Japanese Space Agency Spotted zero-day via Microsoft 365 Services

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) has revealed details of a cybersecurity incident that occurred last year, involving unauthorized access to its internal servers.

The breach, detected in October 2023, has prompted JAXA to implement robust countermeasures to prevent future occurrences.

Initial Discovery and Immediate Response

In October 2023, JAXA was alerted to unauthorized access to its internal servers by an external organization.

The agency swiftly took initial measures to block all malicious communications and disconnect compromised servers and computers from its network.

JAXA engaged with expert organizations and security vendors to investigate the incident comprehensively.

The investigation revealed that the attackers had exploited a vulnerability in a VPN device to gain initial access to JAXA’s internal servers and computers.

This previously announced vulnerability allowed the attackers to expand their unauthorized access and compromise user account information.

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The attackers then used this information to access JAXA’s Microsoft 365 (MS365) services illegally.

Scope of the Compromise

The compromised information included the personal data of JAXA employees and information related to activities with external organizations.

However, JAXA confirmed that sensitive information about launch vehicles and satellite operations was unaffected.

The agency has notified and apologized to the affected individuals and partners.

JAXA’s investigation, conducted in collaboration with a specialized team from Microsoft, confirmed that no further breaches had occurred.

The attackers had used multiple unknown malware strains, making detection challenging.

Despite the complexity, JAXA’s swift actions and collaboration with external experts helped mitigate the potential risks.

JAXA has implemented short-term and permanent security measures in response to the incident.

The short-term measures included establishing a system to respond to vulnerabilities promptly and enhancing the monitoring of internal communications.

The agency has also developed permanent measures to enhance security, such as further

  • Enhancing monitoring of the entire network and endpoints.
  • Improving remote access methods.
  • Increasing the efficiency and visibility of operational management.
  • Enhancing anti-spoofing measures.

These measures are currently being materialized, and JAXA is committed to continuously strengthening its information security in the future.

Future Efforts and Collaboration

JAXA recognizes the increasing sophistication of cyber-attacks and the need for prompt and appropriate security responses.

The agency plans to steadily implement short-term and permanent measures in response to this incident.

JAXA will further strengthen its information security in cooperation with related organizations, including expert organizations such as the JPCERT Coordination Center and the Information-technology Promotion Agency (IPA).

Despite a few instances of unauthorized access in 2024, JAXA confirmed that no information was compromised.

These incidents, including zero-day attacks, were promptly detected and addressed, demonstrating the effectiveness of the newly implemented security measures.

The cybersecurity incident at JAXA underscores the critical importance of robust security measures in protecting sensitive information.

JAXA’s swift response and collaboration with expert organizations highlight the agency’s commitment to maintaining the integrity of its operations and its partners’ trust.

As cyber threats evolve, JAXA’s proactive approach to enhancing its security infrastructure will serve as a model for other organizations facing similar challenges.

The agency’s efforts to strengthen its information security will ensure the continued success of its missions and the safety of its data.

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Author: Divya