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ICANN Admits New gTLD Application Privacy Breaches

A number of new gTLD applicants used a security bug in the application system to access the details of other applicants and applications an audit conducted on behalf of ICANN has found. Whether the data accessed had any impact on competitive applications has not yet been determined.The results of the investigation currently indicate that the portal users were able to view data that was not their own. Based on the investigation to date, the unauthorised access resulted from advanced searches conducted using the login credentials of 19 users, which exposed 330 advanced search result records, pertaining to 96 applicants and 21 registry operators. These records may have included attachment(s). These advanced searches occurred during 36 user sessions out of a total of nearly 595,000 user sessions since April 2013. The parties whose data was viewed will be informed shortly. Information will include what portion of their data was seen and when it was seen.ICANN engaged two consulting firms who reviewed and analysed all log data going back to the activation of the new gTLD Applicant portal on 17 April 2013 and the activation of the GDD portal on 17 March 2014.ICANN is contacting the user or users who appear to have viewed information that was not their own and requiring that they provide an explanation of their activity. They are also asking them to certify that they will delete or destroy all information obtained and to certify that they have not and will not use the data or convey it to any third party.”We realise that any compromise of our users’ data is unacceptable and take this situation, as well as user trust, very seriously,” said ICANN’s Chief Information and Innovation Officer, Ashwin Rangan. “Since I joined ICANN last year, we have increased our focus on quickly hardening our digital services. We have already taken several steps to accomplish this objective and guard ICANN’s digital assets against escalating cyber threats, however there is more to do. We deeply regret this incident and pledge to accelerate our efforts to harden all of our digital services, many of which have been in service for as long as 15 years.”In mid-year 2014, ICANN engaged a third-party expert to assess its information technologies portfolio of assets. ICANN adopted the CSC (formerly SANS Institute) 20-factors framework to assess its defenses. Following the assessment ICANN launched a comprehensive, multi-year program and started to immediately address factors that deserve urgent attention. Additional information on this program will be announced in the next few weeks.Rangan noted, “We are approaching these improvements in a careful sequence, so that service delivery to our community is not disrupted while systems are being hardened.”ICANN is continuing to investigate the circumstances surrounding the access to this information and has not made a final determination regarding the nature of the access. By 27 May 2015 ICANN intends to disclose to affected users the identity of any user(s) that viewed their information without authorisation.