Unravelling the LifeLock “hacked passwords” story – Naked Security | Total Tech

Earlier this month, the NortonLifeLock on-line identification safety service, owned by Arizona-based expertise firm Gen Digital, despatched a safety warning to lots of its prospects.

The warning letter will be seen on-line, for instance on the web site of the Workplace of the Vermont Legal professional Basic, the place it seems underneath the title NortonLifeLock – Gen Digital Information Breach Discover to Shoppers.

The letter begins with a dread-sounding salutation that claims:

We’re writing to inform you of an incident involving your private data.

It continues as follows:

[Our intrusion detection systems] alerted us that an unauthorized celebration probably has information of the e-mail and password you may have been utilizing together with your Norton account […] and your Norton Password Supervisor. We advocate you modify your passwords with us and elsewhere instantly.

As opening paragraphs go, this one is fairly easy, and incorporates uncomplicated if doubtlessly time-consuming recommendation: somebody apart from you most likely is aware of your Norton account password; they could have been in a position to peek into your password supervisor as effectively; please change all passwords as quickly as you possibly can.

What occurred right here?

However what truly occurred right here, and was this a breach within the standard sense?

In spite of everything, LastPass, one other well-known title within the password administration recreation, lately introduced not solely that it had suffered a community intrusion, but additionally that buyer information, together with encrypted passwords, had been stolen.

In LastPass’s case, luckily, the stolen passwords weren’t of direct and rapid use to the attackers, as a result of every person’s password vault was protected by a grasp password, which wasn’t saved by LastPass and due to this fact wasn’t stolen on the similar time.

The crooks nonetheless have to crack these grasp passwords first, a process which may take weeks, years, a long time and even longer, for each person, relying on how correctly these passwords had been chosen.

Dangerous selections akin to 123456 and iloveyou had been most likely be rumbled inside the first few hours of cracking, however much less predictable combos akin to DaDafD$&RaDogS or tVqFHAAPTjTUmOax will virtually definitely maintain out for much longer than it will take to alter the passwords in your vault.

But when LifeLock simply suffered a breach, and the corporate is warning that another person already knew some customers’ account passwords, and maybe additionally the grasp password for all their different passwords…

…isn’t that a lot worse?

Have these passwords already been cracked someway?

A special form of breach

The excellent news is that this case appears to be fairly a special form of “breach”, most likely attributable to the dangerous observe of utilizing the identical password for a number of totally different on-line companies to be able to make logging in to your commonly-used websites a bit faster and simpler.

Instantly after LifeLock’s early recommendation to go and alter your paswords, the corporate means that:

[B]eginning round 2022-12-01, an unauthorized third celebration had used an inventory of usernames and passwords obtained from one other supply, such because the darkish net, to try to log into Norton buyer accounts. Our personal programs weren’t compromised. Nonetheless, we strongly imagine that an unauthorized third celebration is aware of and has utilized your username and password in your account.

The issue with utilizing the identical password on a number of totally different accounts is apparent – if any certainly one of your accounts will get compromised, then all of your accounts are nearly as good as compromised as effectively, as a result of that one stolen password acts like a skeleton key to the opposite companies concerned.

Credential stuffing defined

Actually, the method of testing whether or not one stolen password works throughout a number of accounts is so standard with cybercrooks (and is so simply automated) that it even has a particular title: credential stuffing.

If an internet felony guesses, buys on the darkish net, steals, or phishes a password for any account that you simply use, even one thing as low-level as your native information website or your sports activities membership, they may virtually instantly attempt the identical password on different probably accounts in your title.

Merely put, the attackers take your username, mix it with the password they already know, and stuff these credentials into the login pages of as many standard companies as they’ll consider.

Many companies lately like to make use of your e mail handle as a username, which makes this course of much more predictable for the Dangerous Guys.

By the best way, utilizing a single, hard-to-guess password “stem” and including modifications for various accounts doesn’t assist a lot, both.

That’s the place you attempt to create faux “complexity” by beginning with a standard element that is difficult, akin to Xo3LCZ6DD4+aY, after which appending uncomplicated modifiers akin to -fb for Fb, -tw for Twitter and -tt for Tik Tok.

Passwords that fluctuate by even a single character will find yourself with a very totally different scrambled password hash, in order that stolen databases of password hashes received’t let you know something about how related totally different password selections are…

…however credential stuffing assaults are used when the attackers already know the plaintext of your password, so it’s important to keep away from turning every passord right into a useful trace for all of the others.

Frequent ways in which unencrypted passwords fall into felony arms embrace:

  • Phishing assaults, the place you inadvertently kind the appropriate password into the flawed website, so it will get despatched on to the criminals as an alternative of to the service the place you truly meant to log in.
  • Keylogger spy ware, malicious software program that intentionally data the uncooked keystrokes you kind into your browser or into different apps in your laptop computer or telephone.
  • Poor server-side logging hygiene, the place criminals who break into an internet service uncover that the corporate has by accident been logging plaintext passwords to disk as an alternative of protecting them solely quickly in reminiscence.
  • RAM scraping malware, which runs on compromised servers to be careful for probably information patterns that seem temorarily in reminiscence, akin to bank card particulars, ID numbers, and passwords.

