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Posts Tagged ‘passwords’
September 7th, 2015

Taking a closer look at cracked Ashley Madison passwords

Photo via The Times UK

Photo via The Times UK

People create terrible passwords. As simple as this might sound it unfortunately remains news to millions — if not billions — of individuals who use the Internet. As proof, we’ll take a look at a selection of passwords that were revealed in the Ashley Madison leak.

Regardless of any shortcomings Ashley Madison had in terms of securing their perimeter against breaches, one thing that they did right (to the surprise of many security researchers and disappointment of many black hats) was encrypting their users’ passwords.

The leak contained a database of around 36 million usernames, with bcrypt-hashed passwords. There is no known way to crack all of these passwords before the heat death of the universe, especially assuming that some are truly random, but we can crack the worst ones.

Conveniently, the web is full of known-password lists that anyone can just download. The two we chose for this crack, which are widely available, are the so-called 500 worst passwords of all time (compiled in 2008) and the 14-million-strong password list from the rockyou hack.

Cracking the bcrypt

It should be noted that we did not use the full list of 36 million password hashes from the Ashley Madison leak; we only used the first million. So, that may skew the results towards passwords created near the beginning of the site’s existence, rather than the end. Also, since the system used contains a 6-core CPU and two GTX 970 GPUs, we set the CPU to test the 500 worst list, and the GPUs to test the rockyou list. Because we’re SMRT, we used the same million for both the CPU and GPU cracks, which therefore produced redundant results in our output files. This has the side-effect of being less efficient overall, but allows us to make an apples-to-oranges comparison of the effectiveness of the two password lists, as well as the CPU vs GPU cracking speed.

Before we get into the results, let’s take a quick diversion to explain why this hack was so difficult and only revealed a small number of passwords.

Read more…

August 3rd, 2015

Computer-aided sniper rifles the latest things controlled by hackers

via Wired

via Wired

For those of you keeping track, you can add high-tech sniper rifles to the growing list of Things That Can be Hacked. The vulnerability that allowed two security researchers to break into the computer guidance system of a sniper rifle is the same that allows hackers to access baby monitors and home routers. Simply put, the default Wi-Fi password, which was locked by the manufacturer, allowed anyone within range to connect. The typical range is up to 150 feet (46 m) indoors and 300 feet (92 m) outdoors.

In advance of the Black Hat conference this month, security researchers Runa Sandvik and Michael Auger, have demonstrated that they can hack TrackingPoint precision-guided firearms.

The TrackingPoint rifles can make a sharpshooter out of a novice. This is thanks to the computer-aided sensors including gyroscopes and accelerometers which take into account all the factors that a sniper scout would look for; wind, speed of the target, distance, snipers orientation, ammunition caliber, even curvature of the earth.

I asked Steve Ashe, a veteran of Desert Storm and Desert Shield, who collaborated closely with the sniper team what he thought about such technology. “Trained scouts and snipers must master a set of physical and mental skills that is beyond the reach of most people. This type of rifle can never replace that. Besides being crack shooters, they are in excellent physical condition, able to do complicated calculations in their heads and have mastered field craft such as land navigation, stalking and range estimation.”

One of the features of the TrackingPoint rifle is the ability to video stream your shot and share the view from the scope to another device connected via Wi-Fi. It’s this connection to Wi-Fi that turned out to be the weak point. The gun’s network has a default password that cannot be changed.

Read more…

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June 25th, 2015

Are the hacks on Mr. Robot real?

Last night the pilot episode of MR. ROBOT, a new thriller-drama series aired on USA Network.

The show revolves around Elliot who works as a cyber security engineer by day and is a vigilante hacker by night.

I watched the episode and then sat down with Avast security expert Pedram Amini, host of Avast’s new video podcast debuting next week, to find out if someone like you or me could be affected by the hacks that happened in the show.

In the second minute of the episode we see Elliot explaining to Rajid, owner of Ron’s Coffee, that he intercepted the café’s Wi-Fi network, which lead him to discover that Rajid ran a child pornography website.

