Risk
7/28/2008
02:23 PM
Keith Ferrell
Keith Ferrell
Commentary
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Password Security: With Prosecutors Like This, Who Needs Rogue Administrators?

So the San Francisco District Attorney, building a case against the rogue administrator who shut down city network access, decided to include actual passwords as evidence. Bonehead decisions may not get much more boneheaded than this.

So the San Francisco District Attorney, building a case against the rogue administrator who shut down city network access, decided to include actual passwords as evidence. Bonehead decisions may not get much more boneheaded than this.The San Francisco network lockout case has prompted much good and necessary thinking about just who has top-level access to and control of your networks.

Now it's raising questions of just how much we should expect legal officials to understand about digital evidence -- and how much more they need to understand.

Those questions flow from the decision of the San Francisco District Attorney's office to list 150 passwords as Exhibit A in the case against former (rogue) admin Terry Childs.

To be fair, the passwords listed are said to be part of two-step access system, relatively valueless on their own. I'd question that; if nothing else their listing gives observers the chance to glimpse the password creation strategies of 150 or so people.

But it's equally fair to ask: what are the prosecutors thinking? Even if every one of the 150 passwords is long-since changed, their listing -- the decision to list them -- reflects an insufficient (at minimum) understanding of digital security and confidence in digital privacy that's distressing.

Look at it this way -- would the DA's office have considered the valuelessness of the passwords in question if it had been Terry Childs who posted them instead of its own evidence-producing officers?

Don't think so. Same way I don't think the DA's office thought much about this at all.

And if you don't think that a list of changed or "valueless" passwords isn't a trove of possibility for crooks, take a look at this good bMighty article on password cracking techniques.

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