117 Million LinkedIn Email Details Hit the Dark Web — Business as Usual?

May 23, 2016 @ 10:30 AM
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2 min read

Social hacks are nothing new. As noted by a University of Phoenix study conducted earlier this year, while 84 percent of U.S. adults now have at least one social media account, two-thirds said they’ve been hacked and 86 percent limit the amount of personal information they provide. The problem? It may not be enough.

According to CNET, 117 million LinkedIn email and password combinations appeared on the Dark Web this week. The company has launched legal action and, for the moment, stemmed the tide. But with so many sites under threat, it’s worth asking: Has the specter of stolen credentials become business as usual?

Criminal Connections

LinkedIn’s trouble started in 2012 when cybercriminals broke in, grabbed what they could and released a set of 6.5 million passwords. It’s been largely radio silence since — until now.

A hacker named “Peace” popped up and posted the emails and passwords of more than 100 million LinkedIn members on the Dark Web. While it’s not clear if payment was made or not, the data then moved to LeakedSource, a subscription-based search service that lets users track down instances of their own information being used across the Web.

According to Motherboard, while the search site’s terms of service make it clear that subscribers should only search for data that belongs to them, there are no rules in place to prevent other queries. In effect, this makes the LinkedIn database public knowledge.

As noted by ZDNet, the social network immediately took action. First, it advised all users to change their passwords to prevent account compromise and then sent a cease and desist letter to LeakedSource. So far it’s working: The site has agreed to take down the data while it consults with its own legal experts.

LeakedSource argued that it’s done nothing wrong since it didn’t access any computers without authorization and aren’t trying to defraud anyone. Styling itself as a scavenger, its stance is that hosting the data is no harm, no foul — regardless of the origin.

More Data Than LinkedIn Email

LinkedIn emails and passwords aren’t the only login credentials up for sale this month. According to Hackread, a cybercriminal known as “Peace of mind” hacked adult social network Fling and put more than 40 million logins up for sale on the Dark Web.

Fling said the data is genuine, but links it to an earlier hack from 2011. While there’s no direct link to the LinkedIn issues, the username, timeline and type of data released certainly suggest more than passing familiarity.

Social networks are vulnerable. Many have taken steps to implement stronger security controls such as two-factor authentication and improved encryption, but the recent LinkedIn email compromise makes it clear that users need to take charge and change passwords at a much faster pace.

Just because a breach seemingly passes by without ill effect, there’s no guarantee it will remain that way; Fling data from five years ago is just now emerging to put millions of users at risk. LinkedIn’s legal challenge is a stopgap. Site members need to police their own data now that time-delayed hacks are becoming business as usual.

Douglas Bonderud
Freelance Writer

A freelance writer for three years, Doug Bonderud is a Western Canadian with expertise in the fields of technology and innovation. In addition to working for...
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