Feds Now Demanding Internet Companies Hand Over User Passwords Too

from the encrypted-or-not? dept

Following on the report that the feds have been trying to get master encryption keys, Declan McCullagh now has a story about the feds also demanding user passwords from those same companies. Once again, various sources insist that the companies do not hand over such info:

“I’ve certainly seen them ask for passwords,” said one Internet industry source who spoke on condition of anonymity. “We push back.”

A second person who has worked at a large Silicon Valley company confirmed that it received legal requests from the federal government for stored passwords. Companies “really heavily scrutinize” these requests, the person said. “There’s a lot of ‘over my dead body.'”

Similarly, Microsoft and Google both directly said that they would never do that, while other companies hadn’t responded (or chose not to respond) by the time Declan went to press. Of course, as he notes, since most tech companies now encrypt passwords, even if the companies were to hand over the hashed passwords, it’s not guaranteed that the NSA can take that and decipher the actual password, though, it makes it easier. Still, just the fact that the companies are being asked for passwords seems like, once again, the feds going way beyond what they should be able to do.

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Companies: google, microsoft

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Comments on “Feds Now Demanding Internet Companies Hand Over User Passwords Too”

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51 Comments
Anonymous Coward says:

the feds have gotten so used to doing whatever they like and with the stupid idiots in Congress, regardless of how close the vote was, allowing the continuation of spying on innocent citizens, this was surely the next step! those who are of the opinion that the USA is just one step away from being the Police State that is spoken about very often, your fears are becoming reality! whoever the body that is behind this, that is pushing for it to actually happen needs to be found and exposed and damn quick too! they are obviously too afraid to come out in the open so are pulling the strings of those that are acting as nothing other than front men, as puppets. the problem is, they are still getting what they want and without knowing who the enemy really is, no defense or offense can be mounted!

Charles (profile) says:

How ITH can this be justified?

How? Why? Does our government, I use the term loosely, have no moral or ethical compass whatsoever?

If this is not stopped, where will it end? I am far more afraid of my own government’s overreach, than any group of terrorists anywhere- no matter how large.

This is going to make an activist out of me yet.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: How ITH can this be justified?

It’s because government is run by a bunch of guys in their 50s, 60s and 70s with horrifically antiquated ways of thinking. They do not align with how the world has changed since the dawn of mass computerization and the Internet, and they’re ruining the country as a result.

Charles (profile) says:

Re: Re: How ITH can this be justified?

I am in my 60’s and I don’t have an antiquated way of thinking.

I do think it is a control issue, as is copyright and free trade pacts, and other issues we have to deal with.

Is it going to take 10,000,000 people marching on Washington to wake up the assjacks running our country?

Fear from terrorist attack is the least of my worries.

This issue has really gotten me all riled up and I hope on the NSA’s radar. 🙂

Baldaur Regis (profile) says:

Concerning the Printing Press

From The First Hundred Years of Printing in British North America, by William S. Reese:

Sir William Berkeley, royal governor of Virginia in 1671, put it very plainly: ‘I thank God,’ he wrote, ‘there are no free schools nor printing and I hope we shall not have these hundred years; for learning has brought disobedience, and heresy and sects into the world, and printing has divulged them…God keep us from both.

The freedom to think, and to publish new ideas, is directly proportional to a citizenry’s ability to resist its government’s innate desire to control that thinking.

The internet is the new printing press. Who controls it is up to us.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

“Yes, the NSA can crack your hashed password.”

That is not entirely true, there are numerous ways to hash passwords.
If they are stored as plain MD5 hashes, like the article you linked to used, then yes you are right.
But only idiots use plain MD5 hashes to store passwords today.

Adding salt is a must and makes it more difficult to crack the list of hashes.
Using hashes like bcrypt or scrypt with salt are very resilient to being cracked.

https://securityledger.com/2012/12/new-25-gpu-monster-devours-passwords-in-seconds/
From that article:
“The clustered GPUs clocked impressive speeds against more sturdy hashing algorithms as well, including MD5 (180 billion attempts per second, 63 billion/second for SHA1 and 20 billion/second for passwords hashed using the LM algorithm. So called ?slow hash? algorithms fared better. The bcrypt (05) and sha512crypt permitted 71,000 and 364,000 per second, respectively.”

If the NSA had 50,000 of the machines used in that article they could only test 3,550,000,000 bcrypt combinations per second.

A 10 character password composed of letters (Upper and Lower) numbers and special characters has 19,687,440,434,072,265,000 possible combinations

Assuming the NSA was always lucky and found the match after testing only 50% of the possible combinations it would take them 87 years to crack just ONE salted bcrypt hash with a password length of 10 characters.

Using the same assumption a 15 character salted bcrypt password would take them 1,384,992,058,302,440,000,000 years to crack.

So it would be more accurate to say that “Yes the NSA can crack your poorly implemented password hash”

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Response to: mudlock on Jul 25th, 2013 @ 3:44pm

That’s exactly what I was going to say. Anyone with access to a good enough computer and a few free programs like Hashcat can easily decrypt password hashes. Even faster if they have a rainbow table. And unfortunately for users those programs are so simple to use even the idiots in the government can figure out how to use them.

