Original URL: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2009/03/12/nature_password_breach/

Nature security breach prompts password reset

Hacked in tooth and claw

By John Leyden

Posted in Security, 12th March 2009 17:01 GMT

The website of science journal Nature has suffered a security breach that resulted in the potential exposure of users' login credentials.

The login credentials were stored in an encrypted form, making them hard to extract. But Nature.com has still opted to reset the passwords of affected users, as a precaution.

Nature.com sent affected subscribers an email (extract below) on Thursday. A spokeswoman confirmed the email was genuine and added that the breach affected more that just registered journalists, but not all subscribers.

I regret to inform you that our Press Site was recently subjected to an attack in which some user data appears to have been accessed by a third party.

Unfortunately, yours was one of them. Although we store users' passwords in an encrypted form, we are taking the precautionary step of changing your password in order to eliminate the possibility of any future abuse of your account. You should receive a second email with your new password over the next day or so.

Needless to say, we have already taken steps to remove the vulnerability that led to this attack, and we are continuing to monitor the site closely for any further attempts to access user data.

Please accept my sincerest apologies for the inconvenience caused.

It's unclear how many records - stored on the same server accessed by hackers - were affected at the time of writing. Details stored included username, first name and last name, along with associated password hashes. No financially sensitive data was involved.

The potential cracking of Nature.com passwords is only a problem because so many users use the same password for multiple websites. Cracking the login credentials for a relatively unimportant account therefore exposes any higher value account, such as an online banking account, of password-sloppy users to a much greater risk of compromise.

A survey by Sophos, published earlier this week, found a third of users used same password for every website. An additional 48 per cent surveyed by the net security firm use a few different passwords.

More commentary on the issue, along with tips on creating a secure password, can be found here. ®