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Second Hack at Friend Finder Network: Encryption Fails Again

Second Hack at Friend Finder Network: Encryption Fails Again

November 23, 2016 | Scott Carter

Clearly it has become increasingly difficult to protect passwords from attacks that hide in encrypted traffic. The Friend Finder Network hack is the biggest of 2016, compromising some 339 million accounts and passwords. But even more shocking is the fact that this is the second time in that the network has been hacked in 18 months. Obviously, securing encrypted traffic against attack is not an easy problem to solve—twice. 

After the first breach in May 2015, CSO reports that Friend Finder engaged cybersecurity expert FireEye to assist in the investigation. So, the network cannot be accused of blatantly ignoring due diligence. But even with that scrutiny, hackers still managed a repeat performance. Venafi Chief Strategy Officer Kevin Bocek notes, “Not taking decisive action to protect customers is still a challenge for most organizations, even after a massive breach.”

Dealing in private, sensitive customer information that’s breached should be motivation enough for any organization. Yet Friend Finder is in no way alone in this challenge. The Friend Finder attack is in many ways similar to the Yahoo breach where massive amounts of data were exfiltrated, likely using encryption to hide.

Bocek argues that we can counter that trend by publicizing strong encryption. “Businesses and governments should be proud to state the levels of encryption and protections used to secure customer data. But, instead organizations are essentially admitting they are accepting lower levels of security and higher risk.”

One example of this disregard for the impact of encryption is persistence of vulnerable SHA-1 certificates. Venafi Labs recently evaluated 11 million websites and discovered that 35% were still using SHA-1 certificates. Unfortunately, these websites learn a costly lesson when browsers finally stop trusting SHA-1 certificates in just a few months.

However, businesses partners and customers should and don’t have to accept weak encryption as a fait accompli. They can actually arm themselves with data about the strength of a partner’s encryption. Bocek notes that this is one of the reasons behind the growth in reputation services like Certificate Reputation that provide visibility and assurance for any business partner.

Sadly, Friend Finder users are not taking an active role in their security. Leaked Source revealed that the majority of Friend Finder passwords leaked were incredibly weak. Bocek warns that passwords alone do not ensure tight security. “Online services can enforce strong password selection, but the ultimate solution is the death of passwords and moving to strong, multi-factor authentication.”

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About the author

Scott Carter
Scott Carter

Scott Carter writes for Venafi's blog and is an expert in machine identity protection.

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