Gawker, Twitter Hacks Show Potential for 'Brute-Force' Attack

By Erin Harrison December 14, 2010

If you tend to use the same password across websites, social networks and anything else, it’s time to get a little more creative.

As reported, first Gawker then Twitter was hacked resulting in what “compromised the commenting system on Gawker during the weekend and then drove a Twitter spam attack could create a ripple effect across the Internet.”

According to the report, Gawker’s commenter database houses about 1.5 million usernames, e-mail addresses, and passwords. And those 1.5 million virtual identities are likely similar on sites across the Web. Gawker and its ring of blogs, as well as Twitter, were hacked this weekend by a group calling itself “Gnosis,” the LA Times reported.

Apparently some Gawker users and Twitter users have the same passwords, published reports said.

In a statement released by Gawker, the company admitted embarrassment by the breach and urged users to change their passwords.

“Our user databases appear to have been compromised. The passwords were encrypted. But simple ones may be vulnerable to a brute-force attack. You should change your Gawker password and on any other sites on which you’ve used the same passwords. …We’re deeply embarrassed by this breach. We should not be in the position of relying on the goodwill of the hackers who identified the weakness in our systems. And, yes, the irony is not lost on us,” the post says.

Gawker also provided tips for creating strong passwords: see this post on Lifehacker.

Brad Shimmin, an analyst at Current Analysis, likened it to the “Armageddon scenario” that the online world fears the most but feels they are powerless to steer clear of,” he said.

“If you ask 10 people how many passwords they maintain, I would guess eight of them would say one or two. The rest of them would be the nerds that have their software generate unbreakable passwords,” Shimmin said in the report.

Erin Harrison is Executive Editor, Strategic Initiatives, for TMC, where she oversees the company's strategic editorial initiatives, including the launch of several new print and online initiatives. She plays an active role in the print publications and TechZone360, covering IP communications, information technology and other related topics. To read more of Erin's articles, please visit her columnist page.

Edited by Tammy Wolf

Executive Editor, Strategic Initiatives

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