Security Experts:

phpBB Asking Users to Change Passwords Following Hack

The developers of the popular PHP-based open source Internet forum software phpBB have shut down their network following a cyberattack in which user information might have been compromised.

According to a statement posted on phpbb.com, attackers compromised several Web servers powering phpBB on Sunday. The hackers obtained access to information on users who registered an account on phpBB.com and area51.phpBB.com.

Passwords are hashed and salted (Openwall's PHPass) and phpBB believes the hashes are difficult to crack. However, users are asked to change their passwords as a precaution.

Another issue pointed out by phpBB is that logins on the area51 website were logged in plaintext between December 12 and December 15.

The investigation is ongoing, but the organization says individual phpBB installations are not impacted by the breach. There is no evidence that the forum download packages have been modified by the hackers.

phpBB has highlighted that the attackers haven't exploited a vulnerability in the forum software to gain access to their servers. Instead, it appears they stole and abused the login credentials of a phpBB team member.

"We will be rebuilding our systems from the ground up and verifying the integrity of all data prior to coming back online. This process will likely take several days," phpBB said on Monday.

The attackers contacted phpBB, but they didn't threaten the organization and they didn't make any ransom demands. Instead, they claimed to have carried out the attack for fun, phpBB representatives told SecurityWeek.

The organization has promised to provide additional details on the breach and the steps taken since the compromise as soon as they are back in operation.

This isn't the first time phpBB's systems are breached. Back in 2009, someone hacked phpbb.com and leaked user details online.

*Updated with clarifications from phpBB

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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.