Stefanie: How likely is it that someone can hack you while you’re using an open Wi-Fi hotspot?

Pedram: Anyone with a just a little technical knowledge can download free software online and observe people’s activities on open Wi-Fi. We went to San Francisco, New York, and Chicago for a Wi-Fi monitoring experiment and found that one-third of Wi-Fi networks are open, without password-protection. If you surf sites that are unprotected, meaning they use the HTTP protocol, while on open Wi-Fi, then anyone can see, for example, which Wikipedia articles you are reading, what you’re searching for on Bing, and even see what products you are browsing for on Amazon and eBay, if you do not log in to the site.

Stefanie: Wow! That’s a bit frightening… How can I protect myself then?

Read more…

May 14th, 2015

Technology mistakes to stop making today

We love our fans and followers on Twitter because they frequently alert us to great resources. It happened today when we received a tweet from @LoveNerds4Ever letting us know that Avast Antivirus was mentioned on a Sacramento (California) News10 video segment. Thanks, Shawna!

The guest on this video segment is Ryan Eldridge, co-founder of Nerds on Call, a computer repair Business in Sacramento. He spoke to reporter Keba Arnold about technology mistakes that people typically make. These simple, but oh, so important points, are ones that we continually try to make, and Ryan puts it all together in one good video.

Watch Tech mistakes to stop making now.

The security recommendations that Ryan makes:

  • Run updates on your computer and mobile phone. Program updates and security patches are very important to keep your device up to date and running optimally.
  • Download apps and programs from places you know and trust. On your mobile phone this would be the Google Play Store or Amazon App Store. For your computer, he says it’s a little bit harder, but suggest that you visit, CNET’s well-known download site where you can read user reviews and see the reputation of the app before you download.
  • Ryan reminds computer users that when they get a new device antivirus software may be pre-installed, but it is a trial for a limited time.  After it expires, you need to get protected with a quality antivirus product. Ryan recommends Avast Free Antivirus for your computer, your Mac, and your mobile phone.
  • Ms. Arnold confesses that she has one email address that acts as a catch-all for everything. Ryan says this is a no-no because if a hacker breaks into that email address, then he has access to everything. Ryan suggests that you have separate email addresses for friends and family, work, one for shopping, and one for banking.
  • Passwords, admittedly are a pain in the you-know-what. Ryan suggests using an algorithm, or a kind of personal code, to construct your own passwords. For example, you can use a line from your favorite song, say Somewhere Over the Rainbow. Use the first letter of each word, use letters from the website name, and end with a series of numbers. Each password will be unique and known only to you.

And Ryan, we have a tip for you! Small businesses like yours need security protection too, and consumer antivirus like Avast Free Antivirus, doesn’t do the trick when you need to manage multiple devices, platforms, and people in remote locations. Adding to our collection of free products is the new Avast for Business. Avast for Business is free to use for as long as you want and for an unlimited number of admins and devices.

January 12th, 2015

Lizard Squad hackers use unsecured home routers in DDoS attacks

This Lizard is out to get your home router.

This Lizard is out to get your home router.

Your home router could be part of a network used to knock sites like Sony PlayStation network offline.

During Christmas we reported that a hacker group calling themselves the Lizard Squad, took responsibility for ruining the day for Sony PlayStation and Microsoft Xbox users by taking the gaming networks offline. This and previous attacks, which included a bomb threat directed at an American Airlines flight with Sony Entertainment president John Smedley on board, have been revealed to be a marketing campaign to advertise a new product available for rent to anyone who wants to cause a Denial-of-Service (DDoS) attack to the target of their choice.

I’m not a hacker. Why should I care?

You may not be a hacker, but the power for this service could be coming from your home office! Security blogger, Brian Krebs, whose own site was attacked, found out that the network of infected devices that powers the Product-That-Must-Not-Be-Named (that’s because Lizard Squad gleefully thanked Brian for the publicity on their Twitter account) is made up mostly of compromised home routers. On that same Twitter account, Lizard Squad said that they are using 250-500k infected routers.

