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Cloud Computing

Evernote Limits Hack Damage with Good Security Practices

Evernote Limits Hack Damage with Good Security Practices
March 4, 2013 10:24AM

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Security researcher Beth Jones said Evernote did a great job in its security precautions and in dealing with the breach. "First, they did salt and hash the passwords, making them much more difficult to crack," she said. "They owned up to the breach quickly, and even though the passwords were secure, Evernote did a forced reset of all user passwords."

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Evernote has been hacked, forcing the online note-taking software to reset passwords for its 50 million users, although any password data that was accessed was protected with encryption. What does this mean for enterprise IT security?

"In our security investigation, we have found no evidence that any of the content you store in Evernote was accessed, changed or lost," Evernote's Dave Engberg said in a blog post. "We also have no evidence that any payment information for Evernote Premium or Evernote Business customers was accessed."

Richard S. Westmoreland, a Level III security analyst and team lead at SilverSky, told us the breach was limited and Evernote should be given credit for its fast response and communication to its customers.

"Evernote customers do need to be warned that since their e-mail addresses were mined they should be on the lookout for phishing attempts," he said. "As always, never re-use the same password on multiple sites. But in case anybody has, be sure to change those passwords as well. A breach of an SaaS [software as a service] provider is not limited to that provider but serves as recon for the rest of the cloud.

Evernote Handled It Well

Beth Jones, a senior threat researcher at Sophos, told us that overall, Evernote did a great job in its security precautions and in dealing with the breach.

"First, they did salt and hash the passwords, making them much more difficult to crack," she said. "They were very transparent in releasing information -- they owned up to the breach quickly, and even though the passwords were secure, Evernote did a forced reset of all user passwords, again salting and hashing."

Jones said the company was also quick to point out that no payment details were lost and that hackers were unable to access users' notes. She said Evernote showed what a reasonable response to a security breach should look like.

Room for Improvement

That said, there is room for improvement, Jones said. Evernote could have done better when it sent out its security advisory e-mail.

Evernote explicitly said in the e-mail, "Never click on 'reset password' links in e-mails -- instead go directly to the service," but then had a clickable link to the reset-password page.

"It would have been more advisable to either link to the main page of the site, or even better, no hyperlink at all," Jones said. "It also might have lent a bit more credibility to not have the e-mails passing through a third-party server.

"While it's a legitimate e-mail communications server, it still came off as rather odd, given the messaging in the e-mail itself was about security breaches where they are trying to make the point of 'Never click on reset password links'," Jones said. "As we've pointed out before, this shows where security needs to be at the forefront when trusting your personal data to the cloud."

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