I remember cracking the password from a Windows system in high school. There was a centralized login mechanism using Novell but everything was cached locally. So you could boot a Linux CD and copy the password file to a memory stick, and crack at home. I think I used lophtcrack? The head admin account for the entire school district (basically root) had the password “north”. It took like a fraction of a second to crack. It was so simple that for weeks I didn’t even believe it to be true, and didn’t realize the name of the account was an admin.
I was expelled a few months later for all the fun I had after discovering this. Good times.
I was expelled from university for pulling off the exact same exploit with the "workstation only" feature in Novell. In my case, they put a computer in every dorm room, and every single one of them had a domain-wide administrator account cached in its SAM file. It was inevitable that a student would find it. It's been almost 15 years now but I believe the password was rac3c4r or something trivial like that. I ran Ophcrack overnight and in the morning I had admin access to every machine on campus.
I also had the bright idea to try this on library computers and email kiosks around campus used by thousands of students. Rather than booting into Ophcrack I'd just log in with the admin account and run pwdump from a USB stick to collect password hashes. I figured out how to enumerate Windows machines over the network using NetBIOS and ran the pwdump utility remotely using psexec, so that I could hit every computer in the library at once, or every computer in a computer lab, etc.
I ended up cracking credentials for most students and faculty on the entire campus. I was really young at the time and thought this was some real cool James Bond shit. I never once used it for evil: never read anyone's email, never viewed anyone's private files, never poked around the academic file shares for test solutions, never tried to steal credit card numbers or social security numbers from the finance office's file share. It was purely a hack for the thrill of breaking down barriers and outsmarting the security. But MONTHS later after I had long since grown tired of tinkering with this stuff, a couple of uniformed police officers pulled me out of Calculus class and took me downtown. They tossed my dorm room and confiscated my computer and my phone and every piece of digital storage I owned. The school threw the book at me, I guess because they were so embarrassed by their incompetence on display from being beaten by a 16 year old.
>I never once used it for evil: never read anyone's email, never viewed anyone's private files, never poked around the academic file shares for test solutions, never tried to steal credit card numbers or social security numbers from the finance office's file share.
I don't understand this justification. The system owners can't know that to be true and have to proceed as if the systems are compromised. Would you still feel safe if a burglar broke into your house and left a note saying they didn't take anything?
It's not a justification. What I did was wrong. I'm just telling you what I did and why I did it. I wasn't interested in hurting anyone or in gaining any advantage for myself, only in breaking the system.
Also, I didn't actually go in anyone's house. If passwords are really so inherently private even apart from their access implications, maybe we shouldn't be sharing Ken Thompson's old password.
Yes, a good defense against a charge of burglary would be not having stolen anything. In an imaginary perfect criminal justice system, charges/penalties are based on damage done. Less damage done is a lesser crime.
> In an imaginary perfect criminal justice system, charges/penalties are based on damage done.
Hell no. Otherwise you could just set up one gigantic crime by comitting a bunch of small "no damage done" crimes along the way-say, stealing a string of credentials one at a time, but not actually using them until you have all of them together and then you commit your major heist/crime.
Well, the imaginary perfect criminal justice system would probably arrest you right as you had completely committed to causing the damage, instead of afterwards. But it should still be justifying the arrest based on the act that caused damage, not the harmless acts that set you up to be ready to do it.
Just to be clear, in case this matters, it wasn't an account belonging to an administrator, it was a default superuser account called (if I remember right) "TECH" in all caps, and didn't have any files or anything in it. It's not like it was a person and I was poking around their private stuff.
What possible reason would I have to lie about it? You think I'm worried about investigators raiding my VPN service so they can track down and charge a grown-ass man in juvenile court for something that happened 15 years ago? You think I'm worried about my reputation on this throwaway account with a grand total of five previous comments? What's the point in believing that this whole escapade happened at all if you're going to randomly doubt a particular element of it?
I was a kid, I was stupid, but I wasn't an asshole. I didn't go peeking and violating people's privacy because that would have been a dick move. Just like tons of people on Hacker News today have access to personal data on SaaS systems we maintain and don't go peeking. Just like tons of people are perfectly capable of picking their neighbor's locks but don't walk into their house for no reason. It's not even tempting. I don't care what's in my neighbor's house, and I don't care what's in random other students' homework documents or email or whatever. The only interesting part was breaking the security.
No, it's generally not illegal to copy someones key. It's illegal to STEAL the key, of course, but copy? Not a crime. Some states have laws that prohibit "providing access" to a government facility which can be applied to copying government keys, but your house key? Nope.
No. The serious crime is breaking in. Usually when someone's house is broken into they don't care about the stuff at all. They care that their personal space and sense of security has been violated. Also the criminal doesn't know what they'll find when they get in in but they are setting up a situation that can escalate quickly. Kids home alone? Someone with a shotgun? The very act of breaking in means they are ready to commit violence. If someone breaks into our house and sleeps there all weekend while we are on vacation, but doesn't take anything, does that deserve a lesser sentence than if they took a $100 TV? Not in my opinion.
It's always that kid. I did something similar in high school with luckily no serious repercussions but yup it was another kid who ratted me out. I could have changed my grades and stuff but luckily I was pretty content. The network admin who I really looked up to and asked lots of technical questions vouched for me. I think the fact that I only played around with the admin account for fun and never touched anything else helped my case.
What the OP did is (in this case) irrelevant to what the asshole did. There were multiple ways he could have gone about dealing with the situation that did not involve fucking someone over, but he chose to do that instead.
I just cannot attribute something like that to altruism.
Perhaps the discretionary thing to do in the case where the perpetrator is relatively whitehat is to mention to IT that "it appears common knowledge that all admin passwords are compromised" without exposing their identity.
Sigh, I grow tired of pointing this out, but if they were able to figure out someone was doing this, and even who it was, then you weren't a l33t hacker. You used common tools and used a known exploit that people were watching.
You broke rules for personal enjoyment and weren't even good enough to not get caught. You didn't beat them, they beat you. It doesn't matter if you went unnoticed for several months, the fact is standard monitoring and logs were your down fall. Nobody ever thinks of the log files and network monitoring tools as being part of security. Not being prevented from accessing the system is not the same thing as successfully hacking a system unless you aren't caught either.
> You broke rules for personal enjoyment and weren't even good enough to not get caught.
Otherwise known as being young and in their formative years. Plenty of HN had similar experiences and luckily even 15 years ago this harsh view on teenage stupidity was in the minority.
He also doesn't seem claim to be a l33t whatever.
> Not being prevented from accessing the system is not the same thing as successfully hacking a system unless you aren't caught either.
> You didn't beat them, they beat you.
They beat themselves, which was understandable back in the day but that's a popular narrative to this day. If a school kid with random scripts or untargeted ransomware gets into a system I put far more blame on the process that prevented them from being patched than said kid.
He points out below that he was caught because another student overheard him discussing it and ratted on him. I feel like a real hacker wouldn't make a bunch of untested assumptions about situations they have no context for.
Our high school network ran on Novell NetWare, but I wasn't anywhere near smart enough to crack anything so I just wrote a little program in QBASIC that looked like the NetWare login prompt which rejected all login attempts but dumped what was entered into a text file, and left it running on one of the PCs in the computer room. It wasn't even a compiled program, it was just running inside QBASIC's IDE.
Yet it was running for three days before the admin got around to checking the machine, and all he did was try to log in, failed, and rebooted the machine — bringing it back to the real NetWare login screen. I got his password and pretty much everybody else's too, and to this day, more than 20 years later, I still use bits of his admin password from time to time when I'm creating temporary accounts.
This is exactly why some versions of Windows required you to press ctrl-alt-delete to open the login form. Programs aren't allowed to block Windows from receiving ctrl-alt-delete, so a fake login program would not be able to stay on the screen after the user pressed ctrl-alt-delete. (Of course this only works if the user knows to always hit ctrl-alt-delete when they go to login. If the user sees an already-open (fake) login screen and does not hit ctrl-alt-delete, then they're vulnerable.)
The new Windows 10 login screen doesn't seem to support anything running on it, all I've seen is a duo security prompt that A. Only showed up after a login and B. Doesn't work on Windows 10 in a non-rdp session on a Microsoft account. Sadly this also means you can't run something like Wallpaper Engine on the lock screen.
The specific threat that ctrl-alt-delete's supposed to mitigate is where a user's already logged in, but a program's running that mimics the login prompt. Since applications can't handle ctrl-alt-del in Windows, if you pressed it at a fake login prompt, you'd get the Windows Security dialog/screen rather than a login prompt and it would be obvious that something's wrong.
Its utility's limited these days since consumer configurations of Windows have users trained not to expect to have to press ctrl-alt-del to log in. I'm not sure that it's even enabled by default on domain-joined machines any more as of Windows 10 (still available via Group Policy, though).
I've noticed sometimes the lock screen won't show the login dialog via the regular "press any keyboard key" action or via mouse dragging it up, I had to press ctrl-alt-delete. Maybe there are some heuristics that decide this that I don't know about.
It is not a hardware interrupt in the sense that there's nothing special about this key combination to generate a specific interrupt. The only related interrupts are the keyboard interrupts that happen for every keyboard activity, which the BIOS interprets and takes actions like turning on a key LED and storing the actions in a memory buffer (this is all in "real mode" on x86 processors) before that goes further up to the application. Capturing the keyboard interrupt could allow one to intercept specific keystrokes (like Ctrl+Alt+Del) before the OS gets it, but that's not possible in the OSes the most people use today (which all run in "protected mode").
Hah, I and a friend did a very similar thing with our school's NetWare. We managed to get ours to silently log the user in after collecting the credentials so it was mostly invisible. We created it to get the password from a particular guy, but in true dragnet style we installed it on as many machines as we could.
I have no idea how network drives were managed with NetWare, but some students always managed to find world writable dirs (that shouldn't be). Then it was a matter of finding some obscure subdirectory, create a new one (typically containing alt+255 characters) and stick games there. Fun times.
We did get his password (and many others), but never actually did anything with it.
My highschool (well, homeschool resource center) IT admin couldn't log into one of the macs in the A/V lab one day; I heard him talking about it, and being on good terms with him, I offered to try and hack in. I literally googled "how to hack macos password", chanced upon an `nidump` vulnerability recent enough that it hadn't been patched, used that to dump the password hash file, fed that to JTR (compiled on that same machine, to add insult to injury), and almost instantly ended up with the admin password for the entire domain: 1337
It turned out that someone hadn't changed the password, he had just mistyped it over and over again. At the time, I didn't know what "1337" meant, I just thought it was a weird number, and it wasn't until many years later that I suddenly burst into laughter, realizing the "elite" level of security in that lab.
Thanks for the good times, Ron! I'm really glad he just laughed and trusted me as I explored technology instead of freaking out when my portscanners started making the printer spew out a bunch of garbage.
I got kicked out of school when I was fifteen for doing this. My class was the first year to have a mandatory laptop program. Each laptop was running Windows XP on the schools AD domain. I booted up OPH-crack at home, and didn't get a result. So then I torrented a larger rainbow table and ran it again for three days. Boom, there I had it.
My motivation for this was wanting to install my own software on the laptop that my (underprivileged) family was forced to pay for (much more than what it was worth). This was not an optional item, it was a requirement of the state-run school. The student user account was not given local administrator rights on the computer.
After using the administrator account for six months to install my own software (this is when I first taught myself how to program), the school did a random "computer" check, where they confiscated everyone's computer - unannounced, at random, and simultaneously. My computer was asleep, signed onto the administrator account.
During the inspection, the school's IT administrators and an external contractor not only went through all of the files on the local computer, but they also my Gmail account which had credentials saved in Firefox.
When my father was called into the office to discuss what they found, the school had the state police there to discuss charges. After listening to them rant on for about thirty minutes, my father turned to the female police officer and calmly said "I would like to press charges against [ ...... ] school, and Mr [ ...... ] personally for accessing my child's email account in an unauthorized manner". The head master agreed to not proceed with charges but I was no longer welcome at the school.
Unrelated, but five years later, Mr [ ...... ] was charged with possession of child pornography and jailed for fifteen years.
At my small highschool it was well known that the teachers essentially rotated being principal. They all hated it but it had to be done. While I was there it was the history teacher. Before that it was the science teacher. After I left the english teacher took over the role. Yes it was <100 people so there really was only one teacher for each subject with some overlap.
i wouldnt call it unrelated. He clearly had past behavior violating the privacy of his students with the cover of politics and police. Its how predetors like this operate, finding an authority position and exploiting it. And he clearly got away with it that time.
