MacRumors hackers take 860,000 passwords to heighten security

Social Media // Technology // Web Services

A group that infiltrated MacRumors Forums doesn’t intend to use login data that was stolen to access the accounts of people who reused the same credentials elsewhere on the Web. The group just wanted to sharpen the skills of both the hackers and the MacRumors administrators.

“The pledge was made in this post by a user who supplied confidential password details that weren't publicly available. Among other things, that information included partial cryptographic hash corresponding to the password of MacRumors Editorial Director Arnold Kim, as well as the cryptographic salt used to increase the time required to crack it,” Ars reports.

The user defended the intrusion as a benign undertaking.

"We're not logging in to your gmails, apple accounts, or even your yahoo accounts (unless we target you specifically for some unrelated reason)," the user known as Lol wrote. "We're not terrorists. Stop worrying, and stop blaming it on Macrumors when it was your own fault for reusing passwords in the first place."

In subsequent posts here and here, Lol expanded on the motivation behind the hack. "Outside of this hobby, *cough*, I do partake in whitehat activities and try to contribute to some open source projects etc. It builds quite the resumé." The MacRumors breach, Lol added, was taken on "to test myself. I never defaced the site, I never bragged about it anywhere, I just got in and got out."

More than half of the 860,106 password hashes used a cryptographic salt that contained just three characters.

Ars explains: “Salts are pseudo-random strings that are appended to the plain text of passwords before they are run through a one-way hash function. Salting is designed to increase the time it takes to crack large numbers of hashes by requiring the attacker to make guesses against each hash individually instead of all at once. (Salting also prevents cracking through the use of rainbow tables, although in the age of video cards and efficient dictionary attacks made possible by Hashcat and other free cracking programs, few people use that method anymore.) To be truly effective, salts must be unique for every hash, something that generally isn't possible with a three-byte salt.”

Finally Ars warns: “MacRumors account holders shouldn't take the word of an admitted trespasser that their accounts on other sites won't be accessed.”

ThreatWatch is a regularly updated catalog of data breaches successfully striking every sector of the globe, as reported by journalists, researchers and the victims themselves.