The news that more than 65 million Tumblr users could find their passwords and usernames for sale online, is just the latest in a long line of data breaches that should serve as a reminder to both individuals and organisations that the password represents a major security flaw. This is according to Dave Worrall, CTO of Secure Cloudlink, who argues that incidents like this are to be expected, as passwords are simply no longer fit for purpose.
The internet itself presents an obstacle as it included very early on the concept of an ID and password security system, but did not provide the necessary encryption to protect them. Passwords are usually transmitted unprotected and may be sent with every page that needs access to a password protected area, allowing the attacker all the time that the site is up to try and crack it.
Worrall explains: “If an individual picks a highly complex password to make it ‘strong’, in relation to it being guessed, there is still a major risk presented. If a website is hacked, and the website doesn’t encrypt passwords then personal details as well as other high-risk data can be compromised. And, even if passwords are stored in an encrypted format, they can still be stolen and the encryption cracked.
“Now that society has transitioned to digital, there is a huge market for stolen data, which has resulted in security experts pleading with users to take more care and diligence when it comes to managing their passwords and making them more secure – despite best efforts breaches still continue to take place.
“It’s therefore time to completely rethink the entire concept of a password driven security system. Passwords have evolved into an untenable means of authentication due to the fundamental security vulnerabilities they present. This is exacerbated by the dramatic shift to mobile computing and the rising number of data breaches. Many companies have tried to reduce the inherent vulnerabilities of passwords by hashing them, or introducing biometric access options, which improve the user experience and adds a lever of security user credentials, but doesn’t remove the use and transmission of user credentials and passwords behind the scenes. Now is the time to look at solutions that eliminate the need for the password in the first place,” Worrall explains.
“The Tumblr hack is just another example that demonstrates how flawed the password security system is. Only a few weeks ago we saw a similar incident with LinkedIn and chances are it will only be a very short time before we witness another. Ultimately what is required is an entire shift in mind-set. The password concept worked well in theory a decade ago, but as technology has advanced and our digital environment has evolved, they are simply not conducive to the modern world.
“Considering the advancements in technology over the past 10 years that thought process is quite staggering and ultimately, what we need to see is an entire concept rethink when it comes to passwords. Fail to do so and the circle will only continue repeating itself,” Worrall concludes.