Perimeter
12/13/2010
04:33 PM
Commentary
Commentary
Commentary
50%
50%

What The Gawker Compromise Really Reveals

Passwords are only half of the defense against compromise --unfortunately, the other half is being crippled by the login policies of many online providers.

This past weekend the Gawker Media servers were compromised and 1.3 million login credentials were stolen. While the passwords were encrypted, the method used wasn't the strongest. The end result? At least one-third of the passwords have already been cracked, and some believe that another third can feasibly be cracked as well.

Much of the advice circulating around the Gawker attack has revolved around changing your Gawker Media account passwords. And this includes not only Gawker.com, but also Lifehacker, Gizmodo, Jezebel, io9, Jalopnik, Kotaku, Deadspin, and Fleshbot, as well.

However, that advice ignores the real problem: the fact that these sites require your email address be used as your username.

Sure, you could set up bogus email accounts for each online account you use, but that's a pretty cumbersome workaround. So in very, very many cases you will find that the username is identical to one used on other sites. And that's really the crux of the problem.

Twitter wasn't involved in the compromise. However, because Twitter also requires an email account to login, the attackers don't need the Twitter username to break into those accounts. If they know someone@email.com has password123 on Gawker, then they can use that same someone@email.com to see if they have a Twitter account. And if they do, they can then try the same password.

The username should serve as half the account security. Instead, forced practices by many online providers cripple that half and leave the password as the only barrier to entry. In my opinion, this is the real weakness the Gawker Media compromise reveals.

Mary Landesman is an antivirus professional and senior security researcher for ScanSafe, now part of Cisco. In 2009 she was awarded a Microsoft MVP for her work in consumer security.

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Cartoon
Current Issue
Flash Poll
Title Partner’s Role in Perimeter Security
Title Partner’s Role in Perimeter Security
Considering how prevalent third-party attacks are, we need to ask hard questions about how partners and suppliers are safeguarding systems and data.
Video
Slideshows
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2014-4774
Published: 2015-05-25
Cross-site request forgery (CSRF) vulnerability in the login page in IBM License Metric Tool 9 before 9.1.0.2 and Endpoint Manager for Software Use Analysis 9 before 9.1.0.2 allows remote attackers to hijack the authentication of arbitrary users via vectors involving a FRAME element.

CVE-2014-4778
Published: 2015-05-25
IBM License Metric Tool 9 before 9.1.0.2 and Endpoint Manager for Software Use Analysis 9 before 9.1.0.2 do not send an X-Frame-Options HTTP header in response to requests for the login page, which allows remote attackers to conduct clickjacking attacks via vectors involving a FRAME element.

CVE-2014-6190
Published: 2015-05-25
The log viewer in IBM Workload Deployer 3.1 before 3.1.0.7 allows remote attackers to obtain sensitive information via a direct request for the URL of a log document.

CVE-2014-6192
Published: 2015-05-25
Cross-site scripting (XSS) vulnerability in IBM Curam Social Program Management 6.0 SP2 before EP26, 6.0.4 before 6.0.4.5 iFix10, 6.0.5 before 6.0.5.6, and 6.0.5.5a before 6.0.5.8 allows remote authenticated users to inject arbitrary web script or HTML via a crafted URL.

CVE-2014-8146
Published: 2015-05-25
The resolveImplicitLevels function in common/ubidi.c in the Unicode Bidirectional Algorithm implementation in ICU4C in International Components for Unicode (ICU) before 55.1 does not properly track directionally isolated pieces of text, which allows remote attackers to cause a denial of service (hea...

Dark Reading Radio
Archived Dark Reading Radio
Join security and risk expert John Pironti and Dark Reading Editor-in-Chief Tim Wilson for a live online discussion of the sea-changing shift in security strategy and the many ways it is affecting IT and business.