'Project HellFire' Demonstrates Need for Stronger Passwords

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In the wake of news that the FBI has arrested a LulzSec hacker on charges related to attacks against Sony Pictures, a new team of hackers is making headlines. Team GhostShell has published over a million hacked records, and it promises there’s more to come.

The new attacks are part of “Project HellFire." Project HellFire is intended as a form of online protest against banks and politicians, and as retaliation for arrested hackers. Team GhostShell says, “We are also letting everyone know that more releases, collaborations with Anonymous and other, plus two more projects are still scheduled for this fall and winter. It's only the beginning."

An analysis from a security vendor suggests that most of the breaches were a result of SQL injection attacks. The attacks were aimed at consulting firms, manufacturing firms, government agencies, and banks. Team GhostShell was able to capture Admin passwords, usernames and passwords from customer accounts, and other files and documents.

Apparently, the credit history of individuals makes up a significant portion of the hacked data, so there might be a subsequent rash of identity theft and fraudulent credit accounts.

One thing that stands out in the analysis, though, is that weak passwords continue to be a major issue. Many of the compromised accounts use silly passwords like “123456.” One law firm defaults to using the user’s initials pre-pended to “law321,” and it doesn’t require users to change their passwords making for very weak, and easily guessed passwords.

You should have some sort of cross-device security tools in place to protect against malware and other attacks across your PCs, tablets, and smartphones. But, even the best security software won’t make up for a weak password, and it won’t protect you from attacks targeted at third-party sites and services you do business with.

Two-factor authentication—like that implemented recently by Dropbox—is a step in the right direction. At least with two-factor authentication an attacker would still have to have access to your fingerprints, or physical possession of your smartphone to use in conjunction with a cracked password.

But—with or without two-factor authentication—there’s no reason to make it easier than necessary for the bad guys. Passwords like “123456,” or “qwertyu,” or “password” don’t even require any sort of password cracking tool, and provide attackers with at least one of the keys to your personal data and information. Also, make sure you never—under any circumstances—share your password with anyone.

Again, though, you can’t control the security—or lack thereof—of the third-party entities you do business with online. All you can do is choose to do business with sites and services that take security seriously—and use different passwords for each site so that a breach of one doesn’t become a breach of your entire online presence.