Dark Reading is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them.Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

Operational Security //


// // //
10:40 AM
Larry Loeb
Larry Loeb
Larry Loeb

Facebook Exposes Millions of Unencrypted User Passwords

It's an internal matter – but it could affect millions of the social network's users.

Facebook has found itself in a situation that can best be called "lawful but awful."

The Wall Street Journal reports that the social behemoth admits it has been storing user passwords for internal use in a non-encrypted plain-text format. The stored passwords included those for Facebook Lite, Facebook and Instagram users.

Facebook says the discovery of the password trove came during a security review in January.

Security researcher Brian Krebs said on his blog that the data was searchable by "by thousands of Facebook employees -- in some cases going back to 2012."

Facebook has said that there is no evidence of abuse of this information by employees.

The situation arose from employee-built applications that logged the unencrypted user password data and then stored it in plain text on internal company servers.

The number of users affected may be between 200 million and 600 million and the data searchable by more than 20,000 Facebook employees.

While Facebook may alert the users that are affected by this situation, no password resets for users are contemplated at this time.

Pedro Canahuati, VP Engineering, Security and Privacy, addressed the situation in a blog post. "To be clear," he said, "these passwords were never visible to anyone outside of Facebook and we have found no evidence to date that anyone internally abused or improperly accessed them. We estimate that we will notify hundreds of millions of Facebook Lite users, tens of millions of other Facebook users, and tens of thousands of Instagram users. Facebook Lite is a version of Facebook predominantly used by people in regions with lower connectivity."

The same post goes on to tout all the methods Facebook implements for password security.

But Facebook has recently come under fire for use of user phone numbers for multi-factor authentication while then using those same numbers for marketing purposes.

Adam Laub, SVP of product management at Stealthbits Technologies, thinks the problem is goes wider than Facebook.

In a statement to Security Now, he said that, "If everyone leveraged strong, unique passwords and changed them frequently, this type of news might not be treated quite the same. However, in all likelihood, whether these passwords were around for 10 minutes or 10 years, the username and password combinations would still be valid. If not on Facebook, then almost assuredly on some other site."

He went on to say that, "This is just another example of why password hygiene matters. If compromised, this dataset would have likely led to the identify theft of at a minimum thousands, if not many, many millions of people."

It's hard to argue against the idea that passwords do matter. But an event like this should be a spur to find other ways to authenticate a user's identity than an easily reproducible string of data.

— Larry Loeb has written for many of the last century's major "dead tree" computer magazines, having been, among other things, a consulting editor for BYTE magazine and senior editor for the launch of WebWeek.

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
I Smell a RAT! New Cybersecurity Threats for the Crypto Industry
David Trepp, Partner, IT Assurance with accounting and advisory firm BPM LLP,  7/9/2021
Attacks on Kaseya Servers Led to Ransomware in Less Than 2 Hours
Robert Lemos, Contributing Writer,  7/7/2021
It's in the Game (but It Shouldn't Be)
Tal Memran, Cybersecurity Expert, CYE,  7/9/2021
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Current Issue
Developing and Testing an Effective Breach Response Plan
Whether or not a data breach is a disaster for the organization depends on the security team's response and that is based on how the team developed a breach response plan beforehand and if it was thoroughly tested. Inside this report, experts share how to: -understand the technical environment, -determine what types of incidents would trigger the plan, -know which stakeholders need to be notified and how to do so, -develop steps to contain the breach, collect evidence, and initiate recovery.
Flash Poll
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
PUBLISHED: 2022-12-03
A vulnerability was found in SourceCodester Book Store Management System 1.0. It has been rated as critical. This issue affects some unknown processing of the file /hrm/employeeadd.php. The manipulation of the argument empid leads to sql injection. The attack may be initiated remotely. The exploit h...
PUBLISHED: 2022-12-03
A vulnerability classified as problematic has been found in SourceCodester Human Resource Management System 1.0. Affected is an unknown function of the file /hrm/employeeview.php. The manipulation of the argument search leads to cross site scripting. It is possible to launch the attack remotely. The...
PUBLISHED: 2022-12-03
A vulnerability, which was classified as problematic, has been found in Dot Tech Smart Campus System. Affected by this issue is some unknown functionality of the file /services/Card/findUser. The manipulation leads to information disclosure. The attack may be launched remotely. The exploit has been ...
PUBLISHED: 2022-12-03
A vulnerability was found in Shaoxing Background Management System. It has been declared as critical. This vulnerability affects unknown code of the file /Default/Bd. The manipulation of the argument id leads to sql injection. The attack can be initiated remotely. The exploit has been disclosed to t...
PUBLISHED: 2022-12-03
A vulnerability has been found in House Rental System and classified as critical. Affected by this vulnerability is an unknown functionality of the file search-property.php of the component POST Request Handler. The manipulation of the argument search_property leads to sql injection. The attack can ...