I wish my story was as cool and involved some technical expertise.
In year 10, a friend of mine saw our school network admin type the admin password in (he used his index fingers and typed in each character one at a time like someone with very little typing experience - this was 1998)
Anyway, I used this info to log in as the admin and I promptly deleted all of the student accounts in the school. Students around me immediately started complaining they couldn’t log in or access their assignments.
It was a stupid and immature thing to do.
Guess it’s a good reminder and lesson that you should always be careful who is watching you over your shoulder.
Oh, did something similar to change a friend's grades in college. Pretended to be on my smartphone while the professor signed in, and filmed their fingers on the keyboard. Took some trial and error watching the low-res video (this was before phones had nice cameras) frame by frame to figure out which keys he was hitting.
My high school's administrator password was “math”. I think the statue of limitations has expired by now.
I got it by writing a simple login spoofer in Turbo Pascal. The funny thing is I never bothered to remove it and after I graduated, I heard from the actual administrator that they were having a strange problem where the first login of the day spit out a disk full error.
> I got it by writing a simple login spoofer in Turbo Pascal.
Ha, I did the exact same thing, in turbo pascal as well!
Man, I miss those simple computer systems. I used to go to other peoples' desks and type the word "end" in column 100 of the first line of their program. They'd go mad with frustration trying to figure out why their program always ran instantly, with zero errors and zero output. Or I'd like them watch me type in my 6-digit numeric password, but they still couldn't log in as me because I was slyly holding down the alt key as I typed, so the password was really a single extended ascii character...
Getting up to all those hijinks gave me a love of computers that really set the direction my life would take.
Our high school's local admin password on every machine was the name of the school district. Used it to install P2P software and emulators on lots of the machines throughout my time there. On grad day I was setting up a slideshow with my CS teacher and the domain login wasn't working. I said "just log in with local admin". He said "I don't know the password". I did it in front of him. His words: "I don't want to know what you've done with this"
I spent three solid semesters wasting my "Computer Science" electives on breaking into the Novell system... I found tons of these encrypted passwords, and it never occurred to me to just crack one. I did find plenty of other ways to get in, though :)
Yea historically the SAM file on windows has always been a weak spot because of its NTLM hashing scheme. By breaking passwords larger than 7 letters into multiple sub-password hashes it virtually guaranteed rainbow tables would destroy its security.
I used this weakness whilst working at British Telecom to legally break into some NT boxes on behalf of a FTSE 100 company whos system my team got asked to take over.
They had had a bad break up with another supplier and had lost access.
I used our Art directors MAC to break in - I did consider setting up a diy cracking farm using all our suns and running it over night but I suspect that the security department might not have approved.
The "split into 7s" thing is from LM, which goes back to the OS/2 days... and it uses DES, which operates with 56-bit keys: 7 8-bit characters. Old DES-based crypt() has a similar limit: 8 7-bit characters.
NT hashes use MD4, which wasn't invented until 1990.
I did the same thing at my school but it was a brand new SMT magnet school so we showed the net admins and helped to prevent it... Zipslack (first 100mb linux distro) with l0phtcrack was part of my EDC. I believe the first time it was shown to the adults was after someone locked the school network admin out of everything so we helped him recover. We even set up a security lab for the admin team. The next year anything that looked like hacking was grounds for expulsion which lead to a lot more problems with it if you ask me. The school with a wing full of hackers wasn't gonna quit looking at new tools. The school just decided it was like teen sex or smoking. Banned! Lol.
My school hacking story: 7th grade, springtime, ~1998. The district used software that ran on login and populated your desktop/start menu and permissions. This was a mixed network of windows 98 and XP for all the newer computers. I found a bug where if you corrupted your own user profile folder, windows would load a temporary one after reboot and not apply all the restrictions, giving access to explorer. You could also get access to explorer by going through the f1 help menu in a couple of different programs.
Promptly used explorer to navigate to my english teachers computer via the hidden c$ share, and delete the executable from the program files folder. Next time she logged in, BOOM nothing. no start menu, no desktop, no permissions. The admins had an incredibly consistent and predictable naming scheme, and my idiot "friends" I shared the vulnerability with promptly used this to nuke like 3 labs and a bunch of teachers computers.
Fast forward 1 month, we all got pulled out of PE by a cop and sentenced to 1-3 weeks of community service.
* I abused that profile bug to work exclusively out of portable firefox on a usb drive instead of being tied to internet explorer 6 and 7, which allowed me to bypass proxy settings and get access to gmail and read slashdot/ign/halo.bungie.org during school hours! Those were the days.
There is something very wrong with the school (system) if you actually got expelled for that. If that is the whole story, they should have explained why it was wrong and tried to encourage you to learn more, responsibly, by actually asking you to help them with securing their system. That is roughly what my headmaster in Russia did in similar circumstances. The thought of expelling a kid over something silly like this wouldn't even cross anyone's mind.
In our engineering school the password hash used to be publicly accessible. Someone had devised a johntheripper binary to look like seti@home and made it run on several machines with the admins' benediction.
We had a meagre limited amount of quota on these shared systems (between 1 and 10 MB) but teachers had 1 GB. We stored the Quake binary on one teacher's account, Starcraft 1 on another and start kicking.
One day I was board in comp sci and decided to CD into drives a - z. Found a bunch of Novelle NetWare utils sitting on a hidden drive. One of them listed all the users on the system, while another sent back generic user info. Thing is, this was a very large high school and a bunch of accounts never signed in. All you had to do was log in with a blank password and it would prompt you to select one on login. Any funny business on the network was done on a burner account. It was all just fun and games, but never did get caught. Although, one of my teachers did say the network admin sent out an email to all my teachers, telling them not to let me touch their computer. No matter. It would be foolish to login from a location that has a record of you physically being there.
In high school a teacher in the computer lab tossed a piece of note paper in the garbage, a fellow student saw it, fished it out and brought it to me because I would be interested in having an admin password I guess. It was indeed the admin password for the QNX machines we used.
I was also expelled for basically doing the exact same thing. Exploiting cached domain admin passwords for Novell via a local SAM file. NTLM hashing does something incredibly dumb for legacy purposes by splitting passwords longer than 7 letters into multiple hashes for the first 7 letters and the second 7 letters. We got caught because a kid left a flash drive with teachers passwords in a computer lab and when the teacher tried to find out who the drive belonged too, he found that kids homework and his own password. There's some news stories that came from it:
This is a common refrain, mailing lists do need a lot of instructions at the bottom to make sense — email wasn't made for groups. It's like 'group' SMS, your phone might provide you with a single chat window with all your friends, but what it really is doing is just sending a separate SMS to every one of the recipients.
So you need the 'the manual' attached to every message to make sure people get it right. Looks downright scary sometimes though, especially the prospect of getting swiped at by UNIX greybeards if you do it wrong.
Incidentally, I'm working on a modern version of this whole page in a Reddit-like interface. (https://aether.app) It doesn't solve all of the pains of listserv, but it does help with most, including this one you mentioned.
It actually was decent in the beginning but with each change google broke more features and made the UI far less usable. Not to mention, you force anyone you want in your group to create a google account.
> Incidentally, I'm working on a modern version of this whole page in a Reddit-like interface. (https://aether.app) It doesn't solve all of the pains of listserv, but it does help with most, including this one you mentioned.
A decent email client will display these as a foldable hierarchy, sort of like HN or Reddit's posting interface, just with the body of the posts hidden. With that and full text search it's not so hard. It's the web interfaces that are a bit bulky.
Incidentally, forgetting I had inverted colors for nighttime reading, to me the image looked like a fuzzy peach colored microphone or something similar. Took me a while to figure out how it was obscene! :)
For the most part, you wouldn't use the web interface, which exists mostly for archival/search-engine purposes. You use a plain email program, and get used to hitting "reply all" instead of "reply" (this will have it be "To:" the person you're replying to, and will "Cc:" the mailing list address), you send a regular email to the mailing list address when you want to start a new thread. A halfway decent email program will thread the replies, like HN does.
As an internet old-timer, I initially thought this was a joke, but then realized that it's entirely reasonable for a whole "generation" of internet users to grow up without using mailing lists, and that indeed they may seem scary at first!
I'm shocked at how well the old hashing stood up; sure, it's totally crackable today, but a well-picked password still took 4+ days to crack on modern hardware, which is remarkable. (Granted, it doesn't sound like they did anything fancy like throwing a hundred cloud instances at it or something; I'm not saying you should use DES today:) )
Inherited a system at current (for a few more weeks) employer (recently written so no excuse) that had used a weak hash for the password, I pointed out to my boss how bad it was and that it shouldn't have happened, he didn't pay a great deal of attention.
So I threw the OpenMP variant of John the Ripper at it (I'd just built a 8C/16T Ryzen machine and was curious) it broke ~80% of the passwords in under an hour and all of them over an afternoon of not been in use.
Went to see the boss and gave him the list of passwords including his (which was one of the weaker ones) - he gave me the time to fix it and some other glaring security issues.
The more things change the more they stay the same.
I know enough about security to know that I really don't know about security.
Reminds me of a security issue we had on our linux servers at a former employer. Short of it is, one could run any command as another non-root user without having sudo access or knowing the user's password. rsh access was inadvertently left wide open on thousands of servers.
A coworker and I stumbled into this one morning when I was helping him figure out how to remotely invoke a linux command from a windows gui. I don't recall why we were using rsh as we'd normally ssh into our servers. As we sat there trying to figure out how to enter the password, we decided to just try and run the command w/o a password. We were shocked when it just worked - we were never prompted for a password. When I reported this to my director, he asked me how bad it was. I was like, watch this: I sent an email as the CEO to him saying "you're fired.". He immediately went to our infrastructure team to get it fixed. Fun times...
> I know enough about security to know that I really don't know about security.
I'm not sure anyone ever gets past this point. There's way too much for any person to know and not enough hours in a day or days in a year or years in a lifetime to master everything. Even when it comes to computers in general at some level it just becomes magic to me. I might be able to point to a chip and say "that's the sound chip" or "that's a math co-processor", and even write software for it, but I have no idea what goes on inside and I wouldn't know where to even start trying to build one from scratch.
That's funny - I was going to post that I was first exposed to this thirty years ago when my password was cracked on an old Sun computer! I didn't complain, it was a wake up call. (You weren't at OUCS were you?)
Ah, I remember doing that. Not quite 30 years ago, but jeez, getting close. Funny, it helped me remember some of the professor's wives names, and for some reason I can remember the husband-hunting Italian lady's password (amici) while I've forgotten both her name, her thesis project and everything else about her.
It was actually decently well received by the department head; he sent out a memo to the staff to not use their wives names for emails and looked like an early computer security innovator in the physics department.
20 years ago you could also sniff passwords for all Windows users in the same subnet as you. Windows used the NTLM scheme which was known to be weak even back then. An AMD K6 running overnight cracked almost all of them at my university's lab, including the Active Directory domain admin.
I had both experiences in high school. One situation -> bad result. The other I was made a quasi IT fixer - they put me to work (Novel Netware and other stuff). I would be called out of class to fix things. Since I was naturally super interested in how everything worked together and all the features and the librarians or VP or teachers were not it worked out. At the time I took it reasonably seriously.
In hindsight some teacher must have spoken up for me to come up with the solution when they were trying to come up with an appropriate response.
I sent more than one message from God by telnet to <mail server> 25. Good times!
Around the same time, someone at my school made a much, much worse semi-accidental prank. Semi-accidental because he didn't think it would work. See, the campus list serve was setup to only allow certain senders to send messages. Makes sense, only a few top administrators should be able to do that. This person theorized that a simple <smtp: from> hack, using an authorized person's email, might circumvent the restriction. He was right! Unfortunately, rather than "test 1 2 3" or something, he sent a message, from the president, that all classes had been cancelled. Had he stopped there, maybe it would have been chalked up to a prank. But he went further: The president would be using this free time to, um, entertain amorous visitors at their leisure. So, yeah, expelled. His excuse, when interviewed by the student newspaper, was "I didn't think it would work."
I send unauthenticated email on port 25, every semester, in front of my students, as part of a discussion on internet application protocols. I can't use "God", because the addresses are validated, but I do send "from" the school's IT director. I even give them the commands to do it themselves (along with a strict talking to about how it's not truly anonymous because their network access is authenticated).
I've been able to do it at every university I've studied or worked at.
Many, many years ago when I was in college at the University of Rochester, I found a paper in the computing lab with the root passwords for about twelve machines at Stanford. I emailed them and told them I'd destroyed it but that they should be much more careful. I got yelled at.
