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The State of Hacked Accounts 69

Orome1 writes "Most users get hacked at high rates even when they do not think they are engaging in risky behavior, with 62% unaware of how their accounts had been compromised, The results of a Commtouch survey presenting statistics on the theft, abuse and eventual recovery of Gmail, Yahoo, Hotmail and Facebook accounts, shows that less than one-third of users noticed their accounts had been compromised, with over 50% relying on friends to point out their stolen accounts. Also, more than two-thirds of all compromised accounts are used to send spam and scams, which is not surprising, as cybercriminals can improve their email delivery rates by sending from trusted domains such as Gmail, Yahoo, and Hotmail, and enhance their open and click-through rates by sending from familiar senders."
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The State of Hacked Accounts

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  • by John Hasler ( 414242 ) on Thursday October 06, 2011 @06:39PM (#37633124) Homepage

    These are lower limits: consider the large but unknown number of users who are not and never will be aware that their accounts have been cracked. Then there are the billions of abandoned accounts...

  • by way2trivial ( 601132 ) on Thursday October 06, 2011 @06:40PM (#37633152) Homepage Journal

    WTF happened while I was napping?

    • Actually, I trust Yahoo and Hotmail slightly more than GMail... on our servers, has a default block on it, because the percentage of mail from that domain that is NOT spam is in the low single digits. It all went down hill when they stopped requiring invitations to join, and crashed when the success rate in mechanically breaking their CAPTCHA registration got over 10%, so it became ridiculously simple to generate thousands of real accounts a day.

      Throw in the @gmail addresses that arrive via Yahoo

  • by thecrotch ( 2464404 ) on Thursday October 06, 2011 @06:53PM (#37633250)
    People just don't care enough about it to inconvenience themselves with strong authentication, how many of our mothers use their dog's name, in all lowercase, as their password on every single one of their accounts?
    • More than users who won't use strong passphrases, I have a problem with sites that don't allow them. E.g. limiting the password to a maximum of 8 characters, all of which must be alphanumeric. Or requiring that you answer one of a limited number of fixed "security questions".

      • by snakeplissken ( 559127 ) on Thursday October 06, 2011 @10:00PM (#37634556)

        Or requiring that you answer one of a limited number of fixed "security questions".

        who cares what the question is, just put in an unguessable answer that you make up, that way no amount of personal knowledge about you can give it away


        • who cares what the question is, just put in an unguessable answer that you make up

          Of course, and that's what I do. But still, it's another attack vector. And I bet many people actually put in easily guessable answers.

          • Of course, and that's what I do. But still, it's another attack vector. And I bet many people actually put in easily guessable answers.

            Worse than that, they put in the truth. In this age of social networking, it is trivial to find out a maiden name, a date of birth, a child's name, a first school etc.

    • by RsG ( 809189 ) on Thursday October 06, 2011 @10:15PM (#37634626)

      Doesn't matter in context. You're bitching about the wrong problem for the article.

      Most of the time when a web based email account gets cracked it isn't that you set your password to "password". Instead it's that you logged in from a compromised machine, and someone got ahold of your actual password, whether it's "fido" or "1xe34v3tsAad". There's a damn good reason I don't check my email anywhere other than devices I know are clean.

      (Had something like what TFA describes happen to someone I know; it took her forever to realize that what had transpired was that she'd checked gmail on a coworker's computer and said coworker had been grossly lax in terms of safety. When a scan was run on the box for the first time ever it returned over a hundred bits of malware, some of it serious. The coworker, incidentally, was a private secretary to a lawyer, so this was a "holy shit" moment if ever there was one.)

      Think about it for a moment and you'll see why the perpetrators use malware and/or social engineering rather than, say, a dictionary attack; there's nothing google, facebook or yahoo can do about it. They can easily limit the number of login attempts, encrypt usernames and passwords, reject really common passwords during account creation, etc, but if some third party gets the correct password from an infected PC, then when they log in it will appear legitimate.

      That isn't to say you shouldn't bother with strong passwords, but if you think having a strong password protects you from everything, you're fooling yourself. The solution here also requires security software and education about admin privileges and trusted vs. untrusted sources for "free" software as it's the likeliest vector for infection (presupposing for a moment that the user needs a windows box, and frankly half the time the answer to that is "yes" for a number of reasons).

      • by txoof ( 553270 )

        I was pretty disappointed that TFA didn't offer any suggestions to best practices to prevent hacking, or even suggest how a user might determine if they were compromised. It was just a moment for everyone reading the article to feel aloof and point their fingers at all the plebes under them.

