Open sourcey bulletin board offline after hack attack

phpBB coughs up names, addresses, passwords


The website for one of the net's more popular bulletin board software packages has been taken offline following a security breach that gave an attacker full access to a database containing names, email, address, and hashed passwords for its entire user base.

In a message posted Sunday, administrators of phpBB.com said the attacker gained access through an unpatched security bug in PHPlist, a third-party email application. The miscreant had access for more than two weeks before the breach was discovered, and phpBB remained down at time of writing, more than three days later. Administrators didn't respond to emails seeking comment.

A blogger who claimed to have carried out the attack said that details for more than 400,000 accounts were intercepted. The writer claims to have created a script that was able to crack more than 28,000 passwords hashed using an unsalted MD5 algorithm, before posting them to the internet. The passwords were not accessible at time of writing.

A notice posted to a temporary support forum said that the latest version of phpBB uses "a complex hashing algorithm in order to prevent someone from determining the plaintext value of a password." An earlier version used less secure protection based on MD5. To be protected by the more robust algorithm, users had to have registered or logged into their accounts since the upgrade was made.

The number of users fretting over the breach in this phpBB discussion thread is a testament to the sad fact that many people still use the same password for numerous online accounts. Administrators at phpBB reminded users that isn't a safe practice. They also admitted to making mistakes of their own.

"We apologise for not securing our servers in time to prevent this from happening," they wrote. "This demonstrates how critically important it is to always make sure that you keep up to date with any software that is running on your machine."

phpBB is an open-source software package webmasters use to run discussion forums on their sites. It is based on the PHP language and stands for PHP bulletin board. The breach had nothing to do with phpBB, and there are no known vulnerabilities in the most recent version of the program.

Rather, the attacker gained entry through a recently patched vulnerability in PHPlist, an open-source package for managing newsletters. On January 29, the program was updated to fix a security bug that allowed unauthorized access.

Interestingly, according to the time line provided by both the purported attacker and phpBB, the attack was carried out some two weeks before the PHPlist patch was issued, courtesy of this published exploit.

Sadly, the attack could have been prevented by adding a single line to an administrator's index file. There are some useful lessons that can come out of an autopsy of this breach, especially for fanbois who claim open-source is so much more resistnt to these SNAFUs. ®

Broader topics


Other stories you might like

  • AMD claims its GPUs beat Nvidia on performance per dollar
    * Terms, conditions, hardware specs and software may vary – a lot

    As a slowdown in PC sales brings down prices for graphics cards, AMD is hoping to win over the market's remaining buyers with a bold, new claim that its latest Radeon cards provide better performance for the dollar than Nvidia's most recent GeForce cards.

    In an image tweeted Monday by AMD's top gaming executive, the chip designer claims its lineup of Radeon RX 6000 cards provide better performance per dollar than competing ones from Nvidia, with all but two of the ten cards listed offering advantages in the double-digit percentages. AMD also claims to provide better performance for the power required by each card in all but two of the cards.

    Continue reading
  • Google opens the pod doors on Bay View campus
    A futuristic design won't make people want to come back – just ask Apple

    After nearly a decade of planning and five years of construction, Google is cutting the ribbon on its Bay View campus, the first that Google itself designed.

    The Bay View campus in Mountain View – slated to open this week – consists of two office buildings (one of which, Charleston East, is still under construction), 20 acres of open space, a 1,000-person event center and 240 short-term accommodations for Google employees. The search giant said the buildings at Bay View total 1.1 million square feet. For reference, that's less than half the size of Apple's spaceship. 

    The roofs on the two main buildings, which look like pavilions roofed in sails, were designed that way for a purpose: They're a network of 90,000 scale-like solar panels nicknamed "dragonscales" for their layout and shimmer. By scaling the tiles, Google said the design minimises damage from wind, rain and snow, and the sloped pavilion-like roof improves solar capture by adding additional curves in the roof. 

    Continue reading
  • Pentester pops open Tesla Model 3 using low-cost Bluetooth module
    Anything that uses proximity-based BLE is vulnerable, claim researchers

    Tesla Model 3 and Y owners, beware: the passive entry feature on your vehicle could potentially be hoodwinked by a relay attack, leading to the theft of the flash motor.

    Discovered and demonstrated by researchers at NCC Group, the technique involves relaying the Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) signals from a smartphone that has been paired with a Tesla back to the vehicle. Far from simply unlocking the door, this hack lets a miscreant start the car and drive away, too.

    Essentially, what happens is this: the paired smartphone should be physically close by the Tesla to unlock it. NCC's technique involves one gadget near the paired phone, and another gadget near the car. The phone-side gadget relays signals from the phone to the car-side gadget, which forwards them to the vehicle to unlock and start it. This shouldn't normally happen because the phone and car are so far apart. The car has a defense mechanism – based on measuring transmission latency to detect that a paired device is too far away – that ideally prevents relayed signals from working, though this can be defeated by simply cutting the latency of the relay process.

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022