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You may take password security seriously now, but your past can haunt you

Graham CLULEY

May 31, 2016

You may take password security seriously now, but your past can haunt you

The internet has changed. A lot.

Back in the day, you used a whole bunch of tools and websites that you probably left far behind long ago. In many cases, the likes of Netscape Navigator, Hotspot, Excite and AltaVista got dumped by the masses for Chrome and Google.

Maybe some of these sites and services from yesterday still exist – but they are long forgotten by many of us.

That’s certainly the case with MySpace, which was for a while the largest social networking site in the world.

 

Maybe you created a MySpace account for yourself back in the mid-2000s. Maybe you don’t even remember that you made a MySpace account, because it’s been perhaps ten years since you logged into it.

So my question is this… do you know what your MySpace password is?

If you think you do remember your MySpace password… well, that’s probably bad news. In an ideal world, you shouldn’t be able to remember any of your online passwords – because they should be unique, hard-to-crack, impossible-to-guess and randomly generated. You should, in short, be using a password manager to securely remember your passwords because your passwords are impossible for the puny human brain to remember.

But… if you have a MySpace account at all, it’s probable that you created your account in the mid-2000s. And maybe ten years ago you were less careful about the passwords you chose than you are on accounts you create today in 2016.

And maybe, even though you would never dream of making such a mistake today, you made the mistake of reusing your MySpace password on other sites across the net.

In recent days it has come to light that a hacker is offering to sell over 427 million MySpace passwords, seemingly appropriated after a previously unreported data breach.

myspace-for-sale

Bizarrely, there are only 360 million email addresses in the database which is being offered for sale by a hacker named “Peace” for $2,800. Apparently some of the MySpace user records have an additional password attached, explaining the anomaly.

But if the numbers are accurate, this is one of the biggest data breaches of all time.

And it’s possible that your credentials, perhaps created many years ago, are included within it.

That clearly is a big problem.

Because LeakedSource has told us that MySpace had stored the passwords using the SHA1 algorithm, without any salting… meaning that they would be worryingly easy for hackers to crack.

The truth, therefore, is that not only do you probably want to change your old MySpace password to something that is unique and (likely) stronger than you chose before, but online criminals may also try to use that old password to break into your other online accounts.

Furthermore, attackers could use the millions of email addresses to launch phishing, spam and malware attacks against users – perhaps pretending to be from a newly-revamped MySpace (yes, the site is still running and its parent company was bought by Time Inc earlier this year).

I’m a strong advocate for users educating themselves about how to stay safer and more private online. But we have to all be careful to not just apply those best practices towards our future online behaviour, but also to ask ourselves what mistakes we might have made in our internet past that could still come back to haunt us…

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