Sat, Mar 23, 2019 - Page 10 News List

Facebook admits to leaving passwords readable by staff


Facebook Inc left hundreds of millions of user passwords readable by its employees for years, the company said on Thursday after a security researcher exposed the lapse.

By storing passwords in readable plain text, Facebook violated fundamental computer-security practices, which call for organizations and Web sites to save passwords in a scrambled form that makes it almost impossible to recover the original text.

Facebook said there is no evidence its employees abused access to this data, but thousands of employees could have searched them.

The passwords were stored on internal company servers, where no outsiders could access them, the company said.

Even so, some privacy experts suggested that users change their Facebook passwords.

The incident reveals yet another huge and basic oversight at a company that insists it is a responsible guardian for the personal data of its 2.3 billion users worldwide.

Security blog KrebsOnSecurity said that Facebook might have left the passwords of about 600 million Facebook users vulnerable.

In a blog post, Facebook said it would likely notify “hundreds of millions” of Facebook Lite users, millions of Facebook users and tens of thousands of Instagram users that their passwords were stored in plain text.

Facebook Lite is a version designed for people with older phones or slow Internet connections. It is used primarily in developing countries.

Facebook said it discovered the problem in January, but security researcher Brian Krebs wrote that in some cases the passwords had been stored in plain text since 2012.

Facebook Lite launched in 2015 and Facebook bought Instagram in 2012.

The problem was not due to a single bug, Facebook said.

During a routine review in January, it said it found that the plain text passwords were unintentionally captured and stored in its internal storage systems. This happened in a variety of circumstances, for example, when an app crashed and the resulting crash log included a captured password.

Facebook’s normal procedure for passwords is to store them encoded, the company said in its blog post.

That is good to know, although Facebook engineers apparently added code that defeated the safeguard, security researcher Rob Graham said.

“They have all the proper locks on the doors, but somebody left the window open,” he said.

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