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Users still slack about passwords: Trustwave

eHarmony analysis shows people just don’t care

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

Trustwave's SpiderLabs has completed an analysis of the passwords dumped on the Internet in this month’s eHarmony breach, and reached the depressing conclusion that too few people really seem to care about password strength.

Having recovered 80 percent of the 1.5 million passwords in the dump file, the company says only 0.5 percent contained a “special character”, with 41 percent containing letters only and 57 percent a combination of letters and digits.

The high popularity of purely alphabetical passwords was, the blog post by Trustwave’s Mike Kelly noted, made worse by the weak protection used by eHarmony. Its password storage was case-insensitive, as well as being in an unsalted MD5 format, reducing the time needed to crack the passwords.

As it was, more than 1.2 million passwords were cracked in 72 hours, using three NVIDIA GPUs and the oclHashcat and John the Ripper cracking tools.

Along with various discussions of the types of base words popular in passwords (dog names outnumber female names, only a small number of passwords included the word “password”, and so on) the analysis found that 89 percent of the recovered passwords were between six and ten characters long.

The post adds a further criticism to eHarmony, noting that its password reset function spits out passwords that are only five characters long, which can be bruteforced “in less than ten seconds” on one GPU.

There is, however, a caveat to the analysis: Threatpost says that since no single password was found more than three times in the 1.2 million recovered passwords, “this brings into question the integrity of the original dump and the possibility of modification by the dumper”. ®

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