Aren’t you blaming the victims?

Although it appears to be like as if LifeLock itself didn’t get breached, within the standard sense of cybercriminals breaking into the corporate’s personal networks and snooping on information from the within, because it had been…

…we’ve seen some criticism of how this incident was dealt with.

To be honest, cybersecurity distributors can’t all the time forestall their prospects from “doing the flawed factor” (in Sophos merchandise, for instance, we do our greatest to warn you on-screen, brightly and boldly, in case you select configuration settings which are riskier than we advocate, however we are able to’t drive you to just accept our recommendation).

Notably, an internet service can’t simply cease you setting precisely the identical password on different websites – not least as a result of it will have to collude with these different websites so as to take action, or to conduct credential stuffing checks of its personal, thus violating the sanctity of your password.

However, some critics have prompt that LifeLock may have noticed these bulk password-stuffing assaults extra shortly than it did, maybe by detecting the weird sample of tried logins, presumably together with many who failed as a result of at the very least some compromised customers weren’t re-using passwords, or as a result of the database of stolen passwords was imprecise or out-of-date.

These critics word that 12 days elapsed between the bogus login makes an attempt beginning and the corporate recognizing the anomaly (2022-12-01 to 2022-12-12), and an additional 10 days between first noticing the issue and determining that the difficulty was virtually definitely all the way down to breached information acquired from another supply than the corporate’s personal networks.

Others have questioned why the corporate waited till the 2023 New 12 months (2022-12-12 to 2023-01-09) to ship out its “breach” notification to affected customers, if it was conscious of bulk password stuffing makes an attempt earlier than Christmas 2022.

We’re not going to attempt to guess whether or not the corporate may have reacted extra shortly, nevertheless it’s value remembering – in case this ever occurs to you – that figuring out all of the salient details after you obtain claims about “a breach” could be a mammoth enterprise.

Annoyingly, and maybe sarcastically, discovering out that you’ve got been straight breached by so-called lively adversaries is usually depressingly simple.

Anybody who has seen a whole lot of computer systems concurrently displaying a right-in-your-face ransomware blackmail word demanding hundreds or tens of millions of {dollars} in cryptocoins will regrettably attest to that.

However determining what cybercrooks positively didn’t do to your community, which is basically proving a unfavorable, is usually a time-consuming train, at the very least if you wish to do it scientifically, and with a ample degree of accuracy to persuade your self, your prospects and the regulators.

What to do?

As for victim-blaming, it’s neverytheless important to notice that, so far as we all know, there’s nothing that LifeLock, or every other companies the place passwords had been re-used, can do now, by itself, to repair the underyling reason behind this downside.

In different phrases, if crooks get into your accounts on decently-secure companies P, Q and R just because they found you used the identical password on not-so-secure website S, these more-secure websites can’t cease you taking the identical form of danger in future.

So, our rapid ideas are:

  • In case you are within the behavior of re-using passwords, don’t do it any extra! This incident is only one of many in historical past that draw consideration to the hazards concerned. Keep in mind that this warning about utilizing a special password for each account applies to everybody, not simply to LifeLock prospects.
  • Don’t use associated passwords on totally different websites. A posh password stem mixed with an easily-memorised suffix distinctive to every website will, actually talking, provide you with a special password on each website. However this behaviour nonetheless leaves am apparent sample that crooks are probably to determine, even from a single compromised password pattern. This “trick” simply offers you a false sense of safety.
  • In the event you obtained a notification from LifeLock, observe the recommendation within the letter. It’s attainable that some customers might obtain notifications as a result of uncommon logins that had been nonetheless official (e.g. whereas they on trip), however learn it via rigorously anyway.
  • Contemplate turning on 2FA for any accounts you possibly can. LifeLock itself recommends 2FA (two-factor authentication) for Norton accounts, and for any accounts the place two-factor logins are supported. We concur, as a result of stolen passwords on their very own are a lot much less use to attackers in case you even have 2FA of their manner. Do that whether or not you’re a LifeLock buyer or not.

We might but find yourself in a digital world with none passwords in any respect – many on-line companies are attempting to maneuver in that path already, taking a look at switching completely to different methods of checking your on-line identification, akin to utilizing particular {hardware} tokens or taking biometric measurements as an alternative.

However passwords have been with us for greater than half a century already, so we suspect they are going to be with us for a few years but, for some or many, if now not all, of our on-line accounts.

Whereas we’re nonetheless caught with passwords, let’s make a decided effort to make use of them in a manner that provides as little assist to cybercriminals as attainable.

Unravelling the LifeLock “hacked passwords” story – Naked Security