Feeds

Sony hack reveals password security is even worse than feared

Most conformed to very predictable patterns

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

An analysis of password re-use from data spilled via the Sony and Gawker hack reveals that consumer password security is even more lax than we might have feared.

A million Sony users' password/username IDs and 250,000 Gawker login credentials, each stored in plain text, were exposed via separate hacks. In each case hackers posted a subset of these passwords as a torrent.

An analysis by security researcher Troy Hunt revealed that two-thirds of users with accounts at both Sony and Gawker used the same password on both sites. This conclusion is based on a relatively small sample of 88 email addresses found in common between the Sony and Gawker hacks. However, just the data gleaned by Hunt from the Sony hack alone shows this is unlikely to be some sort of statistical quirk. On the contrary, by any metric, consumer password security revealed via the Sony hack is dire.

Half the password sample from the Sony hack used only one character type and only one in a hundred passwords used a non-alphanumeric character, much the same as revealed by the earlier Gawker hack. Only 4 per cent of these passwords had three or more character types.

Four in five of the passwords in the 37,608 account sample from the Sony hack actually only occurred once. But users are independently making poor passwords choices, Hunt reports. Around 36 per cent of the passwords used appeared in a password dictionary, a factor that would leave them wide open to brute-forcing attacks in instances where the same passwords were used and only a password hash database was exposed by a hack. Hunt reckons more than four in five (82 per cent) of the passwords would have fallen to a basic rainbow table crack.

Hunt concludes that the only safe password is "one you can't remember".

"None of this is overly surprising, although it remains alarming," he writes. "We know passwords are too short, too simple, too predictable and too much like the other ones the individual has created in other locations.

"The bit which did take me back a bit was the extent to which passwords conformed to very predictable patterns, namely only using alphanumeric character, being 10 characters or less and having a much-better-than-average chance of being the same as other passwords the user has created on totally independent systems," he adds. ®

Remote control for virtualized desktops

More from The Register

next story
'Regin': The 'New Stuxnet' spook-grade SOFTWARE WEAPON described
'A degree of technical competence rarely seen'
You really need to do some tech support for Aunty Agnes
Free anti-virus software, expires, stops updating and p0wns the world
Regin: The super-spyware the security industry has been silent about
NSA fingered as likely source of complex malware family
You stupid BRICK! PCs running Avast AV can't handle Windows fixes
Fix issued, fingers pointed, forums in flames
Privacy bods offer GOV SPY VICTIMS a FREE SPYWARE SNIFFER
Looks for gov malware that evades most antivirus
Patch NOW! Microsoft slings emergency bug fix at Windows admins
Vulnerability promotes lusers to domain overlords ... oops
HACKERS can DELETE SURVEILLANCE DVRS remotely – report
Hikvision devices wide open to hacking, claim securobods
prev story

Whitepapers

Choosing cloud Backup services
Demystify how you can address your data protection needs in your small- to medium-sized business and select the best online backup service to meet your needs.
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.
Seattle children’s accelerates Citrix login times by 500% with cross-tier insight
Seattle Children’s is a leading research hospital with a large and growing Citrix XenDesktop deployment. See how they used ExtraHop to accelerate launch times.
5 critical considerations for enterprise cloud backup
Key considerations when evaluating cloud backup solutions to ensure adequate protection security and availability of enterprise data.
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?