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Since the advent of the Internet, hackers have been actively trying to exploit it. Over the past few years, many have targeted different websites to obtain user account details like usernames and passwords. There seems to be a trend where the number of accounts compromised with each new security announcement is rising. In early August, news broke that possibly the largest breach to date has been uncovered.
In early August, it emerged that a Russian hacker ring had amassed what is believed to be the biggest known collection of stolen account credentials. The numbers include around 1.2 billion username and password combinations, and over 500 million email addresses.
According to Hold Security, the company that uncovered these records, the information comes from around 420,000 sites. What is particularly interesting about this particular attack is that such a wide variety of sites were targeted when compared this with other attacks which tend to either attack large brand names or smaller related sites.
Despite what many believe, this was not a one-time mass attack; all sites that were compromised were not attacked at the same time. Instead, the hacker ring – called the Cyber Vor – was likely working on amassing this data over months or longer. How they were able to amass this much information is through what’s called a botnet.
Botnets are a group of computers infected by hackers. When the hackers establish a botnet, they attack computers with weak network security and try to infect them with malware that allows the hacker to control the computer. If successful, users won’t even know their computer has been hacked and is being used by hackers.
Once this botnet is established, the hackers essentially tell the computers to try to contact websites to test the security. In this recent case, the computers were looking to see if the websites were vulnerable to a SQL injection. This is where hackers tell the computers in the botnet to look for fillable sections on sites like comment boxes, search boxes, etc. and input a certain code asking the website’s database to list the stored information related to that box.
If the Web developer has restricted the characters allowed in the fillable text boxes, then the code likely would not have worked. The botnet would notice this, and then move onto the next site. However, if the code works, the botnet notes this and essentially alerts the hacker who can then go to work collecting the data.
In short, this could be a fairly serious problem. While 420,000 sites may seem like a large number, keep in mind that the Internet is made up of billions of websites. This means that the chances of your website’s data being breached by this ring are small. That being said, there is probably a good chance that one of the sites related to your website may have been breached.
So, it is a cause for concern. However, you can limit the chance of hackers gaining access to your information and a website’s information.
It seems like we say this about once a month, but this time you really should heed this warning. With 1.2 billion username and password combinations out there, there is a chance your user name for at least one account or site has been breached.
To be safe, change all of your passwords. This also includes passwords on your computer, mobile devices, and any online accounts – don’t forget your website’s back end, or hosting service. It is a pain to do, but this is essential if you want to ensure your data and your website is secure from this attack.
We can’t stress this enough, so, while you are resetting your password you should aim to ensure that you use a different one for each account, site, and device. It will be tough to remember all of these passwords, so a manager like LastPass could help. Or, you could develop your own algorithm or saying that can be easily changed for each site. For example, the first letter of each word of a favorite saying, plus the first and last letter of the site/account, plus a number sequence could work.
If you have a website, you are going to want to test all text boxes to see if they are secure against SQL injections. This can be tough to do by yourself, so it’s best to contact a security expert like us who can help you execute these tests and then plug any holes should they be found.
Finally, look at the information you have stored with your accounts. This includes names, addresses, postal/zip codes, credit card information, etc. You should only have the essential information stored and nothing else. Take for example websites like Amazon. While they are secure, many people have their credit card and billing information stored for easy shopping. If your account is hacked, there is a good chance hackers will be able to get hold of your card number.
Finally, if you are unsure about the security of your accounts, business systems, and website, contact us today to see how our security experts can help ensure your vital data is safe and sound.
Published on 19th June 2014 by Jeanne DeWitt.