        I've been using Google's 2 Step Authentication for a few months, and HTTPS since it was offered and feel pretty secure about the security of my Google login, but if someone hijacked my account, I don't think I would rea

      • As a retired lawyer, you bet this was a h--y s--t moment! You have no earthly idea how sensitive some of the data we deal with can be. Leaking some of it can get you disbarred. Some it can get you or your client, or a witness, etc., seriously injured or killed. Never mind who’s trying to buy what property through a straw man, my practice very unexpectedly came to involve representation of a number of child and adult survivors of incestuous rape, and some of the perpetrators were officials pal
    • by QuantumRiff ( 120817 ) on Thursday October 06, 2011 @10:26PM (#37634698)

      I use a different random 20 character Password for EVERY website and service I use (thank you lastpass!).

      Last week, google told me my account needed to be verified, after a mobile phone in korea logged into my account. (I also use Firefox or chrome on linux). Only thing I can think of was that there was some sort of XSS (since I keep myself logged into gmail) on either a website my linux box visited, or my android phone. I'm leaning towards the phone, since I use gmail over https on linux.

      • by IamTheRealMike ( 537420 ) on Friday October 07, 2011 @05:43AM (#37636792)

        I work for Google on anti-hijacking and account security. The message you saw is very common. The cause is that there was an attempt to abuse your account to spam your friends. One of the popular tools that does this identifies itself to Gmail as various types of mobile phone, which is why it shows up as such in your account history. In fact, it's a regular program that runs on the desktop. No XSS involved.

        In this case, it sounds like we detected the hijacking attempt, rejected the spam, sent your account to phone verification and forced you to choose a new password. This is a standard procedure for when we detect a hijack attempt at mail send time. We're getting better at stopping these attempts at login time using heuristics, so it'll become less common in future.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        1, 2, 3, 4... that's the password an idiot would use on their luggage!

    • People just don't care enough about it to inconvenience themselves with strong authentication, how many of our mothers use their dog's name, in all lowercase, as their password on every single one of their accounts?

      When we design systems that a substantial portion of our intended users can't or won't use as we intend, then the problem is us, not them.

      Systems like online banking, email, ordering books and movies online, etc. . . . these are intended for the general public. As such, they must be designed for the average user to be able to use safely and easily. We cannot fall back on the premise that if the user doesn't know how, then he shouldn't be using it. That's not okay for these sorts of products and systems. It'

  • by dgatwood ( 11270 ) on Thursday October 06, 2011 @06:54PM (#37633254) Homepage Journal

    When you have websites like Facebook that, by default, use unencrypted HTTP and a trivially sniffable session cookie for their authentication, there's really nothing a user can do to protect themselves. (Okay, now they offer HTTPS, but that wasn't always the case.)

    The problem with HTTPS, of course, is that it is seriously heavyweight. Most content doesn't need encryption; it just needs authentication. For those sites, SSL is serious overkill.

    What this really points out is the desperate need for a standard mechanism of authentication that is not based on cookies, but rather nonce-based, similar to the way digest authentication works, but integrated with web pages so it doesn't feel ugly and bolted on. Until we get that, there's really no point in users bothering to secure their accounts. Why choose a strong password when you're basically sending it back and forth on the Internet equivalent of a postcard?

    • by Firehed ( 942385 ) on Thursday October 06, 2011 @07:15PM (#37633386) Homepage

      Can we get past this already? SSL is not heavyweight, and has not been for years. It's a couple percent of overhead*. Most authentication systems are going to have significantly more overhead than turning on SSL, since they'll be most likely hitting the filesystem or a database to retrieve session information on top of the actual code logic that goes into authentication.

      I agree that an authentication system tied more tightly into the browser would be of great value, but it won't happen anytime soon if ever. See: IE6. Hell, even Safari is updated quite infrequently (and even then mostly just security patches, not feature releases), never mind the plethora of mobile browsers floating around these days. That also solves a completely different problem than SSL. There's no getting around the fact that in order to have hijack-proof sessions, all of the authentication data - whether in the form of a session cookie or some new, novel mechanism - needs to be sent encrypted. Not necessarily SSL, but that's more or less a solved problem so why not? I also quite like the idea of nobody knowing what URLs I'm hitting.

      * Excluding the time spent tracking down that one damn analytics script that's pulling in a tracking pixel over http and making browsers throw up all over the place

    • Im not sure that HTTPS qualifies as "seriously heavyweight". A Pentium4 processor can handle about 400mbit/sec of AES SSL-- lets assume this is the home computer. Rendering the HTML, running scripts, and handling the flash content would comprise a far bigger portion of the CPU usage than perhaps 1meg of SSL'd traffic.

