Security Experts:

Reddit Counters Account Takeover Surge with Password Resets

In the light of several recent data breaches and account compromises, Reddit has decided to kick off a service-wide hunt for account takeovers and is prompting users to reset their passwords when such an issue is detected.

In a Thursday post, Reddit co-founder Christopher Slowe explains that the platform has improved its takeover detection capabilities and that it has recently prompted roughly 100,000 users to reset their passwords, with more to follow. This isn’t the result of reddit being exploited, but is aimed at countering the fact that users tend to reuse their passwords on multiple sites, Slowe says.

Numerous data breaches that resulted in account exposure created headlines over the past few months, the largest of which was the LinkedIn breach of 2012, which was revealed earlier this month to have resulted in the compromise of 167 million accounts, 117 million of which included passwords. The data has been already published online.

As if the large number of affected users wasn’t enough, the leaked passwords were hashed but not salted, meaning that they could be easily decrypted. What’s more, the dumped data revealed that people continue to use weak, easy-to-guess passwords for their accounts, with “123456” being the most used, occurring 753,305 times among the leaked passwords.

Just days ago, Microsoft revealed that it is now dynamically banning common passwords from its services, in an attempt to force users to improve the security of their accounts. Cybercriminals, Microsoft explained, analyze the leaked passwords and use them to brute-force accounts. The use of common passwords increases attackers’ chances of success.

Now, Christopher Slowe is saying the same: attackers are leveraging their access to likely username and password combinations to compromise reddit accounts. Recently, the platform experienced a surge in account takeovers by third parties, and Reddit is now taking the necessary steps to ensure that only the rightful owners log into their accounts.

Slowe also notes that affected users will be greeted with a request to reset their password when next logging into their accounts, and that they should “choose a strong, unique password,” because “password reuse is really bad.” To increase security, users should also set and verify an email address, and should check their account’s activity page to verify the IPs the account is accessed from.

Reddit’s co-founder also explains that the service is dealing with a large number of abandoned accounts that haven’t logged in for years, which represent a large possible surface area for takeovers. Thus, after issuing password reset warnings to them, the platform will disable these accounts within one month, should there be no reaction from the account owners.

To increase security, reddit is considering two-factor authentication (2FA). While the feature is already required for administrators, the full rollout isn’t as simple because of the large ecosystem of apps. “We're definitely considering it,” but it “will require a lot of coordination,” Slowe said.

Related: 7 Million Impacted by Lifeboat Minecraft Community Breach

Related: Study Analyzes Passwords Used in Opportunistic, Criminal Attacks

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