This must have been a popular pastime in the 90s as I did the same thing for my university's security on their new, centralized student accounts server. This effort was further aided by there being a predictable salt used for the password hashes that indicated which passwords were still set to the (again, predictable) default pattern. They were kind not to kick me out and not fire me as I was both a student and part time employee in their networking services department.
25 years ago I didn't need to crack anyone's unix passwords- they were all broadcasting them in cleartext every few minutes because they were using eudora or some other mail client, and I had converted an old sun workstation I found into a packet sniffer.
At my middle school the default password for all accounts was "linux". The school was Windows (Win2k) only ;) it was around 2006/2007)
I had access to a dozent Teacher accounts from oder ones who never used a Computer.
Actually that was the first time that i heard the word Linux and learned the meaning just few years later.
> I'm shocked at how well the old hashing stood up; sure, it's totally crackable today, but a well-picked password still took 4+ days to crack on modern hardware, which is remarkable
It's not because the hash is strong, but the password itself is strong (if the attackers don't know additional information about chess). The sole purpose of using a strong <del>hash or a</del> KDF on password is making low-entropy passphrase harder to crack by increasing the cost of every round, especially for cryptographic purposes. But if the passphrase is already strong (6 random words from the Diceware wordlist), you can use MD5, and I won't be surprised if it takes one year to crack. Having 10 random words is guaranteed to be uncrackable under all circumstances, because it's literally a 128-bit key.
If your password has 80-bit of entropy, it makes even listing all possible passwords (without any hashing or encryption) a difficult job. Symmetric encryption works in a similar way, it's secure not because of the computational resources it takes, but the number of possible keys it has.
What is the moral of the story? Consider to use a password manager!
MD5 is vulnerable to collision attacks, which allows the attacker to control both messages, m and m', and find a case where h(m) == h(m').
But if a hash, h(m), is given, finding m' where h(m) == h(m') is much more difficult, it's known as a second-preimage attack. "Image" basically means "output", "preimage" means "input", "second-preimage attack" means "find another input that has the same output already given here".
Wikipedia says a preimage attack against full MD5 still requires 2^123.4 steps (2009), only a theoretical possibility. Second-preimage should be much harder.
I don't know if there are improvements, but it's still extremely difficult. Well, of course it's not to say that you should use MD5.
A second-preimage attack is where you want to find m' where h(m) == h(m')... and you know m already. This is not very useful for password hashing; it would give you a second password that would also work to log into the account, but what's the point of that if you already know the first password? The relevant attack for password hashing is a regular preimage attack, where you don't know m (and it would be acceptable to find either m itself or any other string that hashes to the same value).
That's just a "pre-image attack". A "second pre-image attack" is a different scenario, not relevant to password-hashing for the reasons grandparent described, where you already know a pre-image, and must find a different one.
Rot13 is not a hashing algorithm. A hashing algorithm is a one-way function where many entities in the input domain map to the same entity in the output codomain. This means if you have the hash you can't determine the input with out making a guess.
Rot13 is a function with a one to one mapping between the domain and codomain. If you have the output you can apply a function to get the input.
Really it's because of a mixture of the two. The traditional DES-based crypt is basically a really early KDF - it was intentionally designed to be slow in order to thwart brute-forcing attacks. (Of course, since it was based on the speed of late-70s computers and had a limited password length, it's pretty feasable to brute force with modern hardware.)
MD5 wouldn't be invented for another decade or two...
Its quite truthworthy. Its run by Troy Hunt (known security researcher) and : "When you search Pwned Passwords
The Pwned Passwords feature searches previous data breaches for the presence of a user-provided password. The password is hashed client-side with the SHA-1 algorithm then only the first 5 characters of the hash are sent to HIBP per the Cloudflare k-anonymity implementation. HIBP never receives the original password nor enough information to discover what the original password was." from https://haveibeenpwned.com/Privacy
My only concern with the site is some privacy implications. I entered a friend's email just to check for him and it wasn't validated at all, and I found out a few sites he had accounts with. Nothing too concerning was revealed, but privacy for its own sake is a valid goal IMO.
As far as I know hibp specifically hides sensitive breaches (such as the Ashley Madison one) to non-verified access. Also, he basically only shows public data; your privacy was already gone back when the original company failed to secure their servers.
Understood, it's a small complaint, the data is already out there on the web and it's not his fault. But there is value in aggregation or the site wouldn't exist. It makes it easier to just put a few emails in there and see what shows up for fun or malice.
It's great that sensitive breaches are apparently hidden but I'd be wary of judging for other people what is sensitive. Some like Ashley Madison are obvious, others less so.
You can download all the hash files if you wish to run purely locally.
Also the site hosting Troy's list is Cloudflare. Cloudflare act as a https proxy for a large number of sites, so they already have access to a large number of passwords.
This suggests you don't understand how DES-based crypt() worked, so let's take both angles here:
1. Would it be safe to build a password hash like crypt() based on 3DES today?
Maybe, kind of, it depends, don't do this. "Based on" is key here. You'd have to come up with some way to try to use 3DES in this fashion, just as the developers of Unix crypt() used DES. Basically you're trying to build a cryptographic hash out of a primitive that's not really intended for that purpose, you also need to add more salt than the Unix team did back then, and then you need it to run very slowly, preferably on everybody's hardware not just the generic (likely x86-64) general purpose CPU you're using. Lots of people already built _good_ ways to do password hashing in the 21st century, and if none of those are available somehow you should just use PBKDF2 with SHA256 and a nice big iteration count and that'll be tolerable.
2. Oh, I didn't realise, I just meant is 3DES fine for encryption?
You should not do this. The main thing wrong with DES is the key size is too small, which 3DES fixes (effective key size with full 3DES is 112 bits, which is very short today but probably not the biggest hole in whatever security system you're building). But the next biggest thing wrong with it is that it's a block cipher with a small block size, 64-bits. 64-bits is small enough that bad guys may be able to collide your blocks and set fire to everything. To avoid this: Don't use 64-bit block ciphers, go get a real cipher like AES that uses 128-bit blocks. Done. Why are you still here? Could it be secure if you can defuse the collision risk (e.g. you only encipher very small amounts of data)? Sure, but now you're defining the problem to make the choice of primitive look safe, which is always a terrible idea.
Thanks for the great answer. I am not familiar with DES but the reason I wondered about this is because I saw that some VPN hardware devices still has 3DES as an option and even as the default encryption algorithm. I was really baffled by this because I had assumed that 3DES has completely fallen out of favor. So I guess the company isn't choosing sensible defaults. But at the time, I thought maybe they knew something I didn't (although I still switched the algorithm to AES since there's no reason not to).
Doubt it. It took 4 days for just one top of the line GPU. Any dedicated attacker will have farms to parallelize it even further. It’s not exactly linear, but with just 4 GPUs (~$4000; well within the reach of any dedicated attacker), that’s one day. Not to mention the fact that GPUs have still been roughly following Moore’s Law in terms of performance.
It’s probably safe from the casual attacker who just downloads a password list and runs a one word dictionary attack, but for a dedicated attacker, let alone a nation state, it’s not secure.
TL;DR: Just use AES. Even an ASIC isn’t powerful enough for that. Searching the entire key space would take more energy than the universe has. Compare that to DES that can have its entire key space searched in a few days.
Edit: you said triple DES, not single. My point still stands. DES, even 3DES, is not secure. If I can crack a DES password in 4 days, I can crack a 3DES password in 12. AES with a strong password is virtually uncrackable.
> If I can crack a DES password in 4 days, I can crack a 3DES password in 12
It's multiplicative, not additive. 3DES is about 2^56 times as difficult to crack as DES. (Not 2^112 times because there is an attack that effectively limits it to twice the effective bits of DES, rather than the three times you might expect at first).
An important security property all symmetric ciphers should offer is immunity to chosen-plaintext attack, if the attacker controls "message", it shouldn't make the cipher more easy to crack.
But in this case, the attacker can obtain all the 2^56 possible encryption of message by enumerating key1, put it in a lookup table (assume the table-lookup time is O(1)) , then we can try all possible decryption of ciphertext by enumerating key2. Then compare it with the lookup-table for a match, bingo!
If key is 56-bit, the attacker gets 2^56 outputs for the left side, 2^56 outputs for the right side, total number of operations is 2 x 2^56 == 2^57, not 2^112.
To increase the security claim to 2^112, we need triple encryption, not double encryption, thus 2DES is never used.
The idea that simple double-encryption doesn't work because of such a simple attack shocked a lot of newcomers.
This is mostly irrelevant in the context of password hashing however. We're simply feeding passwords into a blackbox at X/s until we get a match. 3DES runs at approximately X/3 compared to DES. If it takes 4 days to feed a bajillion passwords into DES, it takes 12 days to feed the same number into 3DES.
> It's multiplicative, not additive. 3DES is about 2^56 times as difficult to crack as DES. (Not 2^112 times because there is an attack that effectively limits it to twice the effective bits of DES, rather than the three times you might expect at first).
If you’re using 3 different keys, yes, that makes sense. But if you’re just keystretching one key, wouldn’t it just take 3 times as long because you encrypt, decrypt, encrypt (3 processes)?
I had a password for an old school system (which I wrote) that was "any 21 characters where the 21st character is a 'z'". People would watch me type it (mashing 20 keys then the 'z') and be amazed I could remember a password that long.
I have a similar anecdote. I had a password that was 14 characters long, for a school system too. One day I mistyped it and it still worked. I was puzzled and discovered that it actually took only the first 8 characters into account. From that day, whenever someone was around, I typed the first 8 characters as fast as I could (pretty fast as it was something I typed in quite often) and then I continued to type random stuff like crazy for a few seconds then hit enter and loved to see how people face when they saw it working like if what I typed actually was my exact password.
I discovered that's the way my banking app actually worked until only a few updates ago. The password was originally limited to 8 characters (why this was the case for an online bank password is beyond me) but the app would allow you to enter more characters into the password input. It only accepted the first 8 characters though so anything you entered after those was ignored. I discoveres this when I mistyped my password adding an extra.character at the end and hitting submit without thinking and was amazed and kind of worried to find it still worked.
What system is this? I had used a 20+ character password on their website using my password manager to enter it every time. One day they said the password was wrong, which was unlikely since the password manager was entering it. I ended up doing a password reset and set it to something shorter like 15 characters, and then it worked. I don't know if they truncate or not, but they've definitely allowed much longer passwords than 6 or 7 characters. I've hit this issue with their website more than once so I know they've fixed it and re-broken it a few times in the past.
When I was living in Puerto Rico for work, the local credit union I was using had this same problem. Although the tooltip and messaging on the page said 8-16 chars, only the first 8 were used, and from my testing it had to be case insensitive.
I promptly updated my direct deposit with my employer and used my more secure off-island bank as the destination for the majority of my pay, and had only the minimum required to avoid fees and act as spending money put in that acct.
It's more fun when they limit you to X characters (no special characters!) while choosing the password but let you input any number of characters when logging in, and failing you when you typed too many.
There is no way that "use a (proper) subset of the characters for bits of entropy" is going to beat "use all the characters for bits of entropy". Almost by definition, the second is going to have more entropy.
You're not getting anywhere, because people trying to guess your password don't have to guess your scheme. All you're doing is making it easier for them. There is no sense in which you are making it harder.
In the optimum case, you'd require them to get the right characters in the slots you're counting, but to not use the wrong characters in the slots you're not counting, thus demonstrating that they actually know the scheme in question and aren't just getting lucky. There would be exactly one character you'd accept in the slot you're counting, and there would be exactly one character they could use to indicate they understand your pattern in the slots you're not counting. This maximizes the chance they have proved to be in possession of your password, rather than just getting lucky because you didn't count their misses. This is, of course, simply using a password normally.
That's just the same thing as a password, though. Even a short password is still just ensuring that specific characters are in specific positions. The only situation where this would be useful is against people with physical or viewable access to the password being typed.
But if each of those is a valid password, how does it defeat keyloggers or shoulder snoopers in any way? They just have to type in the same password.
Now, if the rules were totally secret, you could make it such that each time you used a password, it was no longer valid. That would defeat the keylogger, while still allowing you to remember your 3 special characters. But of course you can't ever assume your rules are secret (security by obscurity and all that).
> You could expand upon that system by having it only check the 2nd, 5th, 10th, Nth etc. characters
A bank I use does something like this. On account creation you give it a long key string and on subsequent log-in it asks for three different characters (e.g. the 4th, 3rd and 9th characters) from the string.
I'm guilty of that. I tend to mistype my passwords a lot, since I try to keep them pretty complicated, but since I usually realize quickly enough to imperceptibly hit Ctrl-U and retype in a smooth motion, I just let onlookers believe that my password is very, very long.
