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-2014-2027
Published: 2015-03-31
eGroupware before 1.8.006.20140217 allows remote attackers to conduct PHP object injection attacks, delete arbitrary files, and possibly execute arbitrary code via the (1) addr_fields or (2) trans parameter to addressbook/csv_import.php, (3) cal_fields or (4) trans parameter to calendar/csv_import.p...

CVE-2014-2830
Published: 2015-03-31
Stack-based buffer overflow in cifskey.c or cifscreds.c in cifs-utils before 6.4, as used in pam_cifscreds, allows remote attackers to have unspecified impact via unknown vectors.

CVE-2014-7876
Published: 2015-03-31
Unspecified vulnerability in HP Integrated Lights-Out (iLO) firmware 2 before 2.27 and 4 before 2.03 and iLO Chassis Management (CM) firmware before 1.30 allows remote attackers to gain privileges, execute arbitrary code, or cause a denial of service via unknown vectors.

CVE-2014-9462
Published: 2015-03-31
The _validaterepo function in sshpeer in Mercurial before 3.2.4 allows remote attackers to execute arbitrary commands via a crafted repository name in a clone command.

CVE-2014-9706
Published: 2015-03-31
The build_index_from_tree function in index.py in Dulwich before 0.9.9 allows remote attackers to execute arbitrary code via a commit with a directory path starting with .git/, which is not properly handled when checking out a working tree.

Dark Reading Radio
Archived Dark Reading Radio
Good hackers--aka security researchers--are worried about the possible legal and professional ramifications of President Obama's new proposed crackdown on cyber criminals.