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Thanks to the continuous barrage of high-profile computer security scares and reports of cloud-scale government snooping, more of us Internet users are wising up about the security of our information. One of the smarter moves we can make to protect ourselves is to use a password manager.
Itrsquo;s one of the easiest too.A password manager is an excellent first step in securing your online identity, helping you increase the strength of the passwords that protect your online accounts because it will remember those passwords for you.

A password manager will generate a unique strong password for every account and application, without requiring you to memorize or write down these random strings of characters.

These strong passwords help shield against traditional password attacks such as dictionary, rainbow tables, or brute-force attacks.To read this article in full or to leave a comment, please click here
Suits should have done more to protect users, rather than user numbers ANALYSIS Fallen web giant Yahoo! has been branded negligent for failing to tackle the prodigious challenge of upgrading its MD5 password security before some one billion accounts were stolen. The security-battered organisation revealed today that attackers had stolen more than a billion accounts in August 2013 in history's biggest breach. Hackers stole names, addresses, phone numbers, and MD5 hashed passwords in a coup for social engineers who could use the information to compromise the very identity of users. That eye-watering news followed the company's September admission that 500 million accounts had been stolen in seperate attacks by alleged state-sponsored hackers in 2014, an incident that came two years after staff became first aware of the hack. Yahoo! has since replaced its MD5 hashing with the far superior bcrypt, moving from the world's worst password protection mechanism to the best. Yet it is little comfort for those who use legitimate personal details when signing up to Yahoo!'s service, including scores of American subscribers to major cable and DSL telcos including AT&T which use Yahoo! for its default email services, along with Kiwi carrier Spark which ditched the service in September. It is not known if the MD5 hashes were salted, since Yahoo! did not mention the critical additive in its statement.

Doing so would mitigate much risks from using MD5, says Jeffrey Goldberg, security guru at AgileBits, makers of the 1Password credential vault. "What is most important is whether the hashes, be they MD5, SHA1, or SHA256, are salted," Goldberg says. "There is absolutely no excuse to use unsalted hashes." But that the Purple Palace was even using the algorithm has drawn steep criticism from established security boffins. "The MD5 hashing algorithm has been considered not just insecure, but broken, for two decades," says Ty Miller, director of Sydney-based security firm Threat Intelligence, noting that MD5 collision vulnerabilities were found in 1996 with practical attacks developed in 2005. "I consider it negligent of an organisation such as Yahoo!, which has an obligation to protect the private data of over one billion users, to be using such an outdated and ineffective control to protect the passwords of its customers." The gossamer thin algorithm is a joke in security circles. Rainbow table databases serve as directories that transform hashes into cleartext passwords, and the internet is now littered with free and paid services that can reveal logins within seconds. Image: Kenneth White David Taylor, principal security consultant with Perth-based Asterisk Information Security, offered a similar opinion: "Yes, it would be pretty poor form on their part [to be] still using MD5 for hashing in 2013," he says. "There has been numerous issues reported for MD5 dating back to the mid 2000s." Board director with the lauded Open Web Application Security Project (OWASP) Andrew van der Stock, also chief technology officer at Threat Intelligence, is an advocate of baking security into the development process and sees shortcomings in Yahoo!'s security models. "This breach clearly shows that Yahoo!'s previous approach to security was less than ideal, and it's obvious that the Paranoids (Yahoo!'s security team) were unable to move the needle sufficiently with management to upgrade password hashing from an outdated and insecure algorithm to something more modern and acceptable," he says. "That it (MD5) is still commonly found in many of the worst breaches is an indication that the continued use of MD5 is correlated with other poor security practices." The breach comes at a notably poor time for Yahoo!: The company will soon be acquired by Verizon, possibly at a damaged-goods discount, and is conducting a security recruitment drive in Australia in a bid to attract local security talent, van der Stock says. "We all understand that without a complete revamp of senior management support for security and alignment with customer desires for privacy and security of their data, there is no point in taking on a position at Yahoo!," he says. Take this with a pinch of salt Administrators were salting password hashes in the 1980s, but many still fail to apply the complexity additive today.

