Temporary Passwords: A Potential Weak Link


Some small organizations continue to use customer data to generate initial passwords, despite the risks.


An article review.


When rolling out a new online banking platform organizations are often faced with the task of issuing new usernames and passwords to existing users, but how they choose to do that can have a big impact on security–as Brian Krebs of Krebs on Security recently highlighted in an article submitted by our friend Wes Pollard, the wrong choice can potentially negate any other security features that have been implemented.

The bank highlighted in the article sent their users an email with a temporary password–which was based on their Social Security number–and also relied on the customer’s username not being included in the message as an additional layer of security. Customer data such as Social Security numbers should be considered off-limits, Krebs believes, because such data could already be known to a malicious party due to a previous data breach…and sending that information over a plain text email potentially exposes it as well. As for usernames, Krebs says they’re not secret even if they’re not included in the message–they’re too easily derived from a person’s name or email address, for example.

Looking into the incident further, it was found that the bank which originally prompted the article was one of many who implemented a similar change around that time, and all of those organizations utilized a third party for their online services. These third parties may not give organizations many options when it comes to implementing security, and management may be inclined to accept that vendor’s solution as-is.

Unfortunately, as the unnamed banking security regulator quoted in the article says, you can’t outsource accountability. Customers, employees and management must all do their part to remain aware of threats and stay one step ahead of the bad guys…because the bad guys are paying attention, too.


Original article by Krebs on Security.


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