If anyone is curious, the equivalent in modern notation is “1. d4!”. Moving the pawn in front of the queen forward by two spaces. The exclamation point indicates that the annotater believes it to be a particularly strong move (describing a standard move from opening theory that way is a bit tongue-in-cheek).
Right after finishing Electronics vocational school I spent the next year working as an intern at Unicamp (Campinas University in Brazil). The job was at the computer lab of the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering. This was before ethernet (yeah, I' that old), so dumb terminals were linked to the CPUs through RS-232 cables - when I was not burning my fingertips soldering DB-25 connectors I was tinkering with every computer I could get my hands on.
I saw /etc/passwd and asked my boss how to decrypt the passwords. He told me it was a one-way encryption, so the login program would just encrypt the password you provided and compare to the encrypted value. He went on explaining the old crypt algorithm and even made a bet I could not guess his password. He said it was related to a movie.
So at 17 I was hooked and started studying the sources. In the end I just patched and recompiled the passwd binary to store clean text passwords in a hidden file. Later I learned this was called a trojan horse.
And even now, 30 years later, I remember his face when I told the movie was Citizen Kane and his password was "rosebud".
Thank you Miguel and Gorgonio for teaching me about C and Unix! This knowledge paid my rent for 3 decades and I still love the job.
One lone password from the original list, Bill Joy's password, is still uncracked as far as I can tell. Bill Joy is the co-founder of Sun Microsystems, author of vi, and a key developer of BSD UNIX. He apparently picked the best password.
I already checked all passwords made of any printable character up to 7 symbols length. Full 8-symbol bruteforce will take about 120 days on my hardware, so I prioritized passwords with no special symbols first.
Does anyone with hashcat and GPGPU want to join me?
It's probably actually easier to learn vulgar passwords. Well vulgar anything really, it's a memorization trick we were taught in school to find a way to relate boring things to sex. Probably anything that has strong emotional valence works.
You missed the "slightly" part of the embarrassing. You can find other more embarrassing things I wrote when you search for my email-address. Re-use of slightly embarrassing passwords is not worse than re-use of any other unique password.
Oh no not that embarrassing. I don't record private secrets into my passwords. They're more like "I never told Cindy I loved her." with Cindy being a now-dead cat. My embarrassment threshold is low :-)
ken replied to the thread about this on TUHS 4-5 days prior to the actual crack. But you are right. No one actually said "hey ken, better change your password if you haven't because I am going to crack the password you used in 1980".
This brings back memories of a common exploit w/tftp, such that you could download an unshodowed /etc/passwd file from a remote machine, decrypt it, log into that remote system, collect new hosts from /etc/hosts, then rinse and repeat. Hash rate were pretty slow back then, but the fact that people used passwds straight out of dictionaries helped, so I'm told...
i deduced my dad's password when I was a middle-schooler. The uni micro had a teletype and although it did not echo password characters, if you mistyped your password, it would print the mistyped password, and knowing a bit about my dad, I could figure out what the correct password was. I logged in and sent himself an email reminding him to use a better password.
Our high school's library computer (in the 90s) logged failed log-ins in a file readable by anyone. Just the username, not the attempted passwords, but the return key on that computer was not reliable and a very common error was that the return key didn't register leading to "usernamepassword" being in the log.
To be precise, in the case of a patterned password (i.e., dictionary word or something a human can recognize), it leaks all but about 2-3 bits, assuming the human can work out the most likely mistake as in your example, and we assume it's a simple error like a nearby key or simple character flip.
If it's a random password, it may still leave 2-3 bits per character as it becomes much harder to know where the error is (e.g., if "j9^vl4JO" is wrong, what is the correct password?), but if you have your hands on two independent errors, which is reasonably likely, that pretty much collapses to 1-2 bits tops even in the random case (e.g., if you also have "k9^vl4JP" that pretty much nails it down to either the first and last being "j P" or "k O").
>e.g., if "j9^vl4JO" is wrong, what is the correct password?
Shouldn't that remain utterly trivial to brute though? If we're assuming all the standard face keys+shifted, I think that's 94 characters. If it's fully unknown then search space is 94^8 or about 6E15, not good but if it's an adaptive hash sizable. But if it's only a one character error, wouldn't you just brute through each of the 8 one by one with only 94 each? That'd reduce it to just 752 possibilities at worst which is so low someone determined could even do it by hand, even ignoring any obvious psychology like the likelihood that the special character isn't the mistake and probably the only special character too.
Certainly not quibbling that it's an awful idea. I don't even like "password hints" so many systems still seem to have, they should be random!
>You don't think the special character could be a mistake?
Not that it makes any real difference here with such a small search space, but in this scenario (known typo, information revealed) it's less likely. Remember, we're considering a human typing something out on a keyboard, so the probabilities aren't fully random. If we're trying to use probabilities to cut down the search space further, a caret character requires shifting well away from the home row (shift-6 US standard qwerty) so it's more likely to represent active intent. Perhaps it could be % or & (shift-5/shift-7), but if you know someone is trying to type a password out and has made a typo then a left/right neighbor with shifting preserved is an easy place to start guessing.
Obviously, this whole thing is such an awful idea and breaks everything so badly that it's all kind of theoretical anyway, hopefully no software has had behavior like this for a long time. And any actual brute force program today has far more sophisticated pattern attacks based on the enormous corpus of password leaks and knowledge there now is, which is why it's foolish to try to try to be clever with passwords rather then just generating something fully randomized.
>if you mistyped your password, it would print the mistyped password,
That's incredibly useful. Stand next to someone, casually chatting, while they enter their password. Just before they hit [ENTER], stab a key -- say, a 'z'. Boom, it prints their password with an extra 'z' at the end.
Sure, they'd be aware of it and likely change their password. But still. A more common use case would be to hang around and wait for them to inevitably typo the password. If you see that enough, you'll get a really good idea about what it's supposed to be, or at least give you enough of the password to make figuring out the missing part trivial.
I've never done anything malicious with the knowledge, but I've totally learned people's passwords just by watching their fingers type. I make an effort to have passwords that would be difficult for a human to nail down while watching them typed quickly in real time. The ubiquity of cameras has me reconsidering input and/or authentication mechanisms, though.
It makes me happy to read this. I cracked the admin pass at my school for a really trivial reason, I think I wanted to adjust the audio panning. By default it was set 80% left to compensate for the school's cheap headsets.
Possibly, I also wanted to disable the spyware / remote access they had on all the computers. There no experience quite like having your control of the mouse cursor taken away by an invisible, omnipotent sysadmin. Hilariously, they wouldn't even run a logout command remotely, but actually go to the start menu to do it, I think to make a point.
At least in modern usage, giving the exclam to signal "I prefer this opening move" isn't uncommon, so it's not a stretch to think that it was done in the seventies too. Also it rounds the whole thing out nicely to eight characters.
Exclam! Generally a good move, perhaps even unexpectedly so. Double exclam, !!, being a brilliant move, especially one with flair like a sacrifice. Triple exclam is reserved for the games of Emory Tate. ;)
It isn’t running a single thread at 100% GPU use until the end, it has to partition up the search space and balance how it creates possible passwords on the CPU, on the GPU, and based on the kind of attack patterns you asked for - and when it’s getting to the end of the search space, some of the search space partitions are done and the remaining ones aren’t enough to load the GPU fully, so hash throughout drops.
I don't know for sure, but these Radeon GPUs are power hungry and hot. It could be just that after multiple days the entire computer is heat soaked and goes through more thermal throttling than even the "steady state" GPU tests that most gamers do (a few hours).
It might also be cruft building up over time with small memory leaks or imperfect memory management.
I think the "towards the end" part is the misleading one. The software has no idea where the end is or it would just jump there. Since the run took 4 days slowing down due to throttling would happen pretty fast as the card reaches a thermal equilibrium. Certainly wouldn't take days to do it.
It's more likely the explanation above of something (not heat) accumulating over time and slowing down the processing.
I guess that cracking this specific password could be said to have been parallelized over multiple individuals over the years, and it wouldn't surprise me if it had burnt multiple years of processor time. In the end, someone had to get lucky when picking their search space/exploration parameters :-)
I once anonymously emailed administrators of a multiuser unix system that perhaps they should handle the numerous users that had home directories and .bashrc files that were both writable by everyone. After a week I had the users themselves email when they logged in. It was fixed that day.
Speaking of passwords, I just discovered that HN will ban your IP address from creating an account if you have a question mark in your password. I assume this is to help against SQL injection? (Not a security person here.) Pretty extreme result, but luckily I can post from another IP. I wonder how many users have hit this and not known why?
When I create hashes for systems, I actually, now create a "version" prefix for hashes... this way I can on-run upgrade to a newer hash at login (if/when needed).
Have upgraded a older systems this way... after 30 days, dumped any that hadn't changed and sent emails notifying that they'd have to use the "forgot password" option the next time they wanted to login.
Currently using pbkdf2/hmacsha512*100000 for password hashing. 16-byte salt, 32byte result... varying too far from NIST guidelines would have been a hard sell.
Since this password list appears to come from one of the original systems on which UNIX and C were developed, it would be fun to see the names and original passwords of all the luminaries. I merged together the author's work, the original /etc/passwd, and the comments from the mailing list:
root:OVCPatZ8RFmFY:Ernie Co-vax --> cowperso
daemon:*:The devil himself --> (login not allowed)
bill:.2xvLVqGHJm8M:Bill Joy --> (password still unknown)
ozalp:m5syt3.lB5LAE:Ozalp Babaoglu --> 12ucdort
sklower:8PYh/dUBQT9Ss:Keith Sklower --> theik!!!
kridle:4BkcEieEtjWXI:Bob Kridle --> jilland1
kurt:olqH1vDqH38aw:Kurt Shoens --> sacristy
schmidt:FH83PFo4z55cU:Eric Schmidt --> wendy!!!
hpk:9ycwM8mmmcp4Q:Howard Katseff --> graduat;
tbl:cBWEbG59spEmM:Tom London --> ..pnn521
jfr:X.ZNnZrciWauE:John Reiser --> 5%ghj
mark:Pb1AmSpsVPG0Y:Mark Horton --> uio
dmr:gfVwhuAMF0Trw:Dennis Ritchie --> dmac
ken:ZghOT0eRm4U9s:Ken Thompson --> p/q2-q4!
sif:IIVxQSvq1V9R2:Stuart Feldman --> axolotl
scj:IL2bmGECQJgbk:Steve Johnson --> pdq;dq
pjw:N33.MCNcTh5Qw:Peter J. Weinberger --> uucpuucp
bwk:ymVglQZjbWYDE:Brian W. Kernighan --> /.,/.,
uucp:P0CHBwE/mB51k:UNIX-to-UNIX Copy --> whatnot
srb:c8UdIntIZCUIA:Steve Bourne --> bourne
finger::The Finger Program --> (no pw but runs a program, not a login shell)
who::The Who Program --> (no password but runs a program, not a login shell)
w::The W Program --> (no password but runs a program, not a login shell)
mckusick:AAZk9Aj5/Ue0E:Kirk McKusick --> foobar
peter:Nc3IkFJyW2u7E:Peter Kessler -- ...hello
henry:lj1vXnxTAPnDc:Robert Henry --> sn74193n
jkf:9ULn5cWTc0b9E:John Foderaro --> sherril.
fateman:E9i8fWghn1p/I:Richard Fateman --> apr1744
fabry:d9B17PTU2RTlM:Bob Fabry --> 561cml..
network:9EZLtSYjeEABE:(no name listed) --> network (runs a program, not a login shell)
tty:: --> (no password but runs a program, not a login shell)
It's amusing to see that even very smart people picked passwords just like people do today:
- spouses' names (jilland1, wendy!!!, sherril.)
- birth dates (apr1744 might be April 17, 1944)
- the first word that came to your mind (whatnot, foobar, ...hello)
- though a few were thoughtful (sn74193n is a synchronous binary counter from the 7400-series chip family and likely immune to dictionary attack in that era)
- easy to type patterns on a keyboard (/.,/., or 5%ghj)
- obscure words (axolotl is a Mexican walking fish)
- different languages (12ucdort is 1,2,3,4 in Turkish)
- and some people didn't care (Steve Bourne, inventor of the Bourne shell, picked "bourne")
The superset of all of the original CSRG-shipped cracking-eligible descrypt hashes is actually about 1400 hashes, drawn from a slightly smaller number of overlapping accounts among releases. Many of them appear to have been temp/test/throwaway with generic usernames and short, simple passwords.