Kal Zekdor (profile) says:

Re: With properly implemented storage of passwords.....

Well, if they can force you to hand over the hashes, they can force you to divulge your salting practices, so salts probably won’t help much in this case. A cryptographically secure hashing mechanism is your best bet to protect user passwords, in all cases. Salts protect against rainbow tables, not individual cracking attempts. (Though it’s still a good idea to salt in a unique way, as this prevents someone from using a password hash leaked from another site to login to a user with the same email via bypassing the hashing mechanism.)

I’m more interested in why the NSA wants passwords in the first place, when they’ve proven they can get FISA warrants (which are almost never denied, or even examined thoroughly) to sap data up directly from inside any company’s datacenter. To try to login to a user’s accounts on a foreign site? Am I the only person who thinks that this behavior is more reminiscent of a criminal hacker ring, than a “Security” agency?

Anonymous Coward says:

Well, there's NO WAY this info could POSSIBLY be stolen from the feds

Well, I don’t see any problem with this! After all, we all know there’s NO WAY a hacker could POSSIBLY break into the feds computers/etc and steal all the millions of passwords the Feds collect from all the Internet companies in America and the world!

Nope, that kind of stuff NEVER happens. You’re just a delusional conspiracy theorist if you think that’ll happen!

Anonymous Coward says:

Wow. Someone said it before about the encryption keys, but this really is like asking for copies of keys to everyone’s house. Haven’t we had some fairly recent laws or legal ruling forbidding employers from demanding that sort of access to employee’s personal accounts?

It’s also an incredibly bad idea. The moment they have the password for your account during investigation, they immediately open themselves up to accusations of planting evidence at trial time. After all, it’s one thing if only you have access to an account but a completely different thing if you and the feds both have access to your account during a time period being investigated. There’s a lot of judges and juries that wouldn’t fly with, and they can’t keep everything secret forever if they try to. To the contrary, it just increases the odds that someone will say “screw FISA secrecy” and go public with the details of the case.

Todd Knarr (profile) says:

Developers: switch from fast, efficient-to-calculate hashes (eg. MD5, SHA1, etc.) to something like BCrypt that’s designed to be inefficient to calculate. That scotches a lot of off-line attacks because they can’t try hundreds of millions of possibilities a second anymore.

Users: don’t share passwords between sites. And don’t use methods based on slight variations on a single base password. Use a password storage program that lets you generate highly-random passwords per-account. That won’t protect you from this, but it’ll mean that disclosure of your password by one site won’t compromise any other sites.

FM Hilton (profile) says:

Passwords and the word "no."

I can just envision it:
The feds coming to my house and demanding my passwords to any site.

Me: “Got a warrant?”
FEDS: “We don’t need one..you have to give it to us.”
Me: “Great. Here’s the computer, with passwords-” and handing them a smashed up box. “Good luck with that.”

I don’t care if it lands me in the Federal pokey for umpteen years. There are lines I do not cross and neither do they.

If the big companies do it, they’ll find out how fast hackers can get into their systems and wreck them. I might even help.

USA'S PEOPLE GET IT IN ARSE says:

oh im sorry

before i handed them over they must have gone and change dit and every time i take and give it to you they just auto get changed and resent out….
have a nice peeping tom day….
yup i agree lines that you dont cross….
NOW im urging everyone NOT from the usa to begin banning USA users….and also any services that run in the usa both in non business and business capacities.

The democrudes and republitards ARE REALLY DOING YOUR NATION UP THE ASS

assemblerhead (profile) says:

Bad Idea!!!

And the frames for crimes not committed start at once.

It is the ultimate in censorship as well. Messages sent in your name that you did not write. Context of messages you write changed to suit the US Gov.. Messages to you ( edited / deleted ) by the US Gov.

Password to your OnLine Bank Account? Why do they need that? Making transfers in your name, in and out of your account?

Time for a run on the banks. Keep it all cash, not in an account.

( Personal Opinion )
There is a Megalomaniac in charge of “US National Security”.

art guerrilla (profile) says:

Companies “really heavily scrutinize” these requests, the person said. “There’s a lot of ‘over my dead body.'”

oh, really ? ? ?
so those CEO bodies are really piling up in silicon valley, are they ? ? ?

no?
didn’t think so…

*some* brave souls (Bradley Manning, Edward Snowden, etc) LITERALLY put their lives on the line, not just talk trash…

silicon valley defenders of the constitution: just put the top down on their porches, and speed back home to their mcmansions…
so brave…

art guerrilla
aka ann archy
eof

leichter (profile) says:

Breaking hashes is missing the point

If the government can demand your hashed password, they can also demand your *actual* password. While a site doesn’t *store* that, it has access to it *every time you log in*. After all, that’s exactly what you provide in order to log in!

There are protocols (SRP http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Secure_Remote_Password_protocol is the most prominent example) in which having full access to the data on the server doesn’t permit you to imitate a client (without additional work to brute-force the actual password), Unfortunately, such protocols aren’t trivial to retrofit into existing systems as they require significant computation on the client side, so they haven’t seen much traction. Perhaps it’s time to consider them.

— Jerry

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