These are the devices in everyone’s home that we warned you about in our blog, Your home network is at risk of cybersecurity attacks. Most people neglect the security of these devices by using the default user name and password that comes from the manufacturer out-of-the-box.

Our research determined that nearly 80% of all home routers in use today are thinly protected by common, easily hacked passwords, making routers an easy entry point to the home network for hackers,” said Avast Software’s CEO, Vincent Steckler.

Lizard Squad has just proven that point.

Today’s router security situation is very reminiscent of PCs in the 1990s, with lax attitudes towards security combined with new vulnerabilities being discovered every day creating an easily exploitable environment, “ Steckler said. “The main difference is people have much more personal information stored on their devices today than they did back then. Consumers need strong yet simple-to-use tools that can prevent attacks before they happen.”

How to protect your home router

Start by scanning you home network with Avast’s Home Network Security Solution.

Open the Avast user interface, click Scan from the menu on the left, then choose Scan for network threats. Avast will take a look at your router and report back any issues. In most cases, if there is an issue to be addressed, then it will direct you to your router manufacturer’s website.

The Home Network Security Solution is available in free and paid versions of Avast 2015. Get it at

For more steps you can take to protect your home router, please see our blog post, 12 ways to boost your router’s security.

November 5th, 2014

Your home network is at risk of cybersecurity attacks

Router vulnerabilities and weak passwords allow cybercrooks easy access to your home network.

Avast Home Netowrk Security scan

Your router is a weak link in your home’s network security.

That little router box provided by your ISP or that you bought at Radio Shack and forgot about, is a weak link in your Internet-connected household. Many homes in the United States use a wireless router to connect multiple devices, but unsecured routers can create an easy access point for hackers.

Think for a second – do you know what your wifi router password is? Did you know that your wireless router even has a password? If you are not sure, you are not alone.

What do you have to lose?

Only everything on your computer! That includes banking or financial information, personal information, browsing history, and photos.

Why is this an issue now?

”Today’s router security situation is very reminiscent of PCs in the 1990s, with lax attitudes towards security combined with new vulnerabilities being discovered every day creating an easily exploitable environment, ” said Vince Steckler, chief executive officer of Avast. “The main difference is people have much more personal information stored on their devices today than they did back then.”

We did a study of this issue and found that 4 out of 5 Internet-connected households in the U.S. are at risk of getting attacked through their wireless router. And 16 out of 100 surveyed said they have already been victimized by hackers.

The problem – PASSWORDS.

Avast found that more than half of all routers are poorly protected by default or easily-hacked password combinations. When you check yours, this could be what you find:

  • admin/admin
  • admin/password
  • admin/<no-password>

The 25% of consumers we surveyed that are using a “unique” password use their address, name, phone number, street name, or other easily-guessed terms as their passwords. Not too much better…

What is the risk?

Avast Home Network Security

Avast Home Network Security scans your network for vulnerabilities.

One of the biggest risks on any wifi network is DNS hijacking. This happens when malware gets in your unprotected router and sneakily redirects you from a known site, such as your bank’s website, to a fake site that looks just like the real thing. When you log in, cyberthieves capture your login credentials and then use them to access the real site. Scary stuff.

Avast 2015 reacts to home network vulnerabilities

To address these issues, Avast recently introduced Avast 2015, which includes the world’s first Home Network Security Solution that protects users from home network threats including DNS hijacking and weak passwords.

Open the Avast user interface, click Scan from the menu on the left, then choose Scan for network threats. Avast will take a look at your router and report back any issues. In most cases, if there is an issue to be addressed, then it will direct you to your router manufacturer’s website.

The Home Network Security Solution is available in free and paid versions of Avast. Get it at

Avast Software’s security applications for PC, Mac, and Android are trusted by more than 200-million people and businesses. Please follow us on FacebookTwitter and Google+.

August 7th, 2014

Russian hackers steal 1 billion passwords – now what?

