Saturday, May 9, 2009

Password Roundup #2

Password issues remain a regular item in security news over the last few weeks. In this roundup I report on the fruits of password harvesting, a new policy from NIST, a kerfuffle between Elcomsoft and PGP, and lastly, how to pass the hash.

Unveiling Selma Hayek

Graham Cluely reported that the public email account of Selma Hayek was hacked, leading to screen shots of her messages being published along with other private details. Allegedly the hack was achieved by resetting her password after “guessing” her date of birth and the name of her most famous film role. Not exactly examples of “high entropy” information.

Fruits of the Password Harvest

Techradar reports on the exposure of The Great Password Scandal. The incident involved a site called My Name is E that lured new users with the promise to integrate multiple social networks if they handed over enough passwords. And people did, spurred by recommendations from Twitter. But these tweets were actually authored by My Name is E using harvested Twitter passwords via the autotweet function acting as a viral marketing vector. The lead developer from My Name is E claims that this was a development feature which was mistakenly left activated in the production version of the site.

A precedent is being established by well-known social networking sites to request people to supply their email username and password so that their contacts may be automatically added as friends. Sites following this approach include Get Satisfaction, Linked In, Yelp, Plaxo, Ning, FriendFeed, Orkut, iLike, MySpace and Facebook. Users are being sent the message that it’s ok to handover these credentials to simplify your social networking experience. Both Twitter and My Name is E know that OAuth is a better solution but they are not quite there yet. Joining up the social fabric web 2.0 still trumps security.

Some large scale harvesting was also reported by researchers from the University of California Santa Barbara, who infiltrated a botnet for 10 days earlier this year. The researchers have just published a paper on their findings where they report that they were able to access 70 GB of harvested data which included a massive 56,000 passwords.

NIST Password Policies

NIST has released a new draft document called Guide to Enterprise Password Management, SP 800-118. The 38-page document ¨provides recommendations for password management, which is the process of defining, implementing, and maintaining password policies throughout an enterprise. Effective password management reduces the risk of compromise of password-based authentication systems”. You can read a brief review of the document here.

Still with NIST, I recently blogged about their approach to making passwords harder to guess by using entropy arguments. At the E-Authentication site you can download a spreadsheet for calculating the entropy of explicit policies (as well as a few other interesting tools and documents).

The Elcomsoft and PGP Kerfuffle

The Register reported an incident at the recent InfoSec 2009 conference where an Elcomsoft poster with the by-line "the only way to break into PGP" was removed as a result of an official complaint lodged by PGP. Unfortunately the PGP and Elcomsoft vendor stands were facing each other in the exhibit hall. "The sign was factually inaccurate and lies about PGP," said Jon Callas, CTO of PGP. "They're not breaking into PGP, they're doing password cracking. There's a difference”. But naturally, if a password is protecting your PGP private key, then their protection is no stronger than a password. You can read more about he incident (and see the offending poster) on the Elcomsoft blog.

Pass the Hash

At the RSA 2009 conference the Register asked two security experts to rate the world’s most dangerous exploits. Near the top of the list for Ed Skoudis, a well-known security practitioner and author, was a powerful exploit that has evolved from an old attack known as pass the hash. Attackers exploit an unpatched browser or application vulnerability to capture a Windows password hash and then use it to create a valid login session on another machine with someone else’s password (for Windows only the hash of the password is required, not the password itself). For the attack to be successful the hash must be injected into memory and you can read about the details in this post from Marcus Murray.

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