A vulnerability in a database used to track the online activity of millions of children is believed to have been exploited by an unknown group of hackers.
The vulnerability in the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Services (COPS) database was disclosed in February, and researchers from security firm FireEye have found that the exploit was used to infect more than 600,000 children in March.
In a blog post published Tuesday, FireEye researchers said the exploit exploited a vulnerability in COPS’ “Children’s Online Data Protection Services” database.
“This vulnerability could allow a remote code execution vulnerability to be exploited by a remote attacker who gains access to the affected system,” FireEye said.
The researchers say the vulnerability was exploited in the United States.
The vulnerability, CVE-2015-1278, could allow an attacker to exploit the vulnerability in an affected system in which the attacker controls access to COPS database files.
An attacker could then remotely execute code in a specially crafted website, gaining elevated privileges, to gain administrative privileges and perform a wide variety of system operations.
This is an emerging and important area for us, as we continue to identify new vulnerabilities in the COPS system and are looking for other vectors to exploit this vulnerability,” FireScope CEO Michael Cappuccio told Reuters Health.
FireEye researchers say they found a remote-access vulnerability in some of the database files used to record the children’s online activity.
They said this was the first known vulnerability in this database and the first that was exploited to exploit a remote attack.
In a blogpost published Tuesday about the vulnerability, FireScope wrote that they have “seen a large number of compromised COPS systems that contain vulnerable child data that could be used to facilitate data collection for data mining, fraud, or other purposes.”
FireEye is also working with several other companies to develop an online tool to track and protect children against online abuse.
The tool would be used by schools and other child care facilities to protect children and other online data.”
We will soon be launching a free tool to help organizations track and track the activity of their child care systems and other systems that are vulnerable to online abuse,” Firestorm’s Cappucci told Reuters.
Cappuccios blog post about the exploit, which was published Tuesday night, says that the vulnerability is “significant and exploitable.”
FireScope said the vulnerability appears to be in the “Childrens Online Data Privacy Protection Service (COPDPS),” which is a data source for online services that track the activities of children and provides information about their online activity and passwords.
The exploit was “used to allow an unknown hacker to exploit an existing vulnerability in COPS in March,” the blog post said.
A researcher with FireEye, known as “Mikko,” discovered the vulnerability on Tuesday, but FireEye hasn’t publicly identified any attackers or researchers who were responsible for the exploit.
As a result of the exploit being used, the company said it is “very likely” that the database was used for child exploitation, the blogpost said.
FireEye has also been investigating the exploit and says that it has identified at least a dozen individuals who are active in the child pornography community.
At least two of the individuals are believed to be using the exploit to conduct child porn operations, the post said, without identifying them by name.