Endpoint //

Authentication

9/14/2018
12:45 PM
Connect Directly
Twitter
Twitter
RSS
E-Mail
50%
50%

Military, Government Users Just as Bad About Password Hygiene as Civilians

New report comes out just as group of US senators chastise Secretary of State Mike Pompeo for not using multifactor authentication.

Military and government users aren't engaging in password hygiene any better than their brethren in less sensitive, private-sector positions, according to a new study out this week, which shows both sides creating weak passwords at about the same rate. 

The examination of password strength came by way of WatchGuard Technologies' Q2 2018 "Internet Security Report," which analyzed a data dump of 117 weakly encrypted credential pairs protected only with SHA-1 hash functions from a 2012 breach at LinkedIn. The study showed that credential pairs associated with .mil and .gov accounts were easily crackable — within a week — about 50% of the time. This was only slightly less than the rate of weak passwords in pairs associated with civilian accounts, which were at about 52%.

Among the sample of cracked government passwords were plenty of common doozies that typically make it into bad password hall of shame lists. The top two bad passwords in government-associated accounts were, respectively, "123456" and the ever-present "password." 

"We didn't find many surprises in that the most commonly used bad passwords remained largely the same," wrote WatchGuard researchers. "However, it should be quite surprising that government and military entities use such horrible password practices. We can only hope that these were all dummy accounts that weren't used for anything of consequence." 

Clearly, the sample set wasn't among credentials for government systems, so the results need to be taken with a large grain of salt here. But the prevailing point remains that these government and military users should probably know better than to use bad passwords anywhere they set up an account. The fact that many of them don't heed hygiene best practices can probably be extrapolated to at least some degree across the rest of their digital footprints. When government agencies don't account for this universally weak human factor of passwords, there's bound to be rampant insecurity of accounts.

"For our federal government, no amount of budgetary pressures or other excuses should be tolerated when it comes to failing to have utilized a basic cybersecurity technique, such as MFA — especially since 'user convenience' is not the overriding concern," says Todd Shollenbarger, chief global strategist of Veridium, who adds that NIST's update of its Digital Identity Guidelines has done the hard work of outlining what needs to be done to shore up credentials. "What's now needed — obviously — is for our federal government agencies to use it."

And in separate but related news, this week a group of US senators chastised Secretary of State Mike Pompeo for lack of multifactor authentication (MFA) adoption within the Department of State.

"We urge you to improve compliance by enabling more secure authentication mechanisms across the Department of State's information systems," wrote Sens. Ron Wyden, Cory Gardner, Edward Markey, Rand Paul, and Jeanne Shaheen, referencing a General Service Administration (GSA) that showed the agency had only deployed MFA across 11% of required devices. "This password-only approach is no longer sufficient to protect sensitive information from sophisticated phishing attempts and other forms of credential theft." 

Related Content:

 

Black Hat Europe returns to London Dec 3-6 2018  with hands-on technical Trainings, cutting-edge Briefings, Arsenal open-source tool demonstrations, top-tier security solutions and service providers in the Business Hall. Click for information on the conference and to register.

Ericka Chickowski specializes in coverage of information technology and business innovation. She has focused on information security for the better part of a decade and regularly writes about the security industry as a contributor to Dark Reading.  View Full Bio

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
REISEN1955
50%
50%
REISEN1955,
User Rank: Ninja
9/17/2018 | 2:49:06 PM
No surprise
People are people anywhere you go and dumb exists.  I always think of 123456 as the same password used on my luggage.  (See SPACEBALLS of course).  And military intelligence?  Don't go there. 
Devastating Cyberattack on Email Provider Destroys 18 Years of Data
Jai Vijayan, Freelance writer,  2/12/2019
Up to 100,000 Reported Affected in Landmark White Data Breach
Kelly Sheridan, Staff Editor, Dark Reading,  2/12/2019
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Video
Cartoon
Current Issue
5 Emerging Cyber Threats to Watch for in 2019
Online attackers are constantly developing new, innovative ways to break into the enterprise. This Dark Reading Tech Digest gives an in-depth look at five emerging attack trends and exploits your security team should look out for, along with helpful recommendations on how you can prevent your organization from falling victim.
Flash Poll
New Best Practices for Secure App Development
New Best Practices for Secure App Development
The transition from DevOps to SecDevOps is combining with the move toward cloud computing to create new challenges - and new opportunities - for the information security team. Download this report, to learn about the new best practices for secure application development.
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2019-8360
PUBLISHED: 2019-02-16
Themerig Find a Place CMS Directory 1.5 has SQL Injection via the find/assets/external/data_2.php cate parameter.
CVE-2019-8361
PUBLISHED: 2019-02-16
PHP Scripts Mall Responsive Video News Script has XSS via the Search Bar. This might, for example, be leveraged for HTML injection or URL redirection.
CVE-2019-8362
PUBLISHED: 2019-02-16
DedeCMS through V5.7SP2 allows arbitrary file upload in dede/album_edit.php or dede/album_add.php, as demonstrated by a dede/album_edit.php?dopost=save&formzip=1 request with a ZIP archive that contains a file such as "1.jpg.php" (because input validation only checks that .jpg, .png, o...
CVE-2019-8363
PUBLISHED: 2019-02-16
Verydows 2.0 has XSS via the index.php?c=main a parameter, as demonstrated by an a=index[XSS] value.
CVE-2019-8358
PUBLISHED: 2019-02-16
In Hiawatha before 10.8.4, a remote attacker is able to do directory traversal if AllowDotFiles is enabled.