The launch of a Twitter-like messaging service co-founded by UK politician Louise Mensch on Sunday has been accompanied by a huge security flap.
According to users who sent in complaints, Menshn.com allegedly harboured a variety of security flaws. Most glaring of these, one user insisted, was an alleged failure by the site – at least during its launch – to insist that users send their passwords over a secure (https) link, hence opening users to the potential risk of having their passwords or cookie credentials lifted.
However, Luke Bozier, who founded the site with Tory MP and chick lit queen Louise Mensch, has dismissed reports of problems with the site as bogus, reassuring early adopters that the social network is secure.
Bozier, a one-time Labour party flack who defected to the Tories this year, took to Twitter to issue a series of denials about supposed problems.
"It's kinda funny when you read snippy geeks' attempts at Sql Injection, but their SQL is really like what my 4 year-old would write," he wrote. "Server has not crashed. No XSS attacks have succeeded. No SQL Inject attacks have succeeded. Menshn is a safe, clean & secure environment. But I appreciate all the feedback from the tech community, and we are dealing with real issues that do arise," he added.
The repeated reassurances flooded into Twitter well into the night, increasing in frequency after web designer Andrew White (@pixeltrix) claimed that passwords had initially been sent in the clear.
"Passwords are sent over normal http, not https - can be sniffed by other users in a coffee shop environment," White warned.
White made this warning after obtaining Wireshark packet capture grabs. He later reported that menshn.com had applied secure login, resolving the problem.
"Passwords were being sent over the internet unencrypted until you switched to HTTPS... to deny problems will undermine trust, better to say there were problems, now fixed, no user data lost," he wrote.
Another prominent critic of the initial security of the site was James Coglan, who warned about alleged cross-site scripting flaws and other problems. At times the extended exchanges between Bozier and Coglan, in particular, became more than a little tetchy.
Bozier claimed that there had never been any security problem with the service, describing warnings to the contrary as "spurious".
"Reported security issues around menshn are unfounded. Your information (ie, your password) is safe unless your own computer has been hacked. I'm still waiting for somebody to prove menshn passwords can be stolen. Until then, perhaps best not to publish spurious claims.
"Menshn runs completely on an encrypted 'https' connection - all passwords, email addresses and everything else are secure," Bozier concluded.
Screengrabs of these denials can be found here.
The Menshn.com social network aims to differentiate itself by offering access to online rooms featuring on-topic discussion of a particular theme. Euro 2012 and ukpolitics were selected as the two topics for discussion with the launch of the site in the UK on Sunday, 24 June. Comments posted to the service, which promises an environment free of spam and trolls, are deleted after a week. ®