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Dubbed Ropemaker (stands for Remotely Originated Post-delivery Email Manipulation Attacks Keeping Email Risky), the trick was uncovered by Francisco Ribeiro, the researcher at email and cloud security firm Mimecast.
A successful exploitation of the Ropemaker attack could allow an attacker to remotely modify the content of an email sent by the attacker itself, for example swapping a URL with the malicious one.
While some systems are designed to detect the URL switch preventing users from opening up the malicious link, other users could be left at a security risk.
Besides emails, hackers also may have had potential access to "usernames, passwords, IP addresses, architectural diagrams for businesses and health information." "In response to a cyber incident, Deloitte implemented its comprehensive security protocol and began an intensive and thorough review including mobilising a team of cybersecurity and confidentiality experts inside and outside of Deloitte," a Deloitte spokesperson told the newspaper.
"As part of the review, Deloitte has been in contact with the very few clients impacted and notified governmental authorities and regulators." Deloitte's internal investigation into the cyber incident is still ongoing, and the firm has reportedly informed only six of its clients that their information was "impacted" by the breach.
To protect themselves from such attacks, users are recommended to rely on web-based email clients like Gmail, i Cloud and Outlook, which aren't affected by Ropemaker-style CSS exploits, according to Mimecast.
However, email clients like the desktop and mobile version of Apple Mail, Microsoft Outlook, and Mozilla Thunderbird are all vulnerable to the Ropemaker attack.
At the time of writing, it is unclear who is behind the Onliner Spambot.