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eHarmony plays down data breach on dating advice site

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Online dating site eHarmony is asking some of its users to change their passwords following the discovery of a security breach.

A SQL injection vulnerability on a secondary site created a possible means for screen names, email addresses and hashed passwords to be extracted.

eHarmony is in the process of advising a small number of users to change their login credentials as a precaution, while maintaining there has been no breach on its main site and what security problems there were only affected a small percentage of users that used its advice site as per this statement:

Some data was obtained without authorization from an ancillary informational site we operate, eHarmony Advice, which uses completely separate databases and web servers than eHarmony.com. From one eHarmony Advice database, the hacker obtained a file that included user names, email addresses and hashed passwords. User names and passwords are needed to gain access to the message boards on the eHarmony Advice site.

Please be assured that eHarmony uses robust security measures, including password hashing and data encryption, to protect our members’ personal information. We also protect our networks with state-of-the-art firewalls, load balancers, SSL and other sophisticated security approaches. As a result, at no point during this attack did the hacker successfully get inside our eHarmony network.

In addition, please note that there was very little overlap between the eHarmony Advice data obtained and the data that resides within other properties. We have taken appropriate steps to remedy the situation and have notified any potentially affected customers, who comprise an extremely small fraction of our total eHarmony.com user base (less than 0.05 percent).

We deeply regret any inconvenience this causes any of our users.

Possible security problems involving the eHarmony network were discovered some weeks ago by the same Argentinian hacker, Chris Russo, who got into a spat with rival dating site PlentyOfFish.com over the disclosure of similar bugs on that site last week. Brian Krebs found that someone using the moniker ‘Provider’ was offering to sell what purported to be a copy of eHarmony’s compromised database for between US$2000 and US$3000 via underground carding forums. Krebs suspects Provider is either Russo or a business associate of Russo.

Both eHarmony’s chief technology officer Joseph Essas and PlentyOfFish.com chief exec Markus Frind accuse Russo of running a fraudulent shakedown, reporting problems with the sites and then offering to fix them in return for a consultancy fee. Essas blamed third party libraries that eHarmony used for content management on its advice site for breach.

Aziz Maakaroun, business development director at vulnerability management specialist Outpost24, said the timing of news of the breach, days before Valentine's Day, could hardly come at a worse time for eHarmony.

“In the run up to Valentine’s Day, the timing of this purported breach could be fairly disastrous for dating website eHarmony," Maakaroun said. "For any existing customer, being told that your details have potentially been hacked is hardly an aphrodisiac."

Maakaroun added that the use of web application scanning tools can help identify and plug the types of vulnerability eHarmony suffered from this week. ®

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