Dear stargrave, I am very grateful for sharing this knowledge. It was a delight reading.With this, I realized I am almost achieving a old dream of mine since my teenager years: I understood almost everything. And came in the proper time, just as I am finishing my masters in informatics and computer engineering this year. You have my gratitude.
There was a room full of teletypes connected over serial ports. They aren't shown in the photo. I can't find a picture resembling any of the teletypes that we had, but the general idea is shown here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Teleprinter#/media/File:Telesc... (The ones we actually had were a bit smaller and flatter)
I disagree. I don't think this is at all settled, and in fact is a bit topic right now. The debate has just moved on past personal passwords.
For example, chat systems. Do you want an open one where anyone can get on with a minimum of fuss and participate? Or do you want an open one, with controls to manage spam and harassment so that people are able to be open while using it?
(I work at Mozilla, where we are moving off of IRC because, while it encourages participation from any rando who comes by, it is inaccessible to a number of people because they will be attacked if they log in. Many have moved over to Slack, which is very much closed (but open). Not to mention the channels that have been abandoned because they are overrun with spam, which makes them inaccessible or at least useless to everyone. As someone who does not get harassed, I don't really like either of those points on the spectrum even though IRC works great for me if I don't think about the people who are no longer there.)
I remember reading a blog post about how something like "aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa…" with sufficient 'a's was actually perfectly secure since it wasn't included in any of the common cracklists or hash leaks. I think the number of 'a's was somewhere in the 30s. Obviously bruteforcing it would take absurdly long, too.*
The problem is, after I've committed a long passphrase into muscle memory, it probably takes me less time to type a 40-character phrase than count 40 individual keypresses of a button hoping I don't miscount.
* Assuming nobody is stupid enough to make a depth-first password cracking program. "I'm down to a billion 'a's now. I should be ready to try a 'b' any minute now!"
This article from 2013 shows some impressive password-generating techniques that cracked secure-looking passwords like momof3g8kids. It doesn't specifically give an example like MyDogRules###########!, but it seems reasonable they could get it by similar methods of concatenating multiple password fragments.
The only knock on this strategy is that the more people adopt it the less effective it becomes (crackers will just start trying combinations of common words). The up-side is there are more 4-word combinations in English using only the 10,000 most common words than in any 8-character password, so even if crackers targeted the strategy specifically it's more costly to crack.
You often had to share your password in the real world. I've worked on systems where you were only allowed to login at one terminal at a time. If you are back and forth from your desk to the lab it is nice to know another password when you forget to logout in one location.
I guess, to enter the Unix password you need physical access to a machine. If they have access to a machine and can crack a lowercase password, a harder password will not necessarily save you. So at least you can make it easier for you to type.
In fact, the system where the password originates from (3BSD) was released in 1979 and had commands like net(1) for "execute a command on a remote machine" - given a password was provided. Since quite the early days Unix has been designated as a multi-user time-sharing OS for large expensive computers.
I’m slightly confused by the part where the author states a 7-bit search would take 2 years on a modern GPU, and the answer was found in 4 days on a Vega64. Isn’t that a modern GPU? Have I misunderstood here, or was the author’s math incorrect?
It would take two years to generate every hash, but this one happened to be generated earlier than that. It would also be technically possible to guess a Bitcoin address private key on the first guess, but there are 2^160 total possibilities
I can just say that attempting to even begin learning to play bass guitar had me exercising the fingers for two–three hours before they stopped feeling like wooden sticks on the strings. Almost every day. I.e. mashing the keyboard is no workout at all.
This means, however, that a typewriter would likely noticeably exhaust a modern keyboard jockey, though not in eight characters (hopefully). But dunno about teletypes.
Probably not very many. According to XKCD What If?  a modern keyboard takes around 2 millijoules to press a key. Typing a full novel would take a few kilojoules. Even if an old mainframe keyboard took 10x more power to press the keys you would save less than a AA battery worth of energy over writing a full novel.
Using some conversions from an internet site, one AA battery is 1.3e4 Joules and a human requires 8.4e6 Joules per day, so about 133 seconds of energy saved per 6 months of novel, or two lost seconds of calorie burning exercise every three days.
Yes, any sort of logic is weaker than random characters. But this was a long long time ago, hence the weak passwords. Computers couldn't crack things that fast. Today, recommendations are still based on what we expect computers will be able to crack in the foreseeable future.
I remember a teacher used the password "music". We had every user's password in plaintext. This was useful when installing a new Windows domain controller and setting all the passwords (about 30 employees in the school) instead or copying hashes or letting them set their own passwords. In hindsight, I find it batshit crazy that some stupid intern (me) walked around the school with a sheet of paper with literally everyone's password on it, logging into people's systems where necessary or potentially forgetting the sheet somewhere. I'm not saying this never happens anywhere in the world anymore, but I do think security mindset changed in the last decades.
On the other hand, being admin on a system is not that different. Sure, you don't have users' passwords, but you can still do arbitrary stuff in their name. Very large organizations will have some sort of system that logs this stuff and that you can't tamper with, but in a lot of places you could easily cover your tracks.
I would argue that having passwords made up by users and having access to a user's work account is a little different. In the former case, I see what kind of password they use and can guess that they reuse the password (or a variant) elsewhere. I can also take knowledge if I get fired, but my admin permissions are revoked.
I use a diceware passphrase for my Keepass database. I was inspired heavily by XKCD comic 936. My only issue with password managers is that they are a single point of failure and are juicy targets for hackers, so I usually vet them and audit them thoroughly before I use them. I am one of those rare people that actually looks at the source code of password managers to look for flaws in the implementation (I sometimes spot flaws and duly report them to the maintainers).
One caveat to diceware I never liked is how it wears out the keyboard over time as you have to type the same passphrase each time to open the vault (You would be surprised how many times I need to do this each day). I sometimes have to lock my database to avoid evil maid attacks when in a hotel for example. Of course I go through about three keyboards a year because of this, but I don't mind the cost if it gives me a crispy fresh keyboard each time. And did I mention I don't own merely one encrypted database, but many depending on different contexts and different devices?
So you're saying that if I get access to your current keyboard or any of your former ones, I can get all of the keys used in typing your master password just by looking at the wear pattern? Hey, thanks for the tip!
I guess you could switch keycaps at a much lower cost, depending on your keyboard model. If those are blank, randomly shuffling them around might be enough as well (if you can do without the new keyboard, and don't think that an attacker would look at the keyswitches wear.
This is also something I see quite often on mobile phones with a pin/pattern unlock: you can often infer the pin from the wear pattern, or the grease marks on the screen if the phone was used recently.
My keycap wear pattern more or less mirrors the letter frequency in the languages I write.
See the "chess notation examples" table. The password doesn't match any chess notation, but it's close enough that it's obviously (to me) intended to be a chess move. In particular, it moves the pawn in front of the queen (in the initial position) forwards two spaces.
Back when I worked in IT many years ago, one of the things I did each week was run JohnTheRipper on our password file. If it cracked your password, it sent you an email saying your password was weak and you had to change it.
If you were in the next week's batch, it emailed you and told you "your password is foobar, which we discovered by cracking the password file, and it is weak. You must change it". Yes, I emailed them their password in plain text using our internal email system. Jury's still out on whether that was a good idea. :)
The next week we just disabled your account and you had to come to IT to fix it.
One guy actually got fired for his password. He was already being super creepy and making the girl who sat across from him uncomfortable, but she never told anyone. Then we cracked his password, which was a very naughty phrase about the girl who sat across from him. I reported it to HR, who asked the girl, who then said he was creepy, and so they acted swiftly on the reports and got him out of there.
I'm conflicted about this. I know I'd be pretty upset if an employer starting talking to me about a plaintext password that's supposed to be hashed. The problem is that they brute forced it and then sent it directly off to HR? Yes, as a sysadmin it's perfectly acceptable to be searching for weak passwords, but reading the plaintext yourself for fun then scurrying to HR is kinda a slimy thing to do. As an admin you have an obligation to your users to not be nosy, and if you find out something you shouldn't, keep it under your hat. Just because you have the ability to peek into the CFO's mailbox and see what everyone's salary is, doesn't mean you print out the spreadsheet and take it to your boss demanding a raise.
It's kinda like if you got in trouble for playing Farmville or whatever while sitting on the toilet at work, which they found out about by installing cameras in the stalls. Yes, I shouldn't have been doing that, but how you found out is also a huge issue and I'd feel pretty violated.
You should probably re-read the sudo warning:
We trust you have received the usual lecture from the local System Administrator. It usually boils down to these three things:
#1) Respect the privacy of others.
#2) Think before you type.
#3) With great power comes great responsibility.
I wasn't reading the cracked passwords for fun, I was verifying the output. And it was well known that we cracked the passwords, and he had already gotten the first warning that it was cracked, so he knew we knew it.
That's why I didn't feel bad taking it to HR. I already had a sense that he was doing bad stuff, and the password just solidified it for me.
I think this is analogous to the philosophy behind "duty to report" type laws. If you discover -- even through a completely unrelated activity -- harm being done to someone, it is your ethical responsibility to report it to someone who can help. Obviously some amount of discretion is necessary, as some things are sensitive enough that reporting in the wrong way, or to the wrong person, could cause the situation to be worse, but as a general rule, if you see something bad going on, you should try to make the situation better if you're able.
I think OP acted entirely appropriately.
To address a couple specific points:
> As an admin you have an obligation to your users to not be nosy
In the free-wheeling academic sense where your users are more of a community, sure, I think that's the accepted social contract. In the workplace, not at all. While I'm not a fan of employers spying on what their employees do on the employer's network and hardware, I fully appreciate that it is their right to do so, and in some situations, for some purposes, I might even agree with its necessity.
> reading the plaintext yourself for fun then scurrying to HR is kinda a slimy thing to do
I don't think "fun" had anything to do with it, and reporting a likely case of sexual harassment, regardless of how the information was obtained, is never "slimy". Quite the opposite.
> Just because you have the ability to peek into the CFO's mailbox and see what everyone's salary is, doesn't mean you print out the spreadsheet and take it to your boss demanding a raise.
That is indeed slimy, unethical, and likely a violation of company policy, but that is not even remotely the same as what the OP did.
> if you got in trouble for playing Farmville or whatever while sitting on the toilet at work, which they found out about by installing cameras in the stalls
Also not even remotely the same. Any reasonable person would agree that cameras in bathroom stalls would be a gross violation of privacy (and probably illegal).
Former sysadmin here. I think there's a careful balance that needs to be struck, both by admins and users.
As a user, you should realize that when you're on company equipment, privacy is more of a courtesy than a right. It's their equipment you're using. It's reasonable to expect them to use it in a way that furthers the company's interests. So act accordingly.
As an admin, you don't ever go digging through stuff for no reason, for curiosity, voyeurism, or for personal reasons. But again, watching out for the company's interests is part of your job, so if you run across something or have a concrete need to actively look for something (not just a fishing expedition), then lifting the veil of privacy might be the right choice or even the only right choice.
Basically, in a corporate computing environment, privacy is not guaranteed, but crossing lines should have a proper justification. In your CFO example, the sysadmin is using official powers but acting in their own interest, so that's definitely not an OK justification.
I don't find this a very good argument. Sourcing inspiration from a sibling comment, it's also the employer's bathroom stall. I might be convinced it's okay to snoop when it comes to their network usage, but this is not the argument to do so.
Responding late, but yeah, you raise a valid point.
The difference to me is in the purpose of the two facilities. A toilet is there for the employees' physical needs and more or less no other purpose. A computer is there primarily to do business work on. The company has a clear need to be involved in how that computer is used in several ways, such as maintaining its security, monitoring its performance, making sure it isn't misused, etc. They can afford you some privacy, but only on a best-effort basis because it's not reasonable to be entirely hands off.
Wait, how is it a common / weak password if it has some oddly sexual phrase regarding a specific person? Sounds like its literally just brute-forcing, in which case you're just going to hit random user's passwords.
A string of dictionary words and a very common name. And yeah, JohnTheRipper was a brute forcing dictionary attack that was very common. If anyone had access to the password file they could run the same cracker. The idea was to crack the passwords before an advisary could using the same tools.
Next time you can push for explicit password quality requirements and something like 2FA instead of violating people's privacy and weakening their security at the same time. (Can you imagine anyone reused personal passwords?) This eagerness to apply fun tools in the workplace is in large part what built the heinous surveillance apparatus that's probably going to kill a lot of people as soon as a sufficiently strong-willed fascist takes control again. Richard Stallman has called this "Stalin's dream", but ironically he was also recently Cancelled for ridiculous allegations of sexual misconduct and wrong-think, so perhaps this allusion is not sufficiently powerful for this audience anymore. A shame if so.
