Thursday, April 06, 2006

New South Wales Police's password blunder
A NSW Police blunder has led to a database of email passwords - including those of the anti-terrorism commander and hundreds of journalists - published on the internet.

The names, email addresses and passwords of as many as 800 people who signed up to receive NSW Police media releases are listed on the database.

Among the exposed passwords is that of Detective Chief Superintendent Mark Jenkins, the man responsible for the state's Counter Terrorist Co-ordination Command unit.

This article has generated a few responses, mostly along the lines of how irresponsible the author of the article and SMH (the Sydney morning Herald) have been in publishing it publicly, especially including such unique strings such as the passwords provided (which aren't actually needed to find the database on google).

And while my initial response was to agree, is it all that much better than the disclosure policy a lot of people seem to subscribe to? While I agree that this is neither educational nor useful in getting the vendor to act faster (since we can only assume the NSW Police were not notified by much in advance, if at all, of the article being published), and it puts those specific users directly at risk, is it all that much worse?

To find the passwords you would have had to have inclination to find them, and an understanding of google, and how to use it effectively, which is all that you really need to get a PoC exploit to work, really, maybe some programming knowledge if a bug has been introduced, but these days it seems to me that the skill level required to use an exploit and find this database are pretty similar.

Of course, I am not condoning this and do agree this is more irresponsible than publishing eploits, but how much worse is it really? the users can react by changing their passwords, and no fix needs to be implemented. It would have been rather easy to find all the emails, and send them all an email saying that their password can be found online and they should change it, it wouldn't have been a hard task, its not as if only google or someone with exceptional skill to resolve the problem had to do it.

No comments: