Hackers have stolen more than 13 million user records from the systems of free web hosting service 000webhost, a security expert reported on Wednesday.
Troy Hunt, the owner of the Have I Been Pwned service, which allows users to learn if and where their personal data has been compromised, was contacted by someone claiming that names, email addresses, and plaintext passwords associated with 13 million 000webhost accounts had been leaked online several months ago. The expert later learned that the breach might have occurred as early as March.
After analyzing the data and speaking to several 000webhost.com account owners, Hunt determined that the leak is most likely genuine. The expert also analyzed the website and identified poor security practices, including the storing of passwords in plain text, and the lack of a secure connection when logging in to accounts.
Hunt attempted to contact the breached company many times over a period of several days, but he didn’t manage to get his message through. The owners of 000webhost only admitted being hacked after Hunt published a blog post describing his experience and the story was picked up by the media.
The company says the attackers breached its main server by exploiting a vulnerability in an old version of PHP. The attack resulted in the service’s entire database getting compromised.
“First of all, we removed all illegally uploaded pages as soon as we became aware of the breach. Next, we changed all the passwords and increased their encryption to avoid such mishaps in the future. A thorough investigation to make sure the breach does not exist anymore is in progress,” 000webhost stated.
The statement doesn’t mention anything about passwords being stored in clear text, but the company says it’s working on upgrading its systems and has promised to be “super-careful” in the future. A message posted on 000webhost.com a few hours ago informs visitors that the service is down for maintenance.
000webhost might have reset the compromised passwords, but the leaked data can still be valuable for cybercriminals considering that many people use the same password across multiple services. An individual who reached out to Hunt while he was investigating the incident claimed the stolen records had been sold on cybercrime forums for $2,000.
Hunt has added the leaked data to the Have I Been Pwned service to allow users to check if they are affected by the breach. The 000webhost breach ranks third in the list of hacked sites featured on Have I Been Pwned, only being topped by the Adobe breach (152 million records) and the recent Ashley Madison hack (30 million records).