Feeds

Google serves up surprise password cracking function

Rainbow warrior sinks MD5

Boost IT visibility and business value

A Cambridge University researcher successfully used Google to unearth a password used by an attacker to compromise its security blog.

The attacker created an account in Wordpress when he attacked the Light the Blue Touch Paper blog, the online journal of the Computer Laboratory at Cambridge University. Wordpress stores passwords as MD5 hashes without salting, a process that adds length and complexity to password hashes.

Curious to know what this password might be, Cambridge researcher Steven Murdoch tried a dictionary attack in both English and Russian (the likely native language of the attacker).

Rather than building a rainbow table that maps passwords to hashes for a more exhaustive range of possible inputs, Murdoch plugged the MD5 into Google which revealed multiple sites featuring the word "Anthony", the attacker's password. The approach hit on a result because the hash was in the URL.

"This makes a lot of sense - I've even written code which does the same. When I needed to store a file, indexed by a key, a simple option is to make the filename the key's MD5 hash. This avoids the need to escape any potentially dangerous user input and is very resistant to accidental collisions," Murdoch notes.

The new variant on Google hacking illustrates a couple of important points: that Google is indexing password hashes, albeit inadvertently, as well as everything else; and that MD5 hashes without salting are next to useless.

Murdoch's posting on his findings has sparked a lively thread on the Light the Blue Touch Paper blog. One respondent created a utility that lets users find out if their passwords are safe.

Using hard to guess passwords is simple common sense that somehow often gets overlooked. As one poster notes, searching for hashes of common default passwords such as "admin" throws up database dumps and the likes. ®

Gartner critical capabilities for enterprise endpoint backup

More from The Register

next story
Microsoft: We plan to CLEAN UP this here Windows Store town
Paid-for apps that provide free downloads? Really
Snowden on NSA's MonsterMind TERROR: It may trigger cyberwar
Plus: Syria's internet going down? That was a US cock-up
Who needs hackers? 'Password1' opens a third of all biz doors
GPU-powered pen test yields more bad news about defences and passwords
e-Borders fiasco: Brits stung for £224m after US IT giant sues UK govt
Defeat to Raytheon branded 'catastrophic result'
Hear ye, young cyber warriors of the realm: GCHQ wants you
Get involved, get a job and then never discuss work ever again
Chinese hackers spied on investigators of Flight MH370 - report
Classified data on flight's disappearance pinched
Microsoft cries UNINSTALL in the wake of Blue Screens of Death™
Cache crash causes contained choloric calamity
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
7 Elements of Radically Simple OS Migration
Avoid the typical headaches of OS migration during your next project by learning about 7 elements of radically simple OS migration.
BYOD's dark side: Data protection
An endpoint data protection solution that adds value to the user and the organization so it can protect itself from data loss as well as leverage corporate data.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?