LiveJournal Counters Security Threat

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The LiveJournal Web log service has been forced to change the way it hosts user accounts because of a browser-side security vulnerability, the company confirmed today. This vulnerability reportedly had been exploited by a hacking group in order to steal user information and allow the hackers to gain access to more than 900,000 LiveJournal accounts.

The changes were announced yesterday on the LiveJournal News Journal. "Recent changes to a popular browser have enabled malicious users to potentially gain control of your account," a company representative wrote. "As soon as we heard about it, we began implementing changes to protect your account." LiveJournal is owned by Six Apart, makers of the Movable Type blogging software.

A Six Apart spokeswoman would not confirm that accounts had actually been compromised, but on Friday The Washington Post quoted members of a hacker group known as Bantown who said they had taken over more than 900,000 LiveJournal accounts.

Significant Number

Six Apart said it has nearly 2 million active LiveJournal users, and more than 9 million registered accounts, so if the Bantown claims are true, a significant proportion of LiveJournal users have had their accounts compromised.

According to Six Apart spokeswoman Jane Anderson, further comment on the matter would only serve as publicity for Bantown. "Clearly we cherish the safety of our members, and we want to keep them updated and informed without helping hackers with what they're going to do," she said.

Six Apart is continuing to make security changes to the LiveJournal site and hopes to complete this process today, Anderson said, without elaborating on what further changes are being made.

"We'll post to our development journal with more in-depth details about these changes," the Thursday announcement stated.

According to the Post report, Bantown members were able to set up dummy LiveJournal accounts, which then took advantage of a flaw in the JavaScript Internet programming language to steal cookie information from users who visited the fake sites. Cookies are data files stored on computers that are used by Web sites to identify visitors. By obtaining this cookie information, the hackers were able to hijack the accounts, the Post reported.

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