Last week LinkedIn learned that approximately 6.5 million hashed LinkedIn passwords were posted on a hacker site. According to Vicente Silveira, director at LinkedIn, most of the passwords on the list appear to remain hashed and hard to decode, but unfortunately only a small subset of the hashed passwords was decoded and published.

In his LinkedIn blog post, Silveira said: "To the best of our knowledge, no email logins associated with the passwords have been published, nor have we received any verified reports of unauthorized access to any member’s account as a result of this event."

David Goldman of CNN Money says that LinkedIn was using an outdated form of cryptography to secure its users' private information: SHA-1, a publicly available cryptographic hash function designed by the United States National Security Agency. That is why security experts recommend that companies add another security layer called ‘salt’.

Goldman explains: “Salt randomly adds another piece of information to the password. It could be a user name, first name, or even a random number - it changes the underlying text enough to make it almost impossible to decode.”

Some people have questioned how it is possible that a company like LinkedIn uses a reversible encryption algorithm to store the passwords when passwords should always be encrypted one-way and should never be recoverable. Others argue that LinkedIn does not use reversible encryption - hackers just have to run a dictionary attack, encrypt the dictionary words and then compare the returned values.

The fact that the perpetrators are based in Russia, will make the job of the FBI investigators a tricky one. . As for me, I have difficulty in remembering all the passwords I use for different sites – some want characters and numerals, other want upper and lower case, and so on. Maybe the hackers are out to help people like me. Just joking!

Photo courtesy of  www.FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

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