Are you hacking!? There’s no hacking in baseball!

My Dad called me earlier this week to ask if I heard about the FBI’s investigation of the St. Louis Cardinals. My initial reaction was that the investigation must be related to some sort of steroid scandal or gambling allegations. I was wrong. The Cardinals are being investigated for allegedly hacking into the network of a rival team to steal confidential information. Could the same team that my Grandparents took me to see play as a kid really be responsible for this crime?

After I had time to read a few articles about the alleged hack, I called my Dad back. He immediately asked me if the Astros could have prevented it. From what I have read, this issue could have been prevented (or at least detected) by implementing a few basic information security controls around the Astros’ proprietary application. Unfortunately, it appears the attack was not discovered until confidential information was leaked onto a pastebin site.

The aforementioned controls include but are not limited to:

  1. Change passwords on a regular basis – It has been alleged that Astros system was accessed by using the same password that was used when a similar system was deployed within the St. Louis Cardinals’ network. Passwords should be changed on a regular basis.
  2. Do not share passwords between individuals – Despite the fact that creating separate usernames and passwords for each individual with access to a system can be inconvenient, it reduces a lot of risk associated with deploying an application. For example, if each member of the Astros front office was required to have a separate password to their proprietary application, the Cardinals staff would not have been able to successfully use the legacy password from when the application was deployed in St. Louis. The Astros would also have gained the ability to log and track each individual user’s actions within the application.
  3. Review logs for anomalies on a regular basis – Most likely, the Astros were not reviewing any kind of security logs surrounding this application. If they were, they might have noticed failed login attempts into the application prior to the Cardinals’ alleged successful attempt. They also might have noticed that the application was accessed by an unknown or suspicious IP address.
  4. Leverage the use of honeypot technology – By implementing HoneyPot technology, the Astros could have deployed a fake version of this application. This could have allowed them to detect suspicious activity from within their network prior to the attackers gaining access to their confidential information. This strategy could have included leveraging MSI’s HoneyPoint Security Server to stand up a fake version of their proprietary application along with deploying a variety of fake documents within the Astros’ network. If an attacker accessed the fake application or document, the Astros would have been provided with actionable intelligence which could have allowed them to prevent the breach of one of their critical systems.
  5. Do not expose unnecessary applications or services to the internet – At this point, I do not know whether or not the Astros deployed this system within their internal network or exposed it to the internet. Either way, it’s always important to consider whether or not it is necessary to expose a system or service to the internet. Something as simple as requiring a VPN to access an application can go a long way to securing the confidential data.
  6. Leverage the use of network segmentation or IP address filtering – If the application was deployed from within the Astros internal network, was it necessary that all internal systems had access to the application? It’s always worthwhile to limit network access to a particular system or network segment as much as possible.

Honestly, I hope these allegations aren’t true. I have fond memories of watching the Cardinals win the World Series in 2006 and 2011. I would really hate to see those victories tarnished by the actions of a few individuals. However, it’s important that we all learn a lesson from this..whether it’s your email or favorite team’s playbook…don’t overlook the basic steps when attempting to secure confidential information.