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Password Salting isn’t Just For Servers

06/07/2012

Current Events: LinkedIn Password Breach

Everyone has been talking about the massive LinkedIn password breach. Apparently, unknown actors have compromised some subset of the LinkedIn user base and a password hash database has been released into the wild.

What Does it Mean?

The good news is that the password database isn’t associated with your login credentials and isn’t immediately exploitable by everyone in the world. The bad news is that this is certainly proof a group of bad actors have the full credentials for most of LinkedIn.

Weak Password Storage

It appears this breach was possible due to poor algorithm choices by LinkedIn, using a simple one-way hash for each password that can be cracked more easily than proper password storage. There are several great posts about how to do this right as an application developer, but this post is focused on the user.

What Does it Mean For You?

The real threat in breaches like this is that people share the same password on multiple sites. It’s easy enough to recognize when LinkedIn or one site has a breach and change your password, but what else could someone with your email/login gain access to if you re-use passwords like most people do?

What’s the Best Plan to Protect Yourself?

The best way to manage this is to use a password manager with random passwords for every site you authenticate to. However, this is too difficult and complex for the majority of people. There’s an easier way to use a few h3 secrets to create unique, user salted passwords.

What’s the Realistic, Everyday Plan?

If you can’t use truly random passwords and a password manager, you should generate a random 8 letter password, and then add a word or 4-6 letters to it to get a unique password just for that site. For example, if you’re strong password was “Nafra6he” you could make your password “linkedinNafra6he”. It’s just as easy to remember and only a little harder to type. If the password database for LinkedIn is compromised and you have a custom prefix on all your other sites, you won’t be at risk. For example, if your google password with this schema was “googleNafra6he”.

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Categories: LifeHacks, Security
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