Anyone who knows me probably knows this is one of my biggest pet peaves. I see this happening everyday, but from a large site like LinkedIn.. shame on you. As all of you probably know by now, a post was made to a Russian site of more then 6.5 million passwords from LinkedIn attempting to crack the SHA-1 hashed passwords.

Now for all of you who have gotten into encryption / decryption of sensitive data, I am sure you understand the problem here with just hashing a password with SHA-1 encryption without salting. If a hacker is able to determine the algorithm used to hash the password, then the rest is fairly easy. The simpler passwords can be uncovered fairly quickly, leaving the more difficult ones which when broadcasted to a hacker community, will take no time to be uncovered as well.

Salting a password is a process of adding in random bits into a hashed password. This makes it much more difficult for an attacker to decrypt because they would need to not only be able to hash their dictionary passwords, but then they would have to try each of those passwords with a variations of salts. This can fill up their data and computing power quite fast creating a very expensive and difficult task for a hacker. They would need a large budget along with tons of storage space and computing power to be able to break down a salted and encrypted password. Where as with just a SHA-1 encrypted password, an attacker would only have to Hash each password trial once and compare it to the value of the encrypted password they have. Once the value is not matched they can just move on to the next dictionary hashed value instead of salting variations of the same password.

So as you can see that the time and expense to decrypt salted passwords can be astronomical and even a deterrent for a hacker attempting to grab hold of your data. Now with all the problems these days with information being leaked or stolen, you would think that a site like LinkedIn would have been more mindful of the world we live in and not assume that the password obscurity they are using is “Good Enough”. If in fact the hackers have usernames that are tied to these passwords, then the truth of it is most people re use their usernames and passwords. So if a hacker grabs your information for one site, then they could potential try to use that same combination on other sites you may visit. Thinking that the breach that has happened to LinkedIn is focused solely on that site, is ignorant. Don’t fool yourselves, change your passwords everywhere you use it.

My recommendation to you is to alter your passwords. Try not to reuse a password many times. Come up with a methodology of using your passwords so that if you have to reuse them then you can derive a system of which passwords you use where. This will make it more difficult for someone to attempt to reuse your password to gain access to more of your personal information.