Vulnerabilities / Threats
10/28/2010
01:25 PM
50%
50%

Social Networks' Threat To Security

Weak passwords and insecure personal information could put your company's data at risk.

Social networks are designed to facilitate sharing of personal information, and the more data a person discloses, the more valuable he or she is to the service. Unfortunately, these sites have poor track records for security controls. They don't encourage users to select strong passwords, and passwords on these sites never expire. This wouldn't be a problem if people only used these passwords for their social lives, but it's a safe bet that many reuse the same weak passwords--or versions of them--for all of their accounts, including at work.

A database breach last year at RockYou, which creates apps and games for social networking sites, illustrates just how weak passwords can be. Attackers used a SQL injection vulnerability to steal 32 million passwords that were stored in clear text and then posted them to the Internet. This large data set gave us unprecedented insight into the passwords that users select and allowed security researchers to calculate the most common ones (see box on next page).

Attackers often simply try the top 20 passwords when attempting to break into a social network account. Yes, it's a simple dictionary brute-force attack, but if you have a large user base, it's likely at least one of your employees' accounts could be hacked using this method.

Attacker Modus Operandi

Attackers have a variety of ways to guess passwords, including:

>> Brute force based on publicly disclosed information. Beyond the RockYou top 20, people often use names of family members, birthdays, and other personal but easily accessible information in their passwords. Attackers may take what they know about a potential victim and feed it into a program that generates a range of possible passwords.

>> Guessing answers to password-reset questions. Social network users sometimes reveal information that could be used to reset their passwords on the social network itself, Web mail services such as Yahoo Mail, and even on online banking or software-as-a-service sites. For example, some Facebook users include "25 Random Things About You" notes in their profiles. These notes contain information--like mother's maiden name, place of birth, color of a first car--that attackers can use to reset a victim's password and get control of that person's e-mail account.

>> Create a word list to narrow down keywords mentioned in the profile. Several tools can collect keywords from a Web page and put them into a word list (see Easy-To-Find Brute-Force Tools). Once an attacker has this list, he can attempt to brute force the user's password. This attack's effectiveness is largely dependent on how accurate a word list is and whether the social network employs any brute-force prevention mechanisms, such as Captchas, those challenge-response tests used on Web forms to ensure the respondent is a person, not a computer.

Previous
1 of 2
Next
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
Video
Slideshows
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2014-8142
Published: 2014-12-20
Use-after-free vulnerability in the process_nested_data function in ext/standard/var_unserializer.re in PHP before 5.4.36, 5.5.x before 5.5.20, and 5.6.x before 5.6.4 allows remote attackers to execute arbitrary code via a crafted unserialize call that leverages improper handling of duplicate keys w...

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.

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.