The questionable behavior in this case is getting a guy fired for selecting a politically-incorrect secret passphrase. This is merely one step removed from reading his brain and figuring out he fantasizes about spanking coworkers while having sex with them. (I've done this, and yet we are good friends!)
We don't know all the details, maybe that guy actually harassed people, but scrutinizing someone's private thoughts without prior suspicion for offensive-but-noncriminal behavior that can be pivoted into larger accusations is how police states work.
In the best case, this encourages people to filter their private thoughts and actions by the standards of what is acceptable to advertise publicly, which is incredibly unhealthy and oppressive.
> The questionable behavior in this case is getting a guy fired for selecting a politically-incorrect secret passphrase.
I think you're being disingenuous. The guy got fired for sexual harassment. The password merely tipped people off as to what was going on. Don't use a weasel word like "politically incorrect" to re-frame the discussion in a way that's both incorrect and more favorable to an emotional reaction in your favor.
It's stated that he was fired for "being creepy", which is a highly underspecified complaint that can be used against someone you find disagreeable for any reason, only some of which warrant termination-of-livelihood. I was being charitable assuming that the real accusation involved actually harassing someone.
Like what? I have an ex-girlfriend whom I dumped when she (among other things) called my family and lied about me getting into a horrible accident because we were arguing about her [several hard street drugs] addiction. I cared about her enough to stick around until after the drug problems started. She tells people I'm a "creep" when she explains why we didn't work out, because we had been together for a while and I seemed like a decent guy. I literally moved to a different state because she'd show up at my home and work frenzied, and I knew a restraining order would land her in jail (and cause her to lose her surprisingly good job, which I was sure was the last remaining foothold of stability in her life; at this point I was literally worried about indirectly killing her by protecting myself). She still doesn't know where I live, some of my throwaway accounts have the phrase "FUCK [her name]" in their password, and (old, because I can't share contact anymore) mutual friends have told me she tells everyone that I developed hardcore schizophrenia and generally behaved like Satan. The shorthand for this is "creep".
I'm sorry that happened, that sounds like a terrible situation.
Do you see how I took you at your word and extended sympathy, rather than questioning whether you're misrepresenting the situation? Is there something you know about the facts of jedberg's situation that lead you not to do the same?
He has not presented any facts that are under contention, only normative estimations that rely on facts that are deliberately unspecified.
The politically and economically safe option in the workplace is always to discard people who fall under scrutiny that exposes an employer to liability. This raises the reasonable standard of complaint for these types of issues beyond "his password, which I cracked despite design and goal to remain private to one human soul ever, was weirdly suggestive, and none of the people ostensibly involved have voiced any concerns but I must Report This to The Authorities and Start the Hammer Falling."
Suspicion and doubt are very powerful weapons, and sometimes they're used against good people in the name of heroism, saying nothing of bad motives. They also have the feature of being incredibly hard to dispel entirely once raised, regardless of the quality or scale of the evidence. If someone looked at my F-word password with the wrong prior or coaching, I'd have to break out volumes of psychotic voicemails, videos, pictures, testimony by family and close former friends, etc, to prove I shouldn't be Cancelled.
Can you think of a crackable-length passphrase that would make a normal, level-headed person suspicious enough to make efforts that almost guarantee someone is going to get fired in the worst way possible?
> The politically and economically safe option in the workplace is always to discard people who fall under scrutiny that exposes an employer to liability.
What leads you to believe this? You are aware, I assume, of the existence of "wrongful termination" lawsuits, many of which have cost companies millions of dollars?
> Can you think of a crackable-length passphrase that would make a normal, level-headed person suspicious
"rape Karen fun"
> fired in the worst way possible
What about this sounds to you like the worst way possible to get fired? Here are some ways to get fired that sound way worse to me:
"several frightening, anonymous calls that came into his work phone. One caller told him that [...] he wouldn’t live to see the weekend. Another said that the “fancy blue tie” he was wearing that day might wind up turning red. [...] an effort by the [company's] attorney to discredit him by falsely claiming he’d had a romantic relationship with [coworker he was standing up for]. Shortly afterward, [his employer] fired him."
"only two weeks after her hire, while she was in the passenger’s seat of [male employee]'s car returning from a business meeting, he exited the 101 freeway, stopped his car on a side street, and pulled his erect penis from his trousers. With the doors and windows locked from the driver’s side, he reached over “and pushed her head on his erect penis in an attempt to force her to orally copulate with him,” according to her complaint. He then ejaculated.
[her] horrifying depiction of sexual assault went on for pages. There was the ride back to the office after a client visit two days later, when [male employee] again tried to force her to touch his penis and “almost careened into a commercial eighteen-wheel vehicle.” Another time in the car, this time in standstill traffic, he took his erect penis out of his trousers and shoved her left hand back and forth on it, again ejaculating. In the complaint, she says she tried to free her hand but “was unable to overcome his strength.” In another incident, he called her into his office, locked the door behind her, and tried to force her to have sex. That time, the complaint says, she “managed to escape his grasp.”
A month after that frightening incident, [she] was fired by [him], purportedly for “an attitude problem, aversion to directions, resistance and resentfulness.” She told the office supervisor about [his] assaults and suggested that the “attitude problem” [he] had referred to was her resistance to his assaults. The supervisor told her that sort of workplace conduct was considered “normal”"
1. I have no idea what you're talking about. You suggested the liability risk for employers is extremely one-sided such that the "safe option ... is always to discard people". I asked if you were aware of the enormous, court-tested liability risk employers face when they discard people. What leads you to believe the liability risk is nevertheless extremely one-sided?
2. Someone sexually harassing his coworker and saying something sexual about her in his password seems magical and unlikely to you? You don't believe the hundreds of corroborated stories about men saying stuff like that openly? Or you think people are less likely to do that in something semi-private like a password than openly?
1. It's difficult to safely discard people on the basis of their belonging to a certain set of protected classes, which does not include those accused of sexual misconduct. As soon as you have someone willing to issue a complaint you can't disprove, you're prepared to safely remove your enemies. There's a reason savvy managers never have private meetings with women.
2. It's magical that some guy exposed a "creep" Doing Very Bad Things by looking at his password he cracked. No witnesses complained, the victim had never complained, just from a distant computer we catch this faint whiff of something wrong in the strangest (invasive, aside) way and turn out to be a hero. Or maybe we just sent a weird password to HR, and they did the default thing and fired the guy for nuisance and liability, and years later we remember the justification that he must have deserved it because he's gone. (Details? Sorry, can't!) It's easier on the conscience, too.
Well it's none of my business and after the story you've shared I can't say I am very concerned. But in the story about HR, they looked into it and there was "other stuff", I guess they concluded something else about that situation.
We don't know what that "other stuff" is and if it's right or wrong, but it's also likely not the exact same situation as your very detailed and specific story, is my point.
>In the abstract sense, it is wrong to invade privacy.
You have no real expectation of privacy when using company owned equipment. This was almost certainly spelled out to the employee in question in the acceptable use policy he agreed to upon being hired. Companies have to operate this way so they can investigate computers if compelled to by court or law, and so they can recover important information off computers when the user exits the company.
If he was using a BYOD computer I'd have a different opinion on the matter.
The definition of acceptable use (and expectations of privacy) differs a lot between different countries. For example, in the EU, I believe that any personal email received on a work account is actually considered "beyond reach" of your employer.
I don't know, but I imagine that such considerations could easily extend to your password.
Btw, how did the sysop know that what he recovered was the actual password? I mean, it's unlikely, but at least theoretically possible that it was a false positive. The password hashes in those days were pretty weak... Just a thought; I don't think it realistically was a false positive.
You said "... but morality is ..." and just agreed with me, I think?
Ultimately, I think it's a case-by-case on this type of thing.
Btw, I find it very interesting that e.g. most EU courts will consider "tampered-with" evidence, but obviously take into account that it may have been tampered with and so accord it much less weight than "pristine" evidence. Whereas US courts will absolutely throw out anything that's shown to be even mildly "tampered-with". I don't know what the right answer is, but it's an interesting question to ponder.
 Maybe this is wrong; I'm not a US-ian, so I may not have perfect insight into the court system :|.
> Yes, a person alleged to be a creepy sexist deserves some protection and due process.
I agree with this. Everyone deserves due process.
It sounds in this situation like they got their due process. (HR didn't fire them based on the password report, but rather used diligence and due process to investigate/corroborate and only then terminate them.)
I don't know what to think about this. A password is supposed to be secret so I don't know what a naughty phrase in secret is a violation of? It is not very different from writing something naughty in a private diary, or even thinking a naughty thing.
I think that it's the conjunction of the password and the harassment accusation together that make this a fairly straightforward case. If it were just a creepy password, well, that demonstrates a certain level of creepiness but doesn't mean that he made it a problem for anyone else. It's possible to have private fantasies that remain private. On the other hand, if it was just the coworker's accusation, it would be just that, an accusation without evidence.
The password as evidence of private creepiness lends credence to the accusations of harassment, and the accusation of harassment demonstrates the the creepiness was probably not just private. Together they create a case stronger than either alone.
Creepy means they make another person feel threatened. It's certainly not a term most women would use lightly. For example, my sister's "creepy" neighbor would come out of his apartment anytime she came home by herself and would engage her in conversation while attempting to follow her into her apartment.
That's not "flirting" (even if said guy thought that's what he was doing), it's straight up threatening behavior.
I think it's very interesting how, despite knowing nearly nothing about the situation, everyone here is quick to doubt the victim, and make up scenarios (for which there is zero evidence) where the harasser is the victim.
Since it's quite long, I'll summarize. An 18-year-old woman, "Marie", whose had been in foster homes since the age of 6 or 7, reported having been raped. Her two previous foster mothers, both of whom she was still friends with and whom she told about the rape, suspected she was fabricating the report and, after discussing the matter with each other, said so to the police. Despite the significant forensic evidence, the police persuaded her to recant and ultimately charged her with filing a false report. A couple of years later, a serial rapist with a penchant for photographing his victims was caught. Among his effects was a photograph of Marie.
What does this story tell us? First, that even someone who has just been raped may have difficulty relating the event in a coherent and consistent way, and may not seem to be feeling the emotions one would expect of someone to whom that had happened. (The implications for the Brett Kavanaugh affair are obvious.) Second, that even female friends of the victim might be led by such inconsistencies to doubt the veracity of the report — a sobering observation. And third, that the slogan "Believe Women", though it cannot be taken as an absolute, is still important to repeat, because it's still far more likely that a true report will be doubted than that a false one will be believed.
> innocent until proven guilty is still the fairest justice system
Justice system administered by a state where the repercussions include imprisonment and death - absolutely. But HR is not a judicial system and should not be viewed as one. I think I take your point to be just a descriptive observation of "our social discussion reflects a habit based on our exposure to judicial systems" and not a normative statement. Even if it's the former, I think it's naive and ignores a very real culture of doubt and victim-blaming exclusive to sexual violence.
I agree with you, but there is no crime here, just bad work conduct, and as a professional, that makes you not as good at your job, and as an employer, it can justify letting you go.
Call it a bad cultural fit if you prefer. Someone who cannot navigate the social work environment, and makes others feel uneasy and lowers their moral is not as good an employee as someone who'd have no issue doing so, and makes everyone else motivated and confident.
As an employer, I'd probably quickly try and replace such an employee, with someone who's just as good technically, but also has better social work ethics and collaboration skills.
This is totally fair to me. Being good at your job also involves being good with coworkers and promoting a healthy work environment which boosts everyone's productivity. If you have deficiencies there, try working on it. It'll be good for your career.
Now I know what's going to happen... But what if someone totally fabricated a case against you and brought it up to your employer and now your employer falsely believes that you're a big bully and harasser and that you hurt the work environment and they fire you over that?
And I think that's a bit of a fallacy counter-argument honestly. Some kind of reification fallacy. Yes in the abstract hypothetical, this would be unjust, and you can deduce that it was in fact the accuser who was being unprofessional and fabricating an environment of blackmail. But give us any concrete case, and we can now observe the facts of that case and see if employers did an unreasonable assesement or not. For example, we might see in real cases, there is always more than one complaint made, or there are recorded behaviors like emails, chat logs, naughty passwords, etc. Or there's repeated offense, or there was prior knowledge, etc.
And again, no crime here. An employer for their business sake, might prefer to lean on better be careful rather than sorry. That makes total business sense to me.
> Would you insist that we all treat O.J. Simpson as innocent?
