What Enterprises Can Learn from the LivingSocial Hack
By Jennifer LeClaire / CIO Today. Updated April 29, 2013.
LivingSocial has been hacked. The Groupon competitor suffered a cyberattack Friday that left more than 50 million users exposed. The good news: Credit card data was not stolen.
"LivingSocial recently experienced a cyberattack on our computer systems that resulted in unauthorized access to some customer data from our servers. We are actively working with law enforcement to investigate this issue," the company said on its Web site.
"The information accessed includes names, e-mail addresses, date of birth for some users, and encrypted passwords -- technically, 'hashed' and 'salted' passwords. We never store passwords in plain text."
Employees Using LivingSocial?
We caught up with Tom Cross, director of security research at Lancope, to get his take on the high-profile breach. He told us when large collections of password hashes like these get stolen, the thieves will attempt to crack hashes in order to obtain the raw passwords.
"For consumers, I have two pieces of advice. The first is that it is important to avoid using the same password with both low-value social networking and e-commerce accounts, as well as more sensitive systems such as your online banking or work e-mail," he said. "By using different passwords with different kinds of sites, you can limit your exposure in the event that one of your passwords is compromised."
According to Cross, the longer your password is, the harder it is to crack. It makes sense to consider replacing short passwords with longer pass phrases. A string of four or more unrelated English words is often both easier to remember and harder to guess than a short assortment of jumbled characters.
"For enterprises, it's important to consider the possibility that some of your employees may have used the same password on LivingSocial that they use to access their work e-mail and VPN accounts," he said. "IT security teams should be proactively hunting for weak passwords in their networks, and they should assess the capabilities that they have for identifying compromised accounts."
Re-Evaluating Security Strategies
We also asked Seth Goldhammer, LogRhythm's director of Product Management, for his thoughts on the latest in a string of breaches, including hacks into Evernote, Zappos and LinkedIn.
"This latest breach disturbs 50 million of their customers, who will now be required to reset their passwords and worry about how this breach may affect them personally," Goldhammer said. "This can be frustrating for end users who abide by password policies but still are left vulnerable when the site they trusted is exploited."
Goldhammer also offered advice for companies. While we do not have details regarding how the hackers were able to access this data, he said, it is revealing that so many hacks and breaches are occurring even for companies that held mature security policies.
Companies should re-evaluate their security strategies, he said, and ensure they have a well-rounded approach that assumes that it is no longer a question of if they will be hacked, but when.
"While attention should still be paid to prevention and hardening policies and technologies, additional attention and investment should be spent on technology for ongoing monitoring and analytics that help illuminate when threats or breaches occur," Goldhammer said.
"Data exfiltration does not normally occur with a single action, but multiple steps leading up to when data is ultimately seized. Technologies that cannot only monitor but provide both real-time analytics and tools for historic forensic investigation will allow companies better insight to discover these breaches before it could be too late."