Researchers uncover causes of MilitarySingles.com hack

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Researchers uncover causes of MilitarySingles.com hack
Researchers uncover causes of MilitarySingles.com hack

A common web application vulnerability, poor detection capabilities and a lack of adequate encryption led to the recent hack of MilitarySingles.com, according to research performed by security firm Imperva.

In March, the popular military dating site sustained a security breach carried out by hackers calling themselves "LulzSec Reborn," resulting in the dumping of personal information belonging to 170,000 members. The data included names, usernames, passwords, and IP addresses.

Following the breach, an unidentified administrator for ESingles Inc., the parent company of MilitarySingles.com, posted a comment on a website that records data breaches denying the attack ever occurred.

However, security firm Imperva believes the break-in certainly happened, based on analysis of the published booty and the hijacked website.

According to its "Hacker Intelligence Initiative" monthly trend report, the attackers were able to infiltrate MilitarySingles.com by exploiting a file upload vulnerability. In this case, the saboteur posed as a user and may have uploaded a malicious executable disguised as an image, Rob Rachwald, director of security strategy at Imperva, told SCMagazine.com on Thursday.

Since the proper filters were not in place, the poisonous file ran directly on the web server, exposing the database and giving the miscreant the ability to pull out the information, Rachwald said. This could have been prevented had the proper security measures been put in place, he added.

“It's considered common practice to take a file from an external source and quarantine it or run it in a special sandbox where it won't cause too much damage,” he said.

Additionally, improper encryption methods were used to protect users' passwords, Rachwald said. According to the report, site administrators failed to deploy a common encryption best practice known as “salting,” which randomly appends the string of characters in each password.

“That complicates a hacker's life tremendously because it will take them at least a couple of days to go through that process, so they just give up and move on,” Rachwald said. “But that was not done in this case.”

As for motive, Rachwald isn't sure. But he speculates the attack was perpetrated because of the site's tie with the U.S. military, a target of politically motivated hacktivists.

A spokesperson for ESingles Inc. did not respond to an SCMagazine.com request for comment.

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