Feeds

UK watchdog snaps on glove to probe Tesco's 'security fails'

Every little helps, starting with hash("sha256", ...)

The essential guide to IT transformation

The UK's privacy watchdog has opened a tentative probe into the alleged security shortcomings of Tesco's website.

The global supermarket behemoth, which sends out password reminders to Tesco.com customers in plaintext, was accused by security researcher Troy Hunt of storing punters' credentials in an unsafe manner, as reported by El Reg several weeks ago.

Tesco has yet to respond in detail to Hunt's criticisms, but the chain defended its security as "robust" in a statement.

"We know how important internet security is to customers and the measures we have are robust," the firm argued. "We are never complacent and work continuously to give customers the confidence they can shop securely."

When a customer forgets his or her login credentials, Tesco emails the customer's actual password in clear text as a reminder, rather than following the more robust practice of reseting the account's records.

The retail giant insists it "secures" stored passwords, but its approach implies that the encryption used, if any is used at all, is two-way, allowing the original passphrases to be recovered. The argument goes that if Tesco's software can recover exact passwords from the database, so can hackers who penetrate the supermarket's systems.

Ideally, web apps should encrypt passwords using a one-way function, a technique known as hashing, that does not store the original passwords and frustrates efforts to recover plaintext credentials by hackers.

No database breach has occurred at Tesco.com, so Hunt's criticism centres on charges that the company is failing to follow best practices for password storage, failing to prevent cross-site scripting attacks and is mixing up encrypted and unencrypted content on a secure page.

Many readers have emailed us about Hunt's blog and the majority of security experts agree he has a point. However one or two dissenters have noted that Tesco's alleged password security malpractices are fairly common among huge corporations, so singling it out for particular blame appears somewhat unfair.

As previously noted, the password reminder issue on Tesco's website was first reported five years ago.

However, the UK's Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) confirmed this week that it is looking into the matter, but declined to comment further.

“We are aware of the issues relating to the Tesco website and will be making enquiries,” the ICO said in a statement. ®

Next gen security for virtualised datacentres

More from The Register

next story
Ice cream headache as black hat hacks sack Dairy Queen
I scream, you scream, we all scream 'DATA BREACH'!
Goog says patch⁵⁰ your Chrome
64-bit browser loads cat vids FIFTEEN PERCENT faster!
NIST to sysadmins: clean up your SSH mess
Too many keys, too badly managed
Scratched PC-dispatch patch patched, hatched in batch rematch
Windows security update fixed after triggering blue screens (and screams) of death
Researchers camouflage haxxor traps with fake application traffic
Honeypots sweetened to resemble actual workloads, complete with 'secure' logins
Attack flogged through shiny-clicky social media buttons
66,000 users popped by malicious Flash fudging add-on
New Snowden leak: How NSA shared 850-billion-plus metadata records
'Federated search' spaffed info all over Five Eyes chums
Three quarters of South Korea popped in online gaming raids
Records used to plunder game items, sold off to low lifes
Oz fed police in PDF redaction SNAFU
Give us your metadata, we'll publish your data
prev story

Whitepapers

5 things you didn’t know about cloud backup
IT departments are embracing cloud backup, but there’s a lot you need to know before choosing a service provider. Learn all the critical things you need to know.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Backing up Big Data
Solving backup challenges and “protect everything from everywhere,” as we move into the era of big data management and the adoption of BYOD.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
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?