Hacker proves password theft is easy


Anyone can easily get online and steal passwords - and it will not cost them much either.

This was the message during a live hack coordinated this morning by Jason Hart, senior vice president in Europe for two-factor authenticaton provider CRYPTOCard.

During the hack, he set up his own wireless hotspot, which he simply called BT Openzone.

As delegates used the wireless service, Hart was able to get hold of whatever usernames and passwords were being typed into web applications, just by using an easily downloadable password recovery tool called Cain & Abel.

When Hart and his team tested out the method across cafes in the UK, 100 per cent of web browsers in the various establishments used the fake BT Openzone service.

"That's how easy it is, it is instant," said Hart.

"People believe passwords are secure, but if someone has got your password you won't know about it."

There are various other methods people can use to acquire passwords, from searching for them with simple Google algorithms to using paid-for services run by groups such as the Slick Hackers Group, the security expert explained.

He claimed the solution to the problem was two-factor authentication, where two independent forms of identification are required in conjunction to allow user access.

"There should be no reason why internet service providers shouldn't be supplying everyone with two-factor authentication," Hart added, noting Virgin Media had committed to offering such services with the help of CRYPTOCard.

He also sought to dispel the myth that using complex passwords will protect user accounts from hackers. Cyber criminal's methods for stealing passwords render length and variation in characters, letters and numbers meaningless, Hart said.

"Obviously people need to not have a password that is 'password'," he added.

Tom Brewster

Tom Brewster is currently an associate editor at Forbes and an award-winning journalist who covers cyber security, surveillance, and privacy. Starting his career at ITPro as a staff writer and working up to a senior staff writer role, Tom has been covering the tech industry for more than ten years and is considered one of the leading journalists in his specialism.

He is a proud alum of the University of Sheffield where he secured an undergraduate degree in English Literature before undertaking a certification from General Assembly in web development.