You can often find these serious technical vulnerabilities after exploiting organizational password vulnerabilities:
- Weak password encryption schemes. Hackers can break weak password storage mechanisms by using cracking methods that I outline in this chapter. Many vendors and developers believe that passwords are safe as long as they don’t publish the source code for their encryption algorithms. Wrong! A persistent, patient attacker can usually crack this security by obscurity (a security measure that’s hidden from plain view but can be easily overcome) fairly quickly. After the code is cracked, it is distributed across the Internet and becomes public knowledge.
Password cracking utilities take advantage of weak password encryption. These utilities do the grunt work and can crack any password, given enough time and computing power.
- Programs that store their passwords in memory, unsecured files, and easily accessed databases.
- Unencrypted databases that provide direct access to sensitive information to anyone with database access, regardless of whether they have a business need to know.
- User applications that display passwords on the screen while the user is typing.
The National Vulnerability Database (an index of computer vulnerabilities managed by the National Institute of Standards and Technology) currently identifies over 2,300 password-related vulnerabilities! You can search for these issues at http://nvd.nist.gov to find out how vulnerable some of your systems are from a technical perspective.