Hackers can crack most in less than a minute

    Date24 May 2002
    CategoryHacks/Cracks
    3312
    Posted ByAnthony Pell
    When a regional health care company called in network protection firm Neohapsis to find the vulnerabilities in its systems, the Chicago-based security company knew a sure place to look. Retrieving the password file from one of the health care company's servers, the consulting firm put "John the Ripper," a well-known cracking program, on the case. While well-chosen passwords could take years--if not decades--of computer time to crack, it took the program only an hour to decipher 30 percent of the passwords for the nearly 10,000 accounts listed in the file. . . . When a regional health care company called in network protection firm Neohapsis to find the vulnerabilities in its systems, the Chicago-based security company knew a sure place to look. Retrieving the password file from one of the health care company's servers, the consulting firm put "John the Ripper," a well-known cracking program, on the case. While well-chosen passwords could take years--if not decades--of computer time to crack, it took the program only an hour to decipher 30 percent of the passwords for the nearly 10,000 accounts listed in the file.

    "Just about every company that we have gone into, even large multinationals, has a high percentage of accounts with easily (cracked) passwords," said Greg Shipley, director of consulting for Neohapsis. "We have yet to see a company whose employees don't pick bad passwords."

    Fortune 100 corporations, small firms and even Internet service providers with strong security have an Achilles heel: users who pick easily guessable passwords. Some choose words straight out of Webster's dictionary, others use a pet's name, and still more choose the name of a secret lover. Many who think themselves tricky append a digit or two on the end of their chosen word. Such feeble attempts at deception are no match for today's computers, which are capable of trying millions of word variations per second and often can guess a good number of passwords in less than a minute.

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