Change your passwords every six months or after news of a breach

Change your passwords every six months or after news of a breach

Reports on “the biggest hack ever” recently surfaced. A Russian hacker group allegedly captured 1.2 billion unique username and password combinations.

With this latest security breach, AVAST encourages consumers to take necessary precautions. Change your passwords immediately and if you’re using the same password somewhere else, you must change it there, too. Choose complex passwords so it will be more difficult for hackers to de-encrypt them. In general, we recommend changing passwords every three to six months, or after news of a breach.

A password manager like avast! EasyPass helps encrypt and protect personal information online, with random, strong passwords. avast! Easy Pass generates complex passwords and removes the inconvenience of having to remember them.

If financial and credit card data is compromised in an online threat, AVAST advises users to monitor and check their accounts for unauthorized charges and to immediately report any suspicious activities to their bank or card provider.

Interested in reading more?

Try our articles on creating strong passwords:  Do you hate updating your passwords whenever there’s a new hack? and My password was stolen. What do I do now?

Thank you for using avast! Antivirus and recommending us to your friends and family. For all the latest news, fun and contest information, please follow us on FacebookTwitter and Google+. Business owners – check out our business products.

July 14th, 2014

Common passwords inspire uncommon dress

password dress

Lorrie Cranor models her famous Password dress in front of the “Security Blanket” quilt.

Weak passwords make for creative design.

If you use 123456 or password as your password, you may as well wear it for all to see. It’s THAT easy to crack.

To illustrate this point, Lorrie Cranor, quilt artist, and oh yeah,  director of the CyLab Usable Privacy and Security Laboratory at Carnegie Mellon University, designed fabric based on the extensive research she and her students conducted on the weaknesses of text-based passwords. The quilt she made is aptly named “The Security Blanket,” and is designed from a word cloud of the 1,000 most commonly found passwords from the 2010 hack. Professor Cranor made a Password dress to go with the password quilt. The fabric is available for purchase from Spoonflower.

Iloveyou, you little monkey

The most popular password, 123456, forms a backdrop across the whole quilt. But what intrigued Cranor was not the “the obvious lazy choices,” but what else people choose as passwords. She went through the list and organized the passwords into themes. Many passwords fell into multiple themes, so she tried to think like a RockYou user and extract some meaning from their choices.

Love is a strong theme, and the research found that love-themed words make up the majority of non-numeric passwords. Iloveyou in English and other languages is common. The names of pets are common, and Princess showed up in the top 1,000 and simultaneously on lists of popular pet names. Chocolate is the most frequent of the food-related passwords, with chicken and banana(s) coming up often.

Chicken was a surprise to me, as was monkey, the 14th most popular password. Could RockYou users have an affinity for monkeys because of a game, or do they just like monkeys? Is it related to bananas? Do gamers eat more bananas?

Some things we’ll just have to speculate about…

Swear words, insults, and adult language showed up in the top 1000 passwords, “but impolite passwords are much less prevalent than the more tender love-related words,” wrote Cranor in her blog.

Numbers are even better. Three times as many people chose 123456 over password, and 12345 and 123456789 were also more popular choices. It seems that when required to use a number in a password, people overwhelmingly pick the same number, or always use the number in the same location in their passwords.

Top 10 worst passwords

Security developer SplashData published the Worst Passwords of 2013. Check the list to see if you use any of these:

Rank Password Change from 2012
1 123456 Up 1
2 password Down 1
3 12345678 Unchanged
4 qwerty Up 1
5 abc123 Down 1
6 123456789 New
7 111111 Up 2
8 1234567 Up 5
9 iloveyou Up 2
10 adobe123 New

Tips and tricks

1. Use a random collection of letters (uppercase and lowercase), numbers and symbols

2. Make it 8 characters or longer

3. Create a unique password for every account

Read more from the AVAST blog

Do you hate updating your passwords whenever there’s a new hack?

Are hackers’ passwords stronger than regular passwords?

Thank you for using avast! Antivirus and recommending us to your friends and family. For all the latest news, fun and contest information, please follow us on FacebookTwitter and Google+. Business owners – check out our business products.

