Capital One hacker exploits a common Amazon cloud vulnerability to access 106 million accounts

The hacker who stole more than 106 million records from Capital One this past week was able to do so because of “a specific configuration vulnerability," according to the company, long known for having a strong security team.

A Wall Street Journal analysis of records left behind by the alleged hacker, Paige A. Thompson, a former Amazon cloud-computing employee, imply that Thompson exploited a security hole that professionals have been aware of for years.

Thompson hit the core of Amazon's cloud technology, accessing the company's metadata service. This enabled her to access data and credentials responsible for managing a vast number of critical cloud servers. After testing a number of computers and networks for security gaps, Thompson honed in on Capital One's computers, which she determined were misconfigured.


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Per the WSJ, even as she was downloading the data from Capital One's computers, Thompson was posting direct messages about major security issues on public message boards, "Dude so many people are doing it wrong." The massive Capital One breach has led many security professionals to criticize Amazon's practices, with many claiming that the company doesn't do enough to alert its customers of misconfigured data that is ripe for hacking.

Per the WSJ, "The Capital One data breach isn’t the first time data stored in the cloud has been stolen. But the fact that the fifth-largest U.S. credit-card issuer has become a victim is reviving concerns about cloud computing." The breach has undoubtedly caught the attention of the Federal Reserve, which has been deeply studying the use of the cloud for storage of critical financial data.


About Author

Mike Dudas is one of the founders of The Block and was the CEO until April 2020 and a board member until April 2021. Prior to starting The Block, Mike was co-founder and CRO of Button, the leading global, mobile performance marketing platform. Mike is a builder of mobile commerce businesses, having worked at Google, Braintree/Venmo and PayPal. Early in his career, Mike worked in corporate M&A and strategy for Disney. Mike earned a BA from Stanford and an MBA from Kellogg.