no need for alarm for users of MortgageWorkSpace. All web servers and services at Access Business Technologies have already been updated and are not affected by the Logjam threat. Performing all your website transaction inside of MortgageWorkSpace will ensure protection of your sensitive data. Using the browser within MortgageWorkSpace is safe. However, using Google Chrome outside of MortgageWorkSpace is not yet safe.
If you would like more information about the Logjam vulnerability, or you would like help to ensure the safety of your data, please contact us. We stand ready to help you defend your data from cyber criminals today.