Gawker.com says its user database was compromised

December 13, 2010

(AP) -- Gawker Media Inc. is urging subscribers to change their passwords because someone has managed to hack into the company's user database.

The company, which runs a series of irreverent blogs on media, technology and other issues, said in a posting on its website Sunday that the commenting passwords used on the sites were encrypted, but simple ones could be vulnerable to attacks by hackers' computers.

The company also said passwords on other sites should be changed if they were the same as the ones stored by Gawker Media.

"We're deeply embarrassed by this breach," the posting on gawker.com said. "We should not be in the position of relying on the goodwill of the hackers who identified the weakness in our systems."

Millions of people are likely affected by the breach because of the popularity of Gawker's sites such as Gizmodo, a tech gadget news site, said Rich Mogull, CEO of Phoenix-based Securosis, a security research firm.

The damage should be minimal, though, because Gawker probably stored only e-mails, user names and passwords, Mogull said. The problem comes if people use the same passwords on other sites, such as online banking. The hackers likely were able to figure out easy passwords even though they were protected on the Gawker site by a simple , and could use them to access , Mogull said.

The hackers could be upset about something written on one of Gawker's sites, or they could be doing it for bragging rights