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June 9th, 2014

Are hackers’ passwords stronger than regular passwords?

Hackers use weak passwords just like the rest of us.


Nearly two thousand passwords used by hackers were leaked this week, when I tried to decode a PHP shell without knowing the key. Because I did not know the exact content of the encoded file and searching the key could take me years, I chose a different approach. I decided to find out how strong passwords used by hackers are and create a dictionary. :)

Over the years of fighting malware, the avast! Virus Lab has gathered many samples of various back-doors, bots and shells. Some of them are protected with a password encoded in MD5, SHA1 or in plain text, so it was good way to start. I looked at 40,000 samples of hackers’ passwords and found that nearly 2,000 were unique and 1,255 of those were in plain text. Another 346 passwords were easily cracked from MD5 hashes, because they were shorter than 9 characters. That gave me a total of 1,601 passwords and 300 hashes. I created statistics from those words, and here are my findings.

1Passwords that nobody will guess

Percentage of characters used in hackers' passwords

About 10% of the passwords were beyond normal capabilities of guessing or cracking. Of those, I found words as long as 75 characters, probably generated by a computer. Some of them were in long sentence form mixed with special characters such as lol dont try cracking 12 char+. Too bad it was stored in plain text. ;)

There were also passwords that don’t use characters from an English keyboard. But there was still a 90% chance it could be a normal word, maybe with some number in it. No less than 9% of the passwords could be found in an English dictionary.

The table on the right shows which characters are used in hackers’ passwords. The first row means that 58% of passwords contained only lower-case alphabet characters a-z. Read more…

May 21st, 2014

eBay becomes victim of security breach

Auction giant eBay requests 128 million users to change their passwords after hack.

tweet ebay

In a blog post from the company, eBay Inc. said a cyberattack “compromised a database containing encrypted passwords and other non-financial data.” There is no evidence that the compromise resulted in users’ financial or credit card information being stolen, but the company is telling all users to change their passwords.

Users need to be alert even after their passwords have been changed. After a breach like this the risk that hackers will use their personal information to commit identity fraud and launch phishing attacks increases. As always, do not click on links in emails, or give personal information over the phone. If you need to discuss your account information, please contact eBay’s customer service by phone or via their website.

“The eBay breach is yet another password issue like Heartbleed. It is really important that people take this seriously, ” said Ondrej Vlcek, Chief Operating Officer of AVAST Software. “Data from our recent survey shows that nine out of ten people intended to change their passwords after Heartbleed, but only 40% took action. This careless attitude is completely irresponsible; people have to take the initiative to protect themselves.”

A password manager like avast! EasyPass helps encrypt and protect personal information online, with random, strong passwords. Learn about creating strong passwords by reading our blog, My password was stolen. What do I do now?

Two weeks ago, eBay discovered that cyberattackers broke into their corporate network through a small number of employee log in credentials. They revealed that the database was actually compromised in late February and early March, and included eBay customers’ name, encrypted password, email address, physical address, phone number and date of birth. However, the database did not contain financial information or other confidential personal information.

Another eBay compromise yesterday

Yesterday in an unrelated attack, eBay’s UK and French advertisement network was compromised and showed fake Java and Flash updates. This malicious advertising replaced the visited page and an installer offered a Potentially Unwanted Program (PUP).  As of last night, they were working to resolve the issue. avast! Antivirus detected the compromise and alerted users.

“Third party ad networks are useful to attackers because the number of connections delays taking malicious content down,” explained Honza Zika, malware analyst in the avast! Virus Lab. “Instead of a normal ad, the attacker deploys a code that redirects to the attacker’s page. It’s designed to look like an official Flash or Java page, but installs unwanted toolbars, addons, extensions or other PUPs. avast! detected this and protected our users.”

Thanks to independent researcher Malekal for his work on this compromise. Read more on his blog.

Thank you for using avast! Antivirus and recommending us to your friends and family. For all the latest news, fun and contest information, please follow us on FacebookTwitter and Google+. Business owners – check out our business products.

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