Security Experts:

Disqus Discloses 2012 Breach Impacting 17 Million Users

Commenting service Disqus informed customers on Friday of a data breach that apparently occurred back in 2012 and which affected roughly 17.5 million user accounts.

Disqus learned of the breach from Troy Hunt, the Australian security expert who created the Have I Been Pwned breach notification service. Hunt said it took the company just under 24 hours after being notified to take action to protect impacted accounts and disclose the breach to the public.

According to Disqus, whose service is used to post roughly 50 million comments every month, the information stored in the database obtained by Hunt had been dated between 2007 and July 2012, which is likely around the time when the breach occurred.

The exposed data includes usernames, email addresses, sign-up dates, last login dates and, for roughly one-third of the 17.5 million accounts, password hashes (SHA-1 with salt). While Disqus said no plaintext passwords were exposed and the hashes are unlikely to be cracked, Hunt pointed out that it’s not difficult to crack SHA-1 hashes, even with a salt.

While Disqus’ investigation is still in progress, the company says there is no evidence of unauthorized logins as a result of this incident. Nevertheless, affected users are being notified and their passwords have been reset. The firm does not believe the data has been widely distributed or readily available.

“We’ve taken action to protect the accounts that were included in the data snapshot. Right now, we don’t believe there is any threat to a user accounts,” said Jason Yan, co-founder and CTO of Disqus. “Since 2012, as part of normal security enhancements, we’ve made significant upgrades to our database and encryption in order to prevent breaches and increase password security. Specifically, at the end of 2012 we changed our password hashing algorithm from SHA1 to bcrypt.”

Data from the Have I Been Pwned service showed that 71% of the 17.5 million Disqus accounts were also compromised in other data breaches.

In addition to the Disqus database, Hunt also obtained information stolen from URL shortening service Bitly (9 million accounts) and Kickstarter (5.2 million accounts) back in 2014.

Unlike the Disqus incident, which does not appear to have been detected back in 2012, the Bitly and Kickstarter breaches were detected at the time of the attacks and users were notified. Both Bitly and Kickstarter informed users that there is no new information and no action needs to be taken.

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Eduard Kovacs (@EduardKovacs) is a contributing editor at SecurityWeek. He worked as a high school IT teacher for two years before starting a career in journalism as Softpedia’s security news reporter. Eduard holds a bachelor’s degree in industrial informatics and a master’s degree in computer techniques applied in electrical engineering.