Feeds

Facebook login-via-email-link option BLURTED user secrets

NEWS FLASH: Unencrypted email is not secure

High performance access to file storage

Facebook has been forced to kybosh a security-lite feature that offered an auto login shortcut to its users, after a privacy flaw was unsurprisingly uncovered.

The shortcut in question had allowed Facebookers to access the site simply by clicking on a web link sent to their email addresses.

But Hacker News uncovered late last week that the shortcut links had been made "publicly available" online. It further claimed that more than one million Facebook accounts had been affected, after the links had been posted and searched for on the web.

Facebook has since yanked the feature from its site after admitting that anyone accessing the links could then view the pages associated with the shortcut as well as the email addresses of those users whose details were exposed.

An engineer at the company responded on Friday about the shortcut. Matt Jones said:

We only send these URLs to the email address of the account owner for their ease of use and never make them publicly available. Even then we put protection in place to reduce the likelihood that anyone else could click through to the account.

For a search engine to come across these links, the content of the emails would need to have been posted online (e.g. via throwaway email sites, as someone pointed out - or people whose email addresses go to email lists with online archives).

He added:

[D]ue to some of these links being disclosed, we've turned the feature off until we can better ensure its security for users whose email contents are publicly visible. We are also securing the accounts of anyone who recently logged in through this flow.

As noted by security vendor Sophos, Facebook had embedded a cookie-like identifier into the links in question to help its users avoid having to re-enter their login credentials.

But it's clear that such a function will always weaken an account holder's security.

Sophos warned:

Hopefully this isn't a news flash, but emails are not secure nor private if you haven't encrypted them.

This is the same reason we don't email people our credit card information and don't send new passwords to people via email. It's not secure.

Facebook has suspended the practice, albeit temporarily. Let's hope they wise up and realise this cannot be done safely and leave it disabled permanently.

Most users stay logged into Facebook and don't clear their cookies as it is, having a password bypass by magic link is simply unnecessary.

®

High performance access to file storage

More from The Register

next story
Obama allows NSA to exploit 0-days: report
If the spooks say they need it, they get it
Parent gabfest Mumsnet hit by SSL bug: My heart bleeds, grins hacker
Natter-board tells middle-class Britain to purée its passwords
Web data BLEEDOUT: Users to feel the pain as Heartbleed bug revealed
Vendors and ISPs have work to do updating firmware - if it's possible to fix this
OpenSSL Heartbleed: Bloody nose for open-source bleeding hearts
Bloke behind the cockup says not enough people are helping crucial crypto project
One year on: diplomatic fail as Chinese APT gangs get back to work
Mandiant says past 12 months shows Beijing won't call off its hackers
Call of Duty 'fragged using OpenSSL's Heartbleed exploit'
So it begins ... or maybe not, says one analyst
Experian subsidiary faces MEGA-PROBE for 'selling consumer data to fraudster'
US attorneys general roll up sleeves, snap on gloves
Oz bank in comedy Heartbleed blog FAIL
Bank: 'We are now safely patched.' Customers: 'You were using OpenSSL?'
prev story

Whitepapers

Mainstay ROI - Does application security pay?
In this whitepaper learn how you and your enterprise might benefit from better software security.
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.
3 Big data security analytics techniques
Applying these Big Data security analytics techniques can help you make your business safer by detecting attacks early, before significant damage is done.
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.