The cryptography measure introduces random data into one-way functions preventing the use of rainbow tables by ensuring identical passwords have unique hashes. Goldberg points to the 2012 breach at LinkedIn to demonstrate the importance of salting, something the security boffin wrote about at the time. "LinkedIn had used SHA1, an improvement over MD5 in general, but it really didn’t matter that it was SHA1 instead of MD5," Goldberg tells The Register. "What mattered is that it was not salted.
I argued in 2012 that it was irresponsible for LinkedIn to have used unsalted hashes, and so that certainly applies to Yahoo! using unsalted hashes in 2013, if indeed, their hashes were unsalted." Put simply, a bland salt-free password earns the "contempt" of Goldberg and his kin, while the use of slow hashes like bcrypt, PBKDF2, or the upcoming Argon2 wins their praise. Attackers can guess salted passwords, whereas bcrypt and friends slow the rate at which those guesses can be made. "With a simple cryptographic hash function [like] SHA256, MD5, etcetera, an attacker might be able to make 10 million guesses per second on a single hash.

But with the 'slow hashing' functions, that might be reduced to a few tens of thousands of guesses per second," he says. The decreased rate gives users a window to change their passwords; yet even that may not have helped Yahoo! "But after four years, the details of the hashing scheme don’t really matter.

Any guessable password will have been guessed by now," he says. Not easy Yahoo!, like so many other companies offering free technology services, wants to attract the highest possible number of subscribers and has been criticised for perceived attempts to kneecap fleeing users. That mindset may have dissuaded the company from more efficiently jettisoning MD5 hashing for passwords prior to the 2013 pillaging. "The only practical way to speed up the conversion process (to bcrypt) is to force a password reset, maybe across the board, but more likely on a web property by web property basis," says noted cryptologist and director of the Open Crypto Audit Project's Kenneth White. "And therein lies the problem: there is often a very real tension between the business to be able to claim the highest user count, versus the reality that a years-old email reminds millions of people to log in to an account they had long ago forgotten." Using Yahoo! to find Yahoo! MD5 hashes, here revealing 'Password1'.
Image: Ty Miller. An email shipped to users asking them to log in so their passwords may be upgraded from MD5 hashing to bcrypt risks a "virtually overnight mass exodus of users" and a social media complaint storm that sends more rats from the burning Palace, he says. Bcrypt is the powerful hashing function designed to slow decryption attempts while minimising legitimate use performance overheads, and is favoured, along with PBKDF2 (Miller prefers the latter with hashes bearing 100,000 iterations), by each of the security boffins The Register has spoken to for this story, and many more in the broader security community including OWASP . Yet migrating to the top notch function is not as simple as just "switching to bcrypt", White says. A bootstrapping process can be followed, but it requires users to log in for bcrypt or PBKDF2 to be called and saved to a new column. Moreover, White says Yahoo! is a patchwork of web properties bearing decades-old Perl, PHP, and C code and so cannot be compared to the ease of upgrading a purpose-built modern web app. "Consider the legacy managed business mail systems," White says. "The myriad e-commerce shopping cart apps, ad accounts, to say nothing of Flickr, Yahoo! IM, and the hundreds of millions of webmail users who hadn't logged in for years, and you begin to see the scope of the engineering challenge." Van der Stock, acknowledging his outsider's position, reckons Yahoo! should immediately deploy two factor verification for all of its services, and again reset passwords, noting that the use of mere usernames and passwords puts users at "serious risk" and that leaving accounts exposed would be a "serious breach of trust". yahoo pic.twitter.com/LSxdm1wNdx December 15, 2016 Yahoo! could take a leaf from Microsoft's Xbox Live endeavours and deploy similar authentication smarts, if it has not already done so. "… I would strongly recommend some sort of real time authentication intelligence around compromised accounts, so that the authentication system itself assigns a risk score to logins to ensure that unusual patterns of abuse, such as brute force attacks, logging in from a distant country, or popping out of multiple IPs is blocked or alerted to the user for further action." Burning questions remain, not least how it took the technology giant three years to disclose that such a massive share of its accounts have been breached. "It's baffling why it's taken so long to fully scope and disclose the extent of their breach," White says. ® Sponsored: Want to know more about PAM? Visit The Register's hub
A new chapter in password cracking is about to begin.Laurie Harker, Minneapolis Star Tribune / Getty Images Jeremi M Gosney (@jmgosney) is a world-renowned password cracker and security expert. He is the Founder & CEO of the password-cracking firm Sagitta HPC, and a member of the Hashcat development team. Jeremi also helps run the Security BSides Las Vegas, Hushcon, and PasswordsCon conferences. Me: "The full dump from the 2012 LinkedIn breach just dropped, so you're probably not going to see much of me over the next week." Wife: "Again?" Yes, again.
If you're just waking up from a coma you would be forgiven for thinking that it's still 2012.

