Feeds

Tesco in unencrypted password email reminder rumble

Price check on salt

High performance access to file storage

Tesco's admission that it still merrily emails passwords to punters in plain text has alarmed anyone with a grasp of computer security.

The UK's supermarket behemoth reassured the world on Sunday that it stores passwords for online shopping accounts in an encrypted format, and only decrypts them when users forget their login credentials and request a reminder via email.

This cut little ice with many Reg readers, who contacted us in large numbers on Monday morning. They pointed out that the method is undesirable because it fails to meet the security industry's best practices. It would be far better if Tesco switched to a secure password reset process with salted hashes for users' login credentials.

One (unlikely) danger is that these unencrypted email password reminders could be intercepted and used by crooks. But the bigger issue is that the method implies that the grocer stores passwords in a way that could allow anyone who infiltrates the website to uncover the original plaintext credentials: if Tesco can decrypt stored passwords for reminder emails, hackers can too.

The password reminder issue was raised again at the weekend by developer Troy Hunt but the same issue was actually first reported five years ago, back in 2007.

It's poor practice to send out password reminders in the clear-text but Tesco is hardly alone in this, and it's hardly the most wretched of security sins. The tone and severity of criticism against Tesco would be justified had its systems had actually been hacked and the passwords exposed - as has happened to other and still more prominent organisations in recent times - but this doesn't appear to be the case.

The password reminder issue is just the most obvious in a security of security mistakes by the grocer, according to Hunt, who list the various flubs in a blog post here. Other problems include using unencrypted authentication cookies and mixing up encrypted and unencrypted content on a secure page, behaviour that likely to generate browser warnings that most users will find confusing. For good measure Tesco's website is insecurely configured and running IIS 6, a seven-year-old and twice superseded version of Microsoft's web server software.

We asked Tesco for a more substantive response covering these various concerns but at the time of posting we're yet to hear back from the retailer. We'll update this story as and when we hear more. ®

High performance access to file storage

More from The Register

next story
Sorry London, Europe's top tech city is Munich
New 'Atlas of ICT Activity' finds innovation isn't happening at Silicon Roundabout
MtGox chief Karpelès refuses to come to US for g-men's grilling
Bitcoin baron says he needs another lawyer for FinCEN chat
Dropbox defends fantastically badly timed Condoleezza Rice appointment
'Nothing is going to change with Dr. Rice's appointment,' file sharer promises
Audio fans, prepare yourself for the Second Coming ... of Blu-ray
High Fidelity Pure Audio – is this what your ears have been waiting for?
Did a date calculation bug just cost hard-up Co-op Bank £110m?
And just when Brit banking org needs £400m to stay afloat
Zucker punched: Google gobbles Facebook-wooed Titan Aerospace
Up, up and away in my beautiful balloon flying broadband-bot
Apple DOMINATES the Valley, rakes in more profit than Google, HP, Intel, Cisco COMBINED
Cook & Co. also pay more taxes than those four worthies PLUS eBay and Oracle
prev story

Whitepapers

Securing web applications made simple and scalable
In this whitepaper learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.
Five 3D headsets to be won!
We were so impressed by the Durovis Dive headset we’ve asked the company to give some away to Reg readers.
HP ArcSight ESM solution helps Finansbank
Based on their experience using HP ArcSight Enterprise Security Manager for IT security operations, Finansbank moved to HP ArcSight ESM for fraud management.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Mobile application security study
Download this report to see the alarming realities regarding the sheer number of applications vulnerable to attack, as well as the most common and easily addressable vulnerability errors.