About a month ago, a SQL Injection flaw was found in the database of RockYou.com, a website dealing with social networking applications. The Tech Herald reports that 32.6 million passwords were exposed and posted online due to the flaw. The complete examination of the passwords from the list showed that the passwords in question are not only short as RockYou.com allows creating 5-character-passwords but also alphanumeric only.
A half of the passwords from the list contained names, slang and dictionary words, or word combinations. The Tech Herald enumerates the most common passwords: “123456″, followed by “12345″, “123456789″, “Password”, “iloveyou”, “princess”, “rockyou”, “1234567″, “12345678″, and “abc123″ to round out the top 10. Other passwords included common names such as “Jessica”, “Ashley”, or patterns like “Qwerty”.
Although the findings of the survey are deplorable, most sites do nothing to improve password security. At the same time some websites block special characters and do not allow users to choose them for passwords making user accounts vulnerable to malicious attacks.
As a part of problem solution, the Tech Herald sees sites enforcing users a hard rule of character length. We at ElcomSoft share the opinion that a password must be at least 9 characters long, consisting of upper and lowercase letters, numbers, and – preferably – special characters.
The article also highlights greater risks for the companies as attackers are using more advanced brute force attacks. According to the Tech Herald, “if an attacker would’ve used the list of the top 5000 passwords as a dictionary for brute force attack on Rockyou.com users, it would take only one attempt (per account) to guess 0.9-percent of the user’s passwords, or a rate of one success per 111 attempts”.
Related articles and publications:
A list of passwords used by the Conficker Worm Daniel V. Klein, ”Foiling the Cracker”: A Survey of, and Improvements to, Password Security,” 1990.