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
Dark Reading Tech Digest, Dec. 19, 2014
Software-defined networking can be a net plus for security. The key: Work with the network team to implement gradually, test as you go, and take the opportunity to overhaul your security strategy.
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-2013-4440
Published: 2014-12-19
Password Generator (aka Pwgen) before 2.07 generates weak non-tty passwords, which makes it easier for context-dependent attackers to guess the password via a brute-force attack.

CVE-2013-4442
Published: 2014-12-19
Password Generator (aka Pwgen) before 2.07 uses weak pseudo generated numbers when /dev/urandom is unavailable, which makes it easier for context-dependent attackers to guess the numbers.

CVE-2013-7401
Published: 2014-12-19
The parse_request function in request.c in c-icap 0.2.x allows remote attackers to cause a denial of service (crash) via a URI without a " " or "?" character in an ICAP request, as demonstrated by use of the OPTIONS method.

CVE-2014-2026
Published: 2014-12-19
Cross-site scripting (XSS) vulnerability in the search functionality in United Planet Intrexx Professional before 5.2 Online Update 0905 and 6.x before 6.0 Online Update 10 allows remote attackers to inject arbitrary web script or HTML via the request parameter.

CVE-2014-2716
Published: 2014-12-19
Ekahau B4 staff badge tag 5.7 with firmware 1.4.52, Real-Time Location System (RTLS) Controller 6.0.5-FINAL, and Activator 3 reuses the RC4 cipher stream, which makes it easier for remote attackers to obtain plaintext messages via an XOR operation on two ciphertexts.

Best of the Web
Dark Reading Radio
Archived Dark Reading Radio
Join us Wednesday, Dec. 17 at 1 p.m. Eastern Time to hear what employers are really looking for in a chief information security officer -- it may not be what you think.