But no, it's 2016 and the LinkedIn breach is back from the dead—on its four-year anniversary, no less.
If you had a LinkedIn account in 2012, there's a 98 percent chance your password has been cracked. Back in 2012, fellow professional password cracker d3ad0ne (who regretfully passed away in 2013) and I made short work out of the first LinkedIn password dump, cracking over 90 percent of the 6.4 million password hashes in just under one week.

Following that effort, I did a short write-up ironically titled The Final Word on the LinkedIn Leak.  But those 6.4 million unique hashes posted on a Russian password-cracking forum in June 2012 only accounted for a fraction of the total LinkedIn database.

This second dump, on the other hand, contains 177.5 million password hashes for 164.6 million users, which aligns perfectly with LinkedIn's user count in the second quarter of 2012.

After validating the data that I received with several individuals, I concluded that this does appear to be a nearly complete dump of the user table from the 2012 LinkedIn hack. I say "nearly complete" because there are some e-mail addresses in the dump that do not have hashes associated with them (the hash was replaced with the string "xxx"), and there are also some hashes that are not associated with an e-mail address (e-mail address is NULL.) While I presume the hashes not associated with any e-mail address are deleted accounts, I cannot even venture a guess as to why some of the password hashes are missing.

That's the way it goes when you're working with second-hand data from an unknown source—you just can't get a pristine database dump these days. You may think those 178 million password hashes is a lot, and you wouldn’t be wrong.

But some 362 million passwords, allegedly from Myspace, have recently been posted for sale on the darkweb elsewhere. What makes the LinkedIn breach more notable? While Myspace also acknowledged the breach, the data actually holds very little analytical value due to the fact the passwords were dramatically altered before being hashed.

Those passwords were all converted to lowercase and truncated to just 10 characters, so it's impossible for us to know what the original input data was.

Further, two of the top 10 passwords from the Myspace list appear to be created by spammers creating fake profiles and likely do not reflect the choices of actual end-users. So as it stands today, the LinkedIn breach is the largest and most relevant publicly-acknowledged password breach in Internet history. Password cracking and the age of enlightenment As Ars explained a few months after the first batch of LinkedIn passwords spilled, password cracking is an endless feedback loop. We crack the passwords so that we can learn about passwords which helps us to crack more passwords, which we can then analyze and use to crack more passwords. We start off with a small amount of data that enables us to crack a small number of passwords.

Those passwords then give us some insight into how passwords are created, which enables us to crack more in the future. And it’s not just passwords we’re interested in, either.

Any short, low-entropy, human-generated string—e.g. usernames and screennames, e-mail addresses, etc.—are all potentially useful.
Similar to what we’ve learned in the absence of external factors such as password complexity policies, the username selection process is not all that different from the password selection process.

The more data we can accumulate and analyze, the more successful we are at cracking passwords. Back in the early days of password cracking, we didn't have much insight into the way people created passwords on a macro scale.
Sure, we knew about passwords like 123456, password, secret, letmein, monkey, etc., but for the most part we were attacking password hashes with rather barbaric techniques—using literal dictionaries and stupid wordlists like klingon_words.txt. Our knowledge of the top 1,000 passwords was at least two decades old. We were damn lucky to find a password database with only a few thousand users, and when you consider the billions of accounts in existence even back then, our window into the way users created passwords was little more than a pinhole. Those were the dark ages of password cracking.

The age of enlightenment came after 32 million non-unique plaintext passwords from RockYou were leaked to the Internet.
Suddenly that pinhole turned into porthole, and for the first time in history we got a solid look at how users were creating passwords on a mass scale. The RockYou breach revolutionized password cracking. No longer were we using crap like list_of_kitchen_appliance_manufacturers.txt for wordlists.

