MusicBrainz data dump serves as a warning for password reuse: Trend Micro

Security vendor weighs in on the recent data dump and the importance of different passwords

MusicBrainz, the popular open content music database, disclosed at the end of March that a database dump had taken place and user information had been downloaded.

One of these dumps contained password hashes for a large portion of MusicBrainz accounts, and the site responded by deleting and replacing it with correctly sanitised database dumps.

While the site admits to having no idea where the data is now located, it is asking all users to change their passwords.

MusicBrainz has attempted to downplay the incident by saying that the password hashes are neither useful or widely distributed, and that the data should not allow attackers to retrieve user passwords.

Without seeing the stolen data in question, Trend Micro A/NZ strategic products senior manager, Adam Biviano, said it is difficult to ascertain whether user passwords are at risk, as it dependant on the hash algorithm that was used.

“We saw in the recent breach of one of the ABC’s websites that the hashing algorithm allowed an attacker to quite easily discover many of the passwords,” he said.

“Even with a strong hashing algorithm, simple passwords like common words are easy to discover by using a brute force dictionary attack against the hash contents.”

In response to the situation, MusicBrainz said it will adjust its database dumping scripts to be specific about which data to export in order to avoid future leaks of private data.

Biviano said the data dump incident is not limited just to MusicBrainz, adding that “these attacks are more common than [he] would like to see."

“The ABC fell victim to this problem just recently, and I’m never surprised when I hear of these incidents as it seems to be quite commonplace these days,” he said.

Password protection

As for whether there is anything a user can do to protect themselves from these types of incidents, Biviano said it is mainly up to the site’s administrator or owner to provide protection.

However, individuals are able to take certain steps to minimise the impact to themselves.

“If they reuse the same username and password combination for many different websites, then if their password is discovered for one then an attacker may be able to take over many online services that the individual may have access to,” he said.

“If they use a complex password that is not a common word or has a mixture of letters and numbers, then if a hashed version is released to the public, the odds of it being cracked are a lot less.”

If a user discovers through an email from a site administrator that their password may have been compromised, Biviano said they should think about where else they have used that password and change it too.

Patrick Budmar covers consumer and enterprise technology breaking news for IDG Communications. Follow Patrick on Twitter at @patrick_budmar.

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