Database Hack Puts Social Media, Webmail Users at Risk
A massive hack has served up the user names and passwords of nearly 2 million Facebook, Twitter, Google and Yahoo accounts, among others. TrustWave’s SpiderLabs first reported the database breach, which it said was made possible by the Pony Botnet Controller.
“With the source code of Pony leaked and in the wild, we continue to see new instances and forks of Pony 1.9,” Daniel Chechik of SpiderLabs wrote in a blog post.
In addition to hundreds of thousands of Facebook, Twitter, Google and Yahoo accounts, SpiderLabs reports the breached database also let loose credentials for 1.58 million Web site log ins, 320,000 e-mail accounts, 41,000 FTP accounts, 3,000 remote desktops, and 3,000 shell accounts. But the leak itself is only one part of the story.
“In our analysis, passwords that use all four character types and are longer than eight characters are considered ‘excellent,’ whereas passwords with four or less characters of only one type are considered ‘terrible’,” Chechik said. “Unfortunately, there were more terrible passwords than excellent ones, more bad passwords than good, and the majority, as usual, is somewhere in between in the medium category.”
The Unreported Threat
We turned to Matthew Standart, director of threat intelligence at HBGary, the technology security division of ManTech International, to get his take on the database leak. He told us it appears that Trustwave infiltrated a control server for the massive Pony botnet that was dumping credentials that it had harvested from compromised computers around the world.
What hasn't been reported, he added, is that compromised endpoints are the actual threat and they should not be overlooked. As Standart sees it, the challenge comes in that many end users rely only on antivirus software products to detect and remove malware -- but today's sophisticated malware threats slip past sensors and aren't being regularly detected. For remediation to work, then, the first and most important step is to identify whether the system is compromised with malware.
“If so, the malware needs to be removed before the passwords -- which should be done periodically as standard personal security hygiene -- can be reset,” Standart said. “Resetting the passwords first is like putting the cart before the horse because the new passwords will be compromised over and over again. Today, there are powerful solutions on the market that detect sophisticated strands of malware where antivirus can't.”
A Focus on Data Management
We also asked Aaron Titus, CPO at Identity Finder, a breach prevention and risk management firm, to get his perspective on the attack. He told us this incident underscores the need for whole-lifecycle sensitive data management.
“Even though the scope of the hack is staggering, keylogging remains a somewhat inefficient method to harvest sensitive data,” Titus said. “The fact that even an inefficient hack can amass such an astounding cache of credentials should be a wakeup call that companies should focus their energies on internal sensitive data discovery, classification and remediation, because harvesting that information is typically much easier.”