Feeds

Gawker makes a hash of non-ASCII characters in passwords

Media site becomes a byword for password FAIL

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

Gawker is phasing out the use of email-address-and-password login in favour of more modern OAuth authentication and the use of anonymous one-off accounts.

Tom Plunkett, CTO at Gawker Media, briefly explained the plans in responding to the discovery of another password-related security snafu involving the media news and gossip site. Computer scientists at Cambridge University discovered that, until a fortnight ago, it was failing to handle non-ASCII characters in passwords. Instead, all non-ASCII characters were mapped to the ASCII '?' prior to generating a password hash.

As a result of the cock-up, the accounts of Native Korean speakers, to quote just one example, might be opened by hackers who simply guessed a string of question marks.

Joseph Bonneau, a computer scientist at Cambridge University, came across the security hole in researching the handling of non-ASCII characters in passwords. "Gawker was using a relatively little-known Java library with the known bug of converting all non-ASCII characters to ‘?’ prior to hashing," Bonneau explained.

Bonneau credits Gawker with responding quickly to his discovery by applying a fix within three days, though the number of exposed accounts is small. Gawker's blog is only available in English and checks by Bonneau suggested fewer than one in 50,000 users elected a password which was entirely non-Latin.

The latest glitch follows a far more serious breach last month, when security slip-ups by Gawker resulted in the exposure of millions of user passwords. A database dump containing user login credentials, chat logs, and other Gawker-site collateral was released as a Torrent by hacking group Gnosis. Gnosis extracted the material after gaining root access to Gawker's servers. The attack was motivated in large part by an online feud between hackers affiliated with anarchic imageboard 4chan and Gawker.

Gawker responded to the breach by asking users to change their password, a similar response to its attitude to the much less significant non-ASCII hash snafu. Users affected by the non-ASCII bug are being prompted to change their password as soon as they login to the site with their old (vulnerable) credentials. Meanwhile, Gawker is making backend changes that will allow it to move to a more secure password system, Plunkett explained.

"Longer term (beginning early February), we will be migrating all of our users to our new commenting platform that will be described on the tech.gawker.com blog later this month," Plunkett explained. "This will eliminate the need for email addresses or passwords on our platform. Once this change goes live, new commenters will not be able to register with a user/password – we will support only OAuth or anonymous accounts we are calling 'burners'."

Gawker earlier said it was going to introduce two-factor authentication logins for its employees, in response to the compromise of the site's security last month.

®

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

More from The Register

next story
Russian hackers exploit 'Sandworm' bug 'to spy on NATO, EU PCs'
Fix imminent from Microsoft for Vista, Server 2008, other stuff
FYI: OS X Yosemite's Spotlight tells Apple EVERYTHING you're looking for
It's on by default – didn't you read the small print?
Microsoft pulls another dodgy patch
Redmond makes a hash of hashing add-on
'LulzSec leader Aush0k' found to be naughty boy not worthy of jail
15 months home detention leaves egg on feds' faces as they grab for more power
Kill off SSL 3.0 NOW: HTTPS savaged by vicious POODLE
Pull it out ASAP, it is SWISS CHEESE
Facebook slurps 'paste sites' for STOLEN passwords, sprinkles on hash and salt
Zuck's ad empire DOESN'T see details in plain text. Phew!
China is ALREADY spying on Apple iCloud users, watchdog claims
Attack harvests users' info at iPhone 6 launch
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Cloud and hybrid-cloud data protection for VMware
Learn how quick and easy it is to configure backups and perform restores for VMware environments.
Three 1TB solid state scorchers up for grabs
Big SSDs can be expensive but think big and think free because you could be the lucky winner of one of three 1TB Samsung SSD 840 EVO drives that we’re giving away worth over £300 apiece.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.