      On the server side, you can right now get a $250 Xeon E3 1220L, using ~20watts, which can handle ~13gbit/second of AES traffic (with the AES-NI extensions). If thats not sufficient, you can

      • The sustained data rate is not the heavyweight part, it's the heaviness of building a session. With most web services it's the transaction throughput that's important. The problem is magnified by the number of transactions needed for a single page load on modern sites.

  • by exomondo ( 1725132 ) on Thursday October 06, 2011 @06:55PM (#37633258)
    These days users consider their accounts to have been 'hacked' if there is any unauthorized use, like if they leave their smartphone lying around and a friend posts a status update from it that seems to be considered being 'hacked'.
    • by Jibekn ( 1975348 )
      They also renamed MDMA and decided it was a good idea to consume after even the waste cases of the 80's wouldn't touch the stuff.

      My point? They're not very bright.
  • Hotmail? I think I block anything from there. That's spammer haven as far as I'm concerned.

  • by shoehornjob ( 1632387 ) on Thursday October 06, 2011 @07:32PM (#37633556)
    I had a customer yesterday that wanted to change her email password so that it could be the same as the checking account and had me do it because she couldn't figure out the " stupid wavy letters thing" (captcha). She was bitching all the time about security requirements (numbers letters min 8 w caps) but she might as well have given me the keys to her bank account. For the most part my customers don't care about security untill someone has drained their bank account and put a bunch or fraudulent charges on the credit card. Whatever...not my problem.
  • I'd be interested to know some statistics regarding MMO accounts.

    Like bank and money-transfer accounts, game accounts can be converted into cash. Sometimes quite a bit of cash -- prime accounts on some MMOs can be liquidated for hundreds or even thousands of dollars sometimes. But unlike "real money" services, law enforcement has little interest -- in either the criminal or the MMO company -- since in their eyes, it's just a game.

    Often, the operating company itself has little interest. As an example, con

    • by JDeane ( 1402533 )

      I used to have a World of Warcraft account, I use gmail as my primary email service. One thing that happened to me is that about 8 months after I stopped playing WoW I get a lot of weird emails overnight. the last one bothered me the most. "From the Gmail team" or something to that effect, what it boiled down to is that some one in China had accessed my email through "unknown means" and managed to get my passwords and account information for WoW then they proceeded to have like 12 demo's of WoW, I changed m

  • This would've been much more interesting if you would've posted it as CmdrTaco.

  • A few people I know have had email accounts hijacked by spammers. In each case, it was a purely Web-based email service, the user used a weak password, and the user didn't notice the account had been hijacked until told by others, because the user seldom used the account.

    On the whole, that makes this seem like a minor nuisance, not a crisis. Remind people to use strong passwords, and consider closing disused email accounts.

  • by EEPROMS ( 889169 ) on Thursday October 06, 2011 @10:21PM (#37634662)
    If you want to have fun with a random facebook user visit an Apple store and it wont take long to find a machine with a facebook account still logged in. Some of the results can be very amusing []
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  • The reason Hotmail, Gmail, Yahoo and Facebook accounts get hacked is because of the shitty third party websites like those little small "gameing" sites, they get hacked and guess what? Oh! the user has used the SAME password for for their main email accounts. If people used just 2 passwords, this would stop their primary email accounts getting compromised. 1 main password for main account, and another for the shitty freebee websites which will probably get hacked. Simple!
  • "Most users get hacked at high rates even when they do not think they are engaging in risky behavior,"

    'Most users' do not get hacked. Therefore this article's very first statement is total nonsense. What the article meant to say is either;

    "Users get hacked at high rates even when they do not think they are engaging in risky behavior,"


    "Of Users who have been hacked, most do not think they are engaging in risky behavior,"

    What "at high rates" means is a mystery that isn't explained in the article. There

  • Check all your accounts once in a while to look for suspicious behavior.

    I have a facebook account that was hijacked by someone that I believe is going after the same girl. And then the account was being to sent lewd messages and materials. By the time I discovered it was too late. It has been four years since then and I still having trouble for reconciliation.

  • I've been hacked twice, and it's because of these websites that feature a "log in with that have code to intercept your credentials. Either the website operator does it deliberately or the site has been backed to siphon the information.

    So much fun spending an afternoon deleting spammy comments from my Twitter account because of this. It won't happen again -- when I visit a site that only allows login through another provider, poof I'm outta there.

    • by forrie ( 695122 )

      Oh how I dislike the Slashdot comment parsing :-)

      What I posted there referred to sites that have a log-in-with (Twitter, FB, etc). :-)

"An open mind has but one disadvantage: it collects dirt." -- a saying at RPI