Everyone was just using rockyou.txt, and they were cracking a significant percentage of passwords. Markov statistics, mangling rules, everything was being based off what we learned from the RockYou passwords. The RockYou breach coincided with another turning point in password cracking history: the advent of general-purpose GPU computing.

By harnessing the parallel processing capabilities of graphics cards we could now crack password hashes tens of times faster than with a regular CPU. Meanwhile, software like Hashcat helped bring GPU password cracking into the mainstream, displacing now-obsolete techniques like rainbow tables.
Instead of pushing pixels, we were pushing RockYou-powered passwords, and we were cracking password hashes with unprecedented speed and success.

This fueled a wave of new password research, and when other large password breaches came our way—eHarmony, Stratfor, Gawker, and LinkedIn, for instance—we were ready and waiting. But most post-RockYou breaches have paled in comparison to the latest LinkedIn leak. Breaches from Zappos, Evernote, and LivingSocial (with 24 million, 50 million and 50 million respectively) would have made for fantastic password statistics, except those hashes never saw the light of day.
I'm sure the Adobe breach (at 130 million) was an amazing win for whoever stole the encryption key, but the rest of us are stuck playing a crossword puzzle.
It’s certainly possible that there are some other large password databases slowly making their way across the darkweb from companies that don’t even know that they’ve been breached, but as far as confirmed data breaches go, RockYou was the previous password cracking standard for relevant and useful breaches. Enlarge / In light of the site's breach, those endless LinkedIn "your connection did X!" e-mails seem harmless. Bloomberg for Getty Images As in 2012, I was lucky to get my hands on this new LinkedIn data about a week after its announcement. Using a single Sagitta HPC Brutalis packed with eight Nvidia GTX Titan X graphics cards, I managed to recover 85 percent of the passwords on the first day, despite the fact that I was cracking so many passwords so quickly that the whole system slowed to a crawl. Working with the rest of the Hashcat development team, we managed to reach 88 percent by the end of the third day, and we crossed the 90 percent threshold on the fourth day.

This all happened a full two days faster than when working with the first LinkedIn dump, which contained only a small fraction of the number of hashes. On the sixth day, we teamed up with rival password cracking team CynoSure Prime to close out the effort at a solid 98 percent, cracking a total of 173.7 million passwords. While the RockYou breach revolutionized password cracking with "only" 32 million passwords, this second wave of LinkedIn data is nearly six times larger.

And given how many times this data has exchanged hands over the past two weeks, it’s surely just a matter of time before the full data is made publicly available. When it is, any password cracker worth their salt (ha!) should be able to crack 80-90 percent of the passwords on their own. This means hackers will soon have a drop-in replacement for RockYou that is over five times more effective: a new de facto wordlist, new patterns to analyze to generate new rules, and new statistics for probabilistic password cracking. When you take both RockYou and LinkedIn and combine them with eHarmony, Stratfor, Gawker, Gamigo, Ashley Madison, and dozens of other smaller public password breaches, hackers will simply be more prepared than ever for the next big breach. A global failure made worse Let's quickly remember why we hash passwords in the first place: password hashing is an insurance policy.
It ensures that should the password database be compromised in any way or through any vector, including physical theft, the passwords will not be recovered until engineers have an opportunity to identify and contain the breach, notify the public, and give users an opportunity to change their passwords anywhere else they may have used them.

The stronger and slower the password hashing is, the more time a sites buys for itself and its users in the event of a breach. Therein lies the problem. We’ve known about the necessity of slow hashing since the 1970s, yet due to a global failure in threat modeling, adoption has been extremely low.
It is only in light of a string of high-profile breaches in the last five years that slow hashing has begun to make its way into the mainstream.

Thanks to services like LinkedIn, who negligently failed to employ slow hashing (the combined 184 million passwords dumped in 2012 and this year all used unsalted SHA1), hackers have had more than a few fantastic opportunities to collect and analyze massive amounts of password data. For the love of god, do not try to downplay the incident by saying something stupid like “Most of the passwords on the list appear to remain hashed and hard to decode." What this means is even if the next big breach does employ slow hashing, it likely will not be anywhere near as effective as it would have been even five years ago. Post-LinkedIn, it will now take hackers many fewer attempts to guess the correct password than it otherwise would have. That’s not to say that online services shouldn’t employ slow hashing today.
If they aren’t using something like bcrypt or Argon2 for password storage, then they're doing things very, very wrong.

