Facebook stored 'hundreds of millions' of passwords in plain text for years

23 March, 2019, 15:27 | Author: Gerard Cortez
  • A person holds an iPhone displaying the Facebook app logo in front of a computer screen showing the Facebook login page

Further, the company - in the interest of full disclosure - said it would notify users whose passwords were stored in plain text about the security lapse.

The passwords were accessible to over 20,000 Facebook employees, according to Krebs, raising the obvious risk that they could be improperly accessed.

As KrebsonSecurity reports, a Facebook source who asked for anonymity confirmed that between 200 and 600 million users had their passwords stored free of encryption on the company's servers.

As part of a seemingly never-ending stream of security blunders, Facebook disclosed today that the passwords of hundreds of millions of Facebook and Instagram users were stored in plain text for years on internal data storage systems.

The technique allows Facebook's system to recognize valid passwords when users log in, without storing the information in plain text that employees or hackers could read.

Update, 11:43 a.m.: Facebook has posted a statement about this incident here.

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The company said the passwords were not visible to anyone outside the company and claimed it did not find any evidence of access being abused. Facebook Lite is a version of the social network optimized for slower Internet connections. So your account may have not been compromised, but the company will still notify affected users, suggesting them to change their passwords for safe measures.

Facebook said that social network users could harden security by updating to complex passwords and opting to require a second piece of data such as a texted code to access accounts.

Passwords are masked when someone creates an account with a random set of characters so anyone so they aren't stored in plain sight.

Canahuati said the error had been noticed in January but did not say why an announcement had been delayed for more than two months.

The internal investigation was first reported by Krebs on Security. Those are the security practices that Facebook normally takes, and which were overlooked in this case. Essentially, this makes it look like garbled trash to anyone looking at the data but can be encoded by the website in question when entered by the user. There's probably no need to change your Facebook or Instagram passwords, as long as the passwords are unique and strong. Oftentimes, they will "hash" the password, running it through a cryptographic program that spits out a different string of characters, and store that instead.

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