Skip to main content

UGa breach, "Secret Questions" and blaming the user

(0 comments)

The University of Georgia announced an intrusion and a breach of 8,500 personnel records including full names, social security numbers and other data.  The attackers apparently reset the passwords of two IT workers who had access to personnel records using the password reset mechanism - they guessed or discovered the answer to secret questions.  "Secret questions" are an incredibly weak authentication mechanism.  We will likely see many more breaches like this.

Organizations deployed automated password reset systems to cut the number of help desk calls.  Unfortunately, instead of using something more secure, like two-factor authentication, organizations used something less secure, like "secret questions".  WiKID actually used to have an AD password reset mechanism using two-factor authentication.  The OTP was pushed to AD as the new password and flagged to be reset.  Oddly, no one ever used the functionality.  I believe this was partly because the Information Security team, responsible for two-factor authentication, wasn't responsible for help desk costs.  

I also am concerned about the 'blame the user' tone in UGa's response.  UGA Vice President for Information Technology Timothy Chester stated in an email to the users:

“It is important that employees also take steps to make sure their MyID information is secure,” Chester said. “Make your secret question and answer pairs impossible to guess. Don’t use questions to which the answers may be found on your ... Facebook page.”

We're all familiar with the "secret questions" process and how bad it is and how weak it is.  Don't deploy something that weak and blame the users who are asked "What is your favorite color?" And the answer is Blue (or Purple or Green). 

 

Currently unrated

Comments

There are currently no comments

New Comment

required

required (not published)

optional

Recent Posts

Archive

2019
2018
2017
2016
2015
2014
2013
2012
2011
2010
2009
2008

Categories

Tags

Authors

Feeds

RSS / Atom