But slow hashing is no longer as effective of a solution as it could have once been had it only been adopted sooner. Hackers again have the upper hand. Examining the breach, LinkedIn didn’t have very much of an insurance policy.
It was employing raw SHA1 for password hashing, but perhaps even worse is the fact that the company never even attempted to cash in on it.

Back in, 2012 they failed to identify and acknowledge the breach in a timely fashion, and when they eventually did, they apparently only forced a password reset for the accounts belonging to the initial 6.4 million hashes.

The evidence suggests that the remaining 165 million accounts were allowed to use those same compromised passwords. That’s not the way this should work. When you suspect a password database has been compromised, even just in part, you cash in on that insurance policy immediately by activating your incident response team and your public relations team.

Companies ideally should notify the general public and users in an expedited manner, forcing a password reset for all users as soon as the breach is contained and the threat has been eradicated.

By the time LinkedIn made a statement about the breach, in contrast, I already had 70 percent of the passwords cracked.

Every moment LinkedIn hesitated was potentially devastating for its users.

And for the love of god, do not try to downplay the incident by saying something stupid like “Most of the passwords on the list appear to remain hashed and hard to decode." Instead, companies should just acknowledge the plain and simple fact that if password hashes have been accessed, users are at real and measurable risk of account takeovers. This data has been making its way around the darkweb for five years now.
If we professional password crackers could get this dump to 98 percent in six days, then surely those who have had years to work on it have achieved similar success. Who knows what such crackers have used the data for.
If you had a LinkedIn account in 2012 and have since been the victim of a hacking attempt or identity theft, this very well could be the reason why. So what actions do you, the user, need to take now? For starters, go change your passwords for LinkedIn and any other services where you may have used the same or similar password.

For as many bad passwords as there were in the LinkedIn dump, there were certainly a lot of really fantastic ones, too.

Given the fact that it may take service providers years to identify and acknowledge that your account has been compromised—as criminals could be doing literally anything with your credentials in the meantime—it is important to recognize that having a unique password per account is far more important than length, complexity, randomness, or anything else you've been told that you need.

By using a unique password for each of your accounts, you are limiting the scope of a breach to just that one account. The average person has at least 26 online accounts; IT professionals usually have hundreds.
It is absolutely crucial that you employ a good password manager, and let your password manager generate a new random password for each of your accounts.

And when you do catch wind of a site or service being compromised, always change your password immediately—even if you do not receive an e-mail from the service instructing you to do so. Finally, ensure you have multi-factor authentication or two-step verification enabled for your most critical accounts. While I personally have yet to be impressed by any vendor's MFA/2SV deployment, it does generally add an extra hurdle for hackers to jump through.
It can certainly be effective. By following this advice, you personally can stay one step ahead of hackers... even if your service providers can't.
Azure Active Directory no longer allows the likes of 'M!cr0$0ft' to gain entry With LinkedIn providing yet more fodder for attackers' rainbow tables and login bots, Microsoft has decided to start blocking too-common passwords. As a result, Azure Active Directory's 10 million or so users will no longer be able to select a password that's appeared too many times on breach lists, or commonly appears in attackers' login attempts. The new regulation is already live in Microsoft Account Service and in private preview in Azure Active Directory, Redmond says in this Technet post. “What we do with the data is prevent you from having a password anywhere near the current attack list, so those attacks won’t work”, Alex Weinart writes. The Microsoft post reiterates that the old beliefs about passwords are already obsolete: password length requirements, password “complexity” requirements, and periodic password expiration all need to be jettisoned because they make passwords less secure. That's in line with what the UK's GCHQ said earlier this month, and for pretty much the same reasons. Microsoft's ID protection team member Robyn Hicock explains in Redmond's password guidance that “people react in predictable ways when confronted with similar sets of restraints” – which exacerbates users' irritating tendency to pick bad passwords, and re-use passwords. ® Sponsored: Rise of the machines