Threat Management

LinkedIn sued over exposure of poorly secured passwords

A class-action lawsuit has been filed against LinkedIn over the June 6 data breach that resulted in the theft of nearly 6.5 million passwords.

The plaintiff, Katie Szpyrka, a premium LinkedIn user, is seeking more than $5 million in damages for the class.

While LinkedIn's privacy policy promises its users that their information is secured through “industry standards, protocols and technology,” the company failed to implement “crucial security measures," according to the complaint.

“Because LinkedIn used insufficient encryption methods to secure the user data, hackers were able to easily decipher a large number of the passwords,” according to the lawsuit.

Following the breach, the social networking site said it used SHA-1 as its encryption method, a hashing function created by the National Security Agency in 1995, but considered to be outdated by security professionals.

In addition, the company did not salt user passwords, a method which randomly appends a string of characters in each password, thus adding an extra layer of security and making the data more difficult for attackers to decrypt.

Since the exposure, LinkedIn announced in a blog post that it has bolstered its security efforts, which includes salting user passwords. However, in the complaint the plaintiff argued that the company's updates are “too little, too late.”

In an email to on Wednesday, Erin O'Harra, a spokeswoman for LinkedIn, said that the company recently became aware of the lawsuit, but has no reason to believe any users of the website were "injured" by the breach.

“It appears that these threats are driven by lawyers looking to take advantage of the situation,” O'Harra said. “We believe these claims are without merit, and we will defend the company vigorously against suits trying to leverage third-party criminal behavior.”

Szpyrka's attorney, Sean Reis with Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif.-based Edelson McGuire, could not be reached for comment.

Lawsuits that follow breaches are common, but often face a difficult climb for plaintiffs, unless they able to prove financial harm.

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