Yesterday I got an email from Atlassian, the makers of applications such as Confluence and JIRA, that said that their own hosted customer site had been hacked and that my password was possibly compromised. Apparently, some passwords were stored in clear text in the database and that the hackers had gotten hand on these (See Atlassian’s blog post about the incident).
One thing is that the perpetrators could use this information to get details about my relationship with Atlassian, among other things my license keys for Atlassian products. Even worse is that they could try and use the passwords to get into my accounts at other sites. That would be successful if I used the very usual and very baaad practice of reusing the same (user name and) password on several sites and applications. Luckily I don’t.
Here is what Atlassian states about why this could happen:
During July 2008, we migrated our customer database into Atlassian Crowd, our identity management product, and all customer passwords were encrypted. However, the old database table was not taken offline or deleted, and it is this database table that we believe could have been exposed during the breach
Trying to act as a responsible company, Atlassian goes on to list what they have learned from the incident. Among other things, they state that
The legacy customer database, with passwords stored in plain text, was a liability. Even though it wasn’t active, it should have been deleted. There’s no logical explanation for why it wasn’t, other than as we moved off one project, and on to the next one, we dropped the ball and screwed up.
I am sorry, but I find it hard to believe that this is the entire truth. Yesterday afternoon (European time) I went to their site and on the login screen I used their “Forgot my password” functionality. Can you guess what happened? They sent me an email with my password in clear text! So, I would indeed say that this “legacy database” is indeed active…
Later on the day yesterday, I also got an email from the Apache Software Foundation that their JIRA instance also have been hacked. See their blog entry about the issue. According to the blog entry, the situation is a bit better than it is at Atlassian. They state that
If you are a user of the Apache hosted JIRA, Bugzilla, or Confluence, a hashed copy of your password has been compromised. JIRA and Confluence both use a SHA-512 hash, but without a random salt. We believe the risk to simple passwords based on dictionary words is quite high, and most users should rotate their passwords.
At least, the password was not stored in clear text, which is of course much better than having it in clear text. However, the compromised passwords could still be useful for an attacher because they are not salted. It allows an hacker to compare hashes of other accounts with hashes of a known password which would allow a dictionary attack (as is stated).
This is not security for the crowds (pun intended).