Mozilla Loses Users Names, Email Addresses, Hashed Passwords

Mozilla Foundation logoThese days internet firms seem to be having a tougher and tougher time holding on to your private data. Following lost emails databases at Walgreens, McDonalds, and others; Microsoft's leak of business users' contacts from the cloud; and Gawker's loss of users names, passwords, and site information, Mozilla has become the latest to fail to keep its users confidential data secure.

Chris Lyon, Director of Infrastructure Security at Mozilla, wrote users of its addons page to let them know it might have accidentally shared their encrypted passwords. Writes Lyon:

Dear addons.mozilla.org user, 

The purpose of this email is to notify you about a possible disclosure of your information which occurred on December 17th. On this date, we were informed by a 3rd party who discovered a file with individual user records on a public portion of one of our servers. We immediately took the file off the server and investigated all downloads. We have identified all the downloads and with the exception of the 3rd party, who reported this issue, the file has been download by only Mozilla staff. This file was placed on this server by mistake and was a partial representation of the users database from addons.mozilla.org. The file included email addresses, first and last names, and an md5 hash representation of your password. The reason we are disclosing this event is because we have removed your existing password from the addons site and are asking you to reset it by going back to the addons site and clicking forgot password. We are also asking you to change your password on other sites in which you use the same password. Since we have effectively erased your password, you don't need to do anything if you do not want to use your account. It is disabled until you perform the password recovery.

We have identified the process which allowed this file to be posted publicly and have taken steps to prevent this in the future. We are also evaluating other processes to ensure your information is safe and secure.

Should you have any questions, please feel free to contact the infrastructure security team directly at infrasec@mozilla.com. If you are having issues resetting your account, please contact amo-admins@mozilla.org. We apologize for any inconvenience this has caused.

Chris Lyon

Director of Infrastructure Security

Worse yet, it turns out that the file contained passwords protected by an older hashing algorithm MD5, without any salting (random input to protect against dictionary attacks). Writes Lyon in his blog:

The database included 44,000 inactive accounts using older, md5-based password hashes. We erased all the md5-passwords, rendering the accounts disabled. All current addons.mozilla.org accounts use a more secure SHA-512 password hash with per-user salts. SHA-512 and per user salts has been the standard storage method of password hashes for all active users since April 9th, 2009.

In other words, active users likely don't have much to worry about, but if you created an account in the past, which you haven't used in some time, it's likely that malicious parties may have at least your name and email address. And if your password is weak, they'll likely soon have that as well -- so users who fall into this category might want to immediately change any identical passwords on accounts on other sites.

For those confused what these accounts even are, Mozilla encourages users of its popular extensions/add-ons to register.

According to Mozilla:

You only need to register if:

  • You want to submit reviews for add-ons
  • You want to keep track of your favorite add-on collections or create one yourself
  • You are an add-on developer and want to upload your add-on for hosting on AMO

Judging by the number of inactive accounts, many of Mozilla's millions of users decided to take the plunge and create an account. Now some of those users' security may be at risk due to the organization careless post of user account information to a public server.

Given that a third party noticed and reported this file was available, it's safe to assume that someone preserved a copy of it. And just like that, Mozilla became the latest to allow its users to become the victim of a security bungle.

Tags: Mozilla

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