Passwords

A 33-post collection

What do Sony and Yahoo! have in common? Passwords!

Another week, another breach. This time Yahoo! was the target with 453,491 email addresses and passwords from their Voices service being exposed for all to see. Whilst unfortunate for those involved, these breaches do give us some unique insight into password practices and as is usually the case, it’s not pretty. Back in June last year after one of many Sony breaches I conducted a brief analysis and found a litany of bad password practices. Less than 1% of passwords contained a non-alphanumeric character, only 4% actually used more than two character types and 93% of passwords were between 6 and 10 characters long. What made the Sony analysis particularly easy (and relevant) was that there was...

Our password hashing has no clothes

In the beginning, there was password hashing and all was good. The one-directional nature of the hash meant that once passed through a hashing algorithm the stored password could only be validated by hashing another password (usually provided at logon) and comparing them. Everyone was happy. Then along came those pesky rainbow tables. Suddenly, huge collections of passwords could be hashed and stored in these colourful little tables then compared to existing hashed passwords (often breached from other people’s databases) at an amazing rate of knots thus disclosing the original plain text version. Bugger. So we started seasoning our passwords with salt. Adding random bytes to the password before it was hashed introduced unpredictability which was the kryptonite...

I’d like to share my LinkedIn password with you – here’s why

No really, this is my LinkedIn password: y>8Q^<6mqKEA4hac Well it was my LinkedIn password until earlier today when it became apparent that LinkedIn had suffered what could only be described as a massive security breach. The disclosure of 6 million passwords used in one of the world’s premier social networking sites is nothing short of astonishing. But what’s also astonishing is that this exercise once again demonstrates that we, as users, are continuing to choose outrageously stupid passwords. How do I know this? Take a look at leakedin.org and try something obvious: And here it is: Now try your old LinkedIn password which, of course, you’ve already changed. Don&...

Everything you ever wanted to know about building a secure password reset feature

This content is now available in the Pluralsight course "Secure Account Management Fundamentals" Recently I’ve had a couple of opportunities to think again about how a secure password reset function should operate, firstly whilst building this functionality into ASafaWeb and secondly when giving some direction for someone else doing a similar thing. In that second instance, I wanted to point them to a canonical resource on the ins and outs of securely implementing a reset function. Problem is though, there isn’t one, at least not covering everything I believe is important. So here it is. You see, the world of forgotten passwords is actually a little murky. There are plenty of different perfectly legitimate...

Zappos, Stratfor, Sony, Gawker; Got your attention? Good, now start using a password manager!

Another week, another major security incident with a significant website. So the news this time is that Zappos – those guys who sell shoes (among other things) – to folks in the US may have, uh, accidentally disclosed somewhere in the order of 24 million user accounts. Bugger. Now of course at the root of this is inevitably yet more evildoers intent on breaking through website security for financial gain, activism or just plain old kicks. Regardless of the modus operandi of these incidents, the fact remains that a significant number of accounts have been exposed and there’s now the real possibility that usernames and passwords – perhaps your username and password – are going to be floating...

I’m sorry, but were you actually trying to remember your comical passwords?

I love a good XKCD comic; Randall Munroe has a unique way of cutting right to the crux of technology issues and always doing it in a humorous fashion. Little Bobby Tables remains an all-time classic and it’s amazing how many times you’ll see it quoted in security discussions – it’s now well and truly embedded in pop culture (well, at least in the little app-sec corner of the world).Last week’s password strength comic was no exception; very funny stuff about the pain people will go to in order to create a strong password which they’ll ultimately forget. Anyway, the crux of the comic was this piece about using...

The science of password selection

A little while back I took a look at some recently breached accounts and wrote A brief Sony password analysis. The results were alarming; passwords were relatively short (usually 6 to 10 characters), simple (less than 1% had a non-alphanumeric character) and predictable (more than a third were in a common password dictionary). What was even worse though was uniqueness; 92% of common accounts in the Sony systems reused passwords and even when I looked at a totally unrelated system – Gawker – reuse was still very high with over two thirds of common email addresses sharing the same password. But there was one important question I left unanswered and that was how people choose their passwords. We now know...

A brief Sony password analysis

So the Sony saga continues. As if the whole thing about 77 million breached PlayStation Network accounts wasn’t bad enough, numerous other security breaches in other Sony services have followed in the ensuing weeks, most recently with SonyPictures.com. As bad guys often like to do, the culprits quickly stood up and put their handiwork on show. This time around it was a group going by the name of LulzSec. Here’s the interesting bit: Sony stored over 1,000,000 passwords of its customers in plaintext Well actually, the really interesting bit is that they created a torrent of some of the breached accounts so that anyone could go and grab a copy. Ouch. Remember these...

Bad passwords are not fun and good entropy is always important: demystifying security fallacies

A couple of different friends sent me over a link to an article about The Usability of Passwords this weekend, clearly thinking it would strike a chord. Well, let’s just say I was enthralled before I even finished the second line: Security companies and IT people constantly tells us that we should use complex and difficult passwords. This is bad advice The crux of the article (and subsequent FAQ), is that so long as a password is sufficiently long – the example used is “this is fun” – you’re pretty damn secure (apparently eleven characters is just right). Actually, the term used was secure forever. Wow, two pretty absolute terms. This actually sounded alarmingly...

The 3 reasons you’re forced into creating weak passwords

Banks don’t get it. Telcos struggle with it. Airlines haven’t got a clue. That’s right folks, its password time again. Earlier in the year I wrote a little post about the who’s who of bad password practices. I named, I shamed and I got a resounding chorus of support. The point was made. But it still bugged me. Why were our banks and airlines so consistently forcing us to choose poor passwords? Why do they constrain our length, discriminate against our character types and in some cases, even discard the entire alphabet? I mean there must be a reason, right? So I asked each one of them. Please explain What I did...