The fair way is to withhold judgment (while presuming innocence) when there's a charge against someone but it hasn't been investigated. That's fair whether we're talking about courts or society. Society pronounced its judgment on O.J. after evidence was presented and witnesses testified.
The problem comes when people presume guilt based on a charge alone. Unfortunately, that's often what happens when high-emotion charges are leveled against someone.
We have a high standard for guilt in court because someone's freedom and perhaps life is on the line. You as a private citizen have a right to make decisions on less than a drawn-out court case and a sequestered jury.
So, in the eyes of the criminal courts, yes, OJ is still innocent. But would you have him babysit your kids based only on a reasonable doubt he's a multiple murderer?
> You as a private citizen have a right to make decisions on less than a drawn-out court case and a sequestered jury.
That's true, but it doesn't make my opinions morally justified.
But my point wasn’t about the verdict--the court’s, mine, or the public’s. It was that it is wrong to presume guilt anywhere—in court or in personal opinion—on the basis of a charge alone. (In OJ's case, we're all far past that, so I think bringing it up is a bit moot.)
I literally didn't bring up OJ. I was using the example already in use in the thread when I replied. The question, in a generic sense, is if you have two equally qualified candidates one of whom is acquitted and one of whom nobody's accused of wrongdoing, would you flip a coin or hire the one never accused?
> would you flip a coin or hire the one never accused?
I'd try to do neither. The reality is, no one is equally qualified because no one is identical to anyone else. There are always tradeoffs.
But I'd try to weigh those tradeoffs without being swayed either way by the fact that someone was once accused and later acquitted. Personally, I'm not even sure whether I'd be more or less likely to want to hire a person on the basis of that detail; I really think it's not evidence of anything.
It's like the influence of an independent variable Y in the logical formula "X implies Z", or like a "don't care" cell in a Karnaugh map -- it signifies nothing.
That's not how employment works, and (for better or worse) that's not how the court of public opinion works.
"Innocent until proven guilty" and "beyond a reasonable doubt" are critically important for a government-run judicial system, because they ultimately have control over your freedom, life, and death. While a job is certainly important, the loss of one job will not ruin your life unless you are particularly unlucky. So the burden of proof is much less.
Regardless of all that, it's just really saddening to me that the default seems to be that people assume that the victim is lying or overstating the harm done to them. This seems to be something very specific to sexual harassment cases that doesn't crop up as much or as universally with other accusations of wrongdoing. We clearly have a long way to go before we get rid of our knee-jerk biases about this sort of thing (and I'm no exception; I have them too).
Actually, yes. (Hopefully you were asking rather than woke-scolding).
Presumption of innocence traces back to roman law (hence "occidental" from the latin, meaning the going down/setting of the sun, or "western", referring to European countries) . It has propagated at various rates through various cultures. Other cultures (including germanic, which could also be classified as "western") did not have the presumption of innocence centuries ago. China (latin "oriental", rising sun, or eastern) has been moving toward it in the last 50 years.
This doesn't say that no other culture has independently developed the presumption of innocence principle, but that the idea of it in modern judicial systems around the world traces back to the roman culture, and is generally associated with a body of ideas collectively called "western culture".
Always interesting when a statement is unpopular, but no counterarguments are presented.
A bit more clarification from the researchgate link above, talking about the movement toward presumption of innocence (POI) in China (emphasis added to the statements that Western societies came up with this behavior and that at least one non-Western society doesn't work that way):
"As POI is a legal principle originating in the West, its acceptance in the criminal justice context of China is a gradual and longstanding process. The CPL’s first revision, in 1996, adopts the clause ‘no person shall be found guilty without being judged as such by a People’s Court according to law’, but the protection guaranteed to criminal defendants under Article 12 of the CPL (2012) is different from the classic concept, which, according to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), requires POI. Article 12 focuses on who has the power to issue a guilty verdict rather than on the presumption of the accused’s guilt or innocence during the investigation and trial."
Because if people don't push back against it, what we get is yet another incarnation of the witch trials.
Some people evidently want that, because they're "not a witch" themselves.
It's really awful that in some/many cases, accusations of rape or sexual assault or sexual harassment or creepiness end up reducing to one person's word against another, when there's no good objective evidence either way.
You should doubt everyone. You should doubt the accuser. You should doubt the alleged harasser's claim of innocence. Without evidence, you can't adjudicate it, and unless it's a matter of rape or sexual assault, the compulsion to adjudicate it in the absence of evidence is unhealthy. What you can do is try to engineer the environment or counsel the people so the alleged behavior by the accused or negative perception by the accuser is less likely to occur; most obviously, by separating them and ensuring they rarely/never have to interact.
If you can't keep the two people from communicating or interacting, and you have to fire one, and that one should be the accused, that is precisely a witch trial, but without a declaration of being a witch. The accused might not be a witch, but we're going to burn them anyway, because the social fabric depends on it!
And of course, criticizing witch trials can make you a witch, because there's evil in the world and therefore the witch trials must go forward! To do nothing is to enable witches, and who would want to do that except a witch? "Cui bono?"
 And in serious cases, you can try to take it to court, but it'll fairly likely end up unsatisfactorily for the accuser unless they're particularly persuasive or the defendant is obviously creepy or there's some other evidence. Even a string of accusers, although it means something, is not necessarily good evidence. Again, see the witch trials.
I consider dealing with workplace accusations more like dealing with a lawsuit, rather than dealing with a criminal case.
Studies bear out that false accusations of sexual misconduct are exceedingly rare. If you go just by the odds, the likelihood is that when someone accuses someone of misconduct, it probably happened.
That doesn't mean you just accept an accusation at face value, but it does hopefully set the stage for you to be sympathetic, and committed to be thorough and to actually listen to what the accuser is saying. You of course do an investigation. You talk to the involved parties. You talk to witnesses, if there are any. Some of these witnesses may not have been present for any of the alleged offenses, but might speak to the involved parties' character. Does the accused act creepy around other people? Is the accuser constantly making up false stories about people?
If it does boil down to taking one person's word against the other, then I don't think the default should be to just separate the people and hope nothing happens again. Just as in a civil law case, part of the determination (both the direction of the judgment itself, as well as the magnitude of any penalties) is based on who is more persuasive about any available evidence, not strictly about whether the evidence alone is more or less damning.
It's not cut and dried. It's not clear. It's fuzzy and muddy. That's unfortunate, but happens to be the reality of dealing with humans.
First they came for the rapists, and I didn't say anything, because I wasn't a rapist.
Then they came for the sexual harassers, and I didn't say anything, because I wasn't a sexual harasser.
Then they came for the...
Wait, what? That's it? They just wanted to root out the rapist and sexual harassers, and that's it? I can still live my life without worry as long as I'm not one of those?
But okay, maybe your concern is being falsely accused of these things. The incidence rate of false accusations is low to the point of not being relevant to any discussion of social or cultural norms or policy.
Sexual assault is death from drunk driving.
False sexual assault accusation is being hit in the head by a milkshake thrown from a moving vehicle.
There are no facts in this case available to us, the internet commenters; only 100% framing. In a different framing, the victim is the one who was unfairly fired, perhaps due to fitting in poorly or even malicious claims of misconduct by the harasser. And in this framing you are not only blaming the victim, but also attacking everyone who doesn't.
See how this works? "Believe the victim" is circular reasoning, all it does is calcify your priors. Truth-seeking demands that one must keep an open mind and consider competing interpretations of an event.
There are several facts alleged in this case that were provided by the user jedberg.
1: "One guy actually got fired for his password."
This is a statement of fact, which we can initially accept as true.
2. He was already being super creepy and making the girl who sat across from him uncomfortable
This is a statement of opinion with the appearance of a fact. The phrase "super creepy" is quite vague, to the point of being meaningless without further specification. Also, how jedberg can know that she was feeling uncomfortable should be in question.
3. "but she never told anyone."
This unsubstantiates claim #2. If she never told anyone, then there was no way to determine the truth of the claim that he was "making the girl across from him uncomfortable." Note that even this statement may be false, as she could have told many people already without informing jedberg, and if so, would help to substantiate the previous claim.
4. Then we cracked his password, which was a very naughty phrase about the girl who sat across from him.
Note that "we cracked his password" is a statement of fact, mixed with opinion that the phrase was "very naughty". Whether the password was "naughty" or not, I don't think anyone is disputing that the password was cracked.
5. I reported it to HR
This is a factual claim.
6. who asked the girl
This is a factual claim, and most probably true, with the exception that it could be hearsay if jedberg wasn't in the room at the time when it happened, which has not been specified.
7. who then said he was creepy
This is a statement of fact. Assuming that jedberg heard this directly from her, we can call this statement true. The important bit, however, is the word "then". She only said that he was creepy _after_ approached by HR. If HR's question was "Don't you think that guy across from you is creepy?", then that would be considered leading and deceptive. If HR's question was "what do you think about the guy across from you", then that question would be leading. If HR's question was "what do you think about your fellow employees", then that question would be neutral and acceptable. Since the manner in which the question was asked was not specified, there is no way to know how this question affected her response. It is not reasonable to assume the question was leading or not leading without further confirmations, and this unfortunately makes the claim moot.
8. so they acted swiftly on the reports and got him out of there.
This statement appears to be a reiteration of claim #1, I don't see anything additional here that affects the previous claim.
Later, jedberg said this:
9. he got fired for sexual harassment.
This is a statement of fact; however, this appear to directly contradict the first statement that jedberg made, which was that he "got fired for his password." So, if we can accept that he got fired for sexual harassment, then he didn't get fired for his password, and the original claim is untrue.
In summary, 1) a guy got fired for sexual harassment. 2) The accused also had a password that may have mentioned something "naughty". 3) That password was noticed by an IT group and may or may not have had some impact on the termination. 4) The interviewing of the alleged victim may or may not have influenced her testimony.
Those are the specific facts that we're dealing with in this case. Dismissing this with the idea that "there are no facts in this case" is incorrect. The fairness or unfairness of the case is framed around these facts, with opinions given on both sides throughout this thread.
Reply (can't edit now): I know my above post seems like an asshole. That isn't my aim. I'm simply posing a necessary question before we instinctually start up the crucifixion process. Ruining peoples lives with scant evidence scares me regardless of the who/where/what/when.
What if it was violent, bigoted, or suicidal? Passwords are secret but they aren't necessarily private. If you wouldn't want to verbally verify it with your administrator you probably shouldn't use it.
I have seen many password policies that says that you never should disclose your password. I have never seen a password policy say that it must not be naughty. As for violent or suicidal, I am less sure. I guess I would reason like a doctor, who has a patient's privacy to consider, but when certain lines are crossed he can contact the police if he think there is risk of crime.
I enter my password so many times each day (every time I step away from my computer and then come back to it, for example), so having such a long password would be quite the annoyance. Plus it's easy to make a typo and not realize it in a long sentence when you can't see what you're typing.
If I crack one of your passwords (or search your email on haveibeenpwned), and assuming you haven't changed your animal, then cracking any other password you have is trivial and takes at most 12 permutations.
I know at least one company that prohibits several ways to write any month or year like value in its password field. I think the animal might make it through as long as it doesn't have any shortened month name or repeating letters as sub string. I have found several creative ways to write new passwords for that login and am still annoyed when it randomly matches with "information from my profile".
Yes, but the problem is that in most of the scenarios that get discussed it's not flirting but one person making advances and not noticing (or caring) that the person is actively feeling uncomfortable.
The rule of thumb is sort of in line with telling a risque joke. Is that ever OK in a workplace? Sure, but if there's any doubt whatsoever how it will be received by the audience then you probably shouldn't be doing it.
No one cares about a purist stance on creepiness. Being creepy is enough to justify removal from any social or professional situation. If you lack the social skills to avoid being perceived as creepy, that's a you problem. It doesn't really matter what your rationalization is. People aren't going to want you around.
> It is not very different from writing something naughty in a private diary, or even thinking a naughty thing.
I don't know if I'm too normal or what, but my gut feeling is that yes it's really creepy. And all these things have different creepiness to them. Thinking a naughty thing is the least creepy. A private naughty diary is starting to be creepy. If it's just a passage in a normal diary, it's not too bad, if there's a whole book just about this one girl it would get super creepy. Making your work password a naughty phrase about the girl working in front of you, definitely super creepy.
Some of those I'd start to consider beginning signs of harassment honestly. The password one, it's like slowly trying to bring to the girls attention your thoughts. What's happening, are you hoping they see you typing it out one day? Everytime you type it do you stare at her and imagine whatever you typed? So ya, if there was all kinds of other similarly creepy small behaviors they'd add up to a pretty bad environment for that girl to be working in.
Just my opinion. Maybe I'm overreacting, but I wouldn't do that, and so I find it very surprising and creepy that someone else does. Are they harmless, innocent, didn't know better, just have a cute crush, nice guys, maybe, but doing something unexpected to me, that I'd never think of doing, is pretty much the defining characteristic of creepy, and it naturally puts me on my guard. It's just strange behavior, and that's scary.
Note: I'd like to hear some replies that are like... oh no, it's not creepy, way more people have naughty passwords or big naughty diaries of their coworkers than you think. I know I do. It's a totally normal behavior, you're the actual outlier here if you never did any of that. Otherwise I will continue to believe this is strange and creepy behavior which warrants suspicion, and possibly a good indicator that someone makes others feel uneasy and unsafe when around them.
I think there is a big difference between expressing your thoughts from having them. I am quite certain that more or less everyone harbors thoughts that would not be socially acceptable to state to someone in the workplace, but they are completely normal (as in common) thoughts. It is not creepy to have them. It is expressing them to someone that would cross the boundary.
I think we agree then, these things have varying degrees of creepiness, with thoughts being the least creepy. And comparing having a thought to having it be your password, as OP did, is a false equivalence fallacy, from my perspective. One is order of magnitude weirder than the other.
I think if it was really literally just the password, it would be pretty weak grounds to fire someone. But OP says he was being deliberately vague so as not to be specific about the situation, and there was a lot more going on. The guy got fired for his actions, not his password. The password was just a tipping point.
I'm not really talking about the firing, I had another comment elsewhere about that part. And I could excuse only the password, because one creepy behavior can be excused, a recurring number of them not so much. I still need to excuse the password though, because I think that's just creepy. If it was just normal behavior, it wouldn't need excusing, it just wouldn't even be an argument.
I'm more saying that having your work password be a naughty fantasy involving your coworker is just plain creepy. I've never heard of this. I mean, even having a naughty fantasy involving your partner as your work password is creepy. How can anyone think this is totally normal and appropriate behavior? I know my wife would find it real weird if that was my password.
If you do that, and are starting to feel like other people find you creepy or are suggesting you might be, and you're confused why they think that.. I just don't know what to say. If you were under the impression having such a password is common, I'm afraid you were mistaken.
But, like I said, I'm giving people an opening here.. maybe I'm the one that's mistaken, and naughty sexual fantasies with coworkers as work passwords is a very common and normal choice of password. Presented with such evidence, I'd reconsider.
I'm all for the effective strength enforcement and ejecting the creepy guy, but some people do have strong passwords that, a bad idea though it may be, embed something deeply personal to them. Just something to keep in mind before automating the sharing of cracked passwords for otherwise legitimate purposes. I consider my passwords my private information, even if they are no longer secure from a technical standpoint and shouldn't be in use. I hope people respect that if they come across them.
Just to be clear, I agree, and I think what the person I'm replying to did is totally kosher. But I just think the fact that my password is private should not just be within technical limitations. If you find my password is "hurtmedaddy" I have a reasonable expectation to privacy about that beyond what SHA can and can't protect me from, and I would hope it's not showing up in some weekly report to be shared with IT. A hacker might find it anyway, but certainly my boss certainly shouldn't have to.
edit: And back to technical concerns - someone knowing my password leaves a hard-to-audit window in which I am even less secure. Force-resetting the password in automation instead of revealing it would be better. Sharing it more widely before the problem is fixed increases the risk.
I personally would not have any expectation that my work passwords are private. I would expect, say, Google to keep my password private, and have internal controls around not letting people see my password, or leak it to the outside. But I'd have no expectation that my boss or IT department didn't have the ability to find out what my password was if they wanted. For strength of security, I really hope they're hashing passwords, but it's well within their rights to try to crack that hash, or log my password as I send it to a webserver the company controls if they want/need to for any reason.
As an imperfect analogy, let's say I write something in a plaintext document, a big rant about how I'm pissed off at one of the executives, and in that rant I make a (not serious, but certainly worrisome) threat against the exec. I foolishly decide to store this document in my company-provided storage on their servers. (Or let's say I stick it in Google Docs in the company's GSuite account.)
Should I have a reasonable expectation of privacy there? I'd say no. I get that some might have the feeling that passwords are different because their entire function is to be private. From a security perspective, yes, I agree. But form a "what you do on company property/resources is visible to the company if they want it to be" perspective, I don't.
That's not unreasonable, but as you said the point is to be private - it's definitely not what people expect. If they were going to try crack my passwords and look at them when they're cracked, I'd want a memo, to say the least.
I am of two minds about, if it helps security, it sounds somewhat reasonable,but I used questionable passwords in the past partly because they were easy to memorize along the lines of missslippyfist and some numbers/chars. I was forced to stop once company I used to work for started filtering for curses.
And running to HR over perceived creepyness sounds like a dick move.
A proper policy would’ve been to not have any human look at a user’s password and just email them a warning about their weak password. A password should be considered a PPI (personal, private information) and off limits to others, no matter how creepy (exception being a legal warrant). These days you might gotten in trouble!
It shouldn't be personal identifiable information. But PII asks what that information is, not what it should be. Given that people reuse passwords or put things like DOB in their passwords, a conservative classification should treat passwords as PII.
If a company is cracking passwords, it should stop that to protect IT from liability. Example: someone reuses a password, and an IT employee sees that during a cracking operation, and that person's account by chance is hacked, now that person can accuse IT of misusing the password.
Maybe those disclaimers will protect them, but it's always smarter to avoid liability entirely than rely on fine print that a court can disregard.
A password is supposed to be very hard to guess by others but not so hard for you to remember so it can be said to be PII! And no, it is not assumed that IT will crack your password. Because how do you know how far IT would go to crack your password and how do you know they are not looking at your data as well? Employee/company officers' email may contain data that could be highly sensitive and something IT should not be looking at.
it is not assumed that IT will crack your password
At this company, it was public knowledge that IT will crack your password.
At the vast, vast majority of companies, it's public knowledge that they are looking at your data and email as well. If you are under the impression that your employer doesn't, you should double-check because you are almost certainly wrong.
You essentially got someone fired for thought crime. While in this instance, that thought crime coincidentally had a real life corroboration, it was a just a lucky happenstance. You were not in the ethical right here!
It could have been that you reported to HR a romantic fling between two consenting adults, while they had no intention of their private lives spilling over into the public eye.
Disapprove of your actions, and further disapprove of your schadenfreude at someone's firing
Two considerations here:
1. Is the password private info that the employer shouldn't access?
2. If it is private but someone sees it anyway, should they act on it?
For (1): This is similar to any other private info stored on company equipment. The employer shouldn't actively access it in most cases, but it is generally expected that the employer will access if it has a good reason (in this case, detecting a weak password is a good reason).
For (2): This is similar to accidentally overhearing someone's private conversation. Normally the polite thing is to stop listening, but if you have reason to believe it indicates harmful behaviour (like in this case), the right thing to do is to report it.
Jack sets his password to "ImgoingtokillyouKaren".
Tyler is talking with Jack in his cube and sees Jack type in the password and goes to HR. Is that an asshole move, in your opinion? Is the violation the reveal of the password or something else?
In my opinion, he has an obligation and responsibility to say something if he thinks someone is in danger or being harassed.
People have some expectations of privacy and it's not normally considered acceptable to violate this.
Sometimes this stuff is untried in court or falls into a definite legal grey area and usually the policy is to err on the side of caution and simply assume that if something is commonly expected to be private, then it's private and should be kept so.
If we were investigating a user for XYZ and came across a file named "Personal Diary 2019.txt" or whatever, I can assure you that HR would not want us to open that file. Possibly if HR found out they'd declare the investigation tainted and want to stop it right there.
First off, putting cameras in restrooms is illegal in most places.
Regardless of that, it boils down to a legitimate company need. Ensuring that users aren't using passwords definitely passes that test. Ensuring that employees aren't sexually harassing other employees also definitely passes that test. Yes, it's unusual that a password tipped people off to bad behavior, but if you see possible evidence of bad behavior, even if it comes from a strange source, you are ethically obligated to look into it. And for a company, not doing so could create legal liability.
Now, bathrooms? Well, for starters, you said "use of work bathrooms being made public". There was nothing "public" about this password case. The password was shared, privately, with HR and the guy's manager. The closest possible bathroom analogy I can think of might be someone reporting to HR that they see someone going into the bathroom multiple times a day, coming out with white powder residue under their nose, and subsequently acting very strangely, like they're on drugs. Which... seems like an entirely appropriate thing to notice and report.
To expand on the company need angle, logging in to your work account on your work computer hardware is absolutely a part of your job. Work has a vested interest in securing their computer systems while allowing authorized employees only to use them to conduct their work.
On the other hand, going to the bathroom is completely ancillary to your job. It's not a work-related duty; it's just something that humans have to do because we're made out of meat.
I'm trying to understand what you're saying, but it just seems completely divorced from reality.
Do you believe it has not been tested in the courts that cameras in bathrooms are illegal? Do you believe that if you polled office workers about whether bathrooms are private and whether they expect cameras to be in there, you would get any result other than widespread belief that bathrooms are private and there cannot be cameras in there?
Do you believe it has not been tested in the courts that anything you write on a work computer is the property of the employer? Do you believe that if you polled office workers about whether they think what they do with their work computer is audited or private to them, you would get any result other than widespread understanding that employers own everything you do on your work computer?
If HR found a file called "Personal Diary 2019.txt" on the computer that is owned by the company they work for, there is no expectation of privacy. This is not the user's personal computer that they hacked into or gained unauthorized access to. Courts have ruled on multiple occasions that you do not have an expectation of privacy on your employer's hardware.
I prefer the don't trust anything on your work machines or work equipment to be private, especially if it's synced with a server or directly from a server.
If it was his individual laptop or something it might be slightly different but the etc directory was remotely accessible and his password clearly matters to the company's security. Like a rented apartment a heads up beforehand might be a good courtesy not a requirement though.
One guy actually got fired for his password. He was already being super creepy and making the girl who sat across from him uncomfortable, but she never told anyone. Then we cracked his password, which was a very naughty phrase about the girl who sat across from him. I reported it to HR, who asked the girl, who then said he was creepy, and so they acted swiftly on the reports and got him out of there.*
So, he never did anything specific to call for, but just "was creepy" (which can often mean he was not very pretty and/or awkward socially / in expressing his feelings, as opposed to someone who would assault or anything close). And he had a password (in private) that was lewd or whatever, which he did not intend to share with anybody.
>Did he really use uppercase letters or even special chars? (A 7-bit exhaustive search would still take over 2 years on a modern GPU.)
>took 4+ days on an AMD Radeon Vega64
I don't understand. The author first claims that it would take 2 years on a modern GPU to brute force a 7 bit password with special characters but then he is helped by Nigel Williams that cracked it on 4 days on an AMD Radeon Vega64
Did Nigel Williams used a better technique?
Is AMD Radeon Vega64 much faster than a "modern GPU"?
Did the author overstimated the difficulty?
A slight nitpick with the article - `p/q2-q4` (more commonly written as "1. d4" in modern times) is not the Closed Game, it's just the first move of it. There are many, many other lines after 1. d4 besides just 1. ..d5, most of them quite open!
Context is everything, and I think your example only highlights how unhelpful it is to specify that q2-q4 is the beginning of the closed game.
I think most English speakers would agree that Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities is a notable outlier of what is expected after "It was the best of times." That's the exact work of literature that popularized the phrase.
By contrast, mention q2-q4 to any "chess speaker" and they won't be specifically prompted to think of the closed game at all.
Yeah that's bullshit. If you tell a chess player 1.d4 then d5 is going to be one of the first things that comes to mind. Even if they prefer a different response, like Nf6, d5 is certainly going to be prompted.
Using one potential endpoint as the point of reference to anchor to is a classically human thing to do. It doesn’t particularly matter that they chose Closed or Bogol-Alek. It just matters that they conveyed their thought to others with enough accuracy to get the point across.
Asking the question “why did they think of Closed first and not, for example, Bogol-Alek?” is to ask why someone sees a porcupine in a Rorschach blot. Everyone’s mind has different memory anchors, and they are not produced reliably or with regard for logic and reason.
I am not a strong player, so I could be wrong, but my understanding is that 1. d4 d5 games tend to be more closed than 1. e4 e5 games, because it's less easy for the center pawns to get taken (because they are defended by the queens).
If any stronger player wants to comment, I'd be interested to know whether this is indeed the main reason 1. d4 d5 games tend to lead to more closed positions.