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March 13th, 2009

Users Login Credentials Potentially Exposed In Science Journal Breach

The website of science journal Nature has suffered a security breach that resulted in the potential exposure of users’ login credentials. The login credentials were stored in an encrypted form, making them hard to extract but has still opted to reset the passwords of affected users, as a precaution. sent affected subscribers this email on Thursday:

I regret to inform you that our Press Site was recently subjected to an attack in which some user data appears to have been accessed by a third party.

Unfortunately, yours was one of them. Although we store users’ passwords in an encrypted form, we are taking the precautionary step of changing your password in order to eliminate the possibility of any future abuse of your account. You should receive a second email with your new password over the next day or so.

Needless to say, we have already taken steps to remove the vulnerability that led to this attack, and we are continuing to monitor the site closely for any further attempts to access user data.

Please accept my sincerest apologies for the inconvenience caused.

A spokeswoman confirmed the email was genuine and added that the breach affected more that just registered journalists, but not all subscribers.

It’s unclear how many records – stored on the same server accessed by hackers – were affected at the time of writing. Details stored included username, first name and last name, along with associated password hashes. No financially sensitive data was involved.

The potential cracking of passwords is only a problem because so many users use the same password for multiple websites. Cracking the login credentials for a relatively unimportant account therefore exposes any higher value account, such as an online banking account, of password-sloppy users to a much greater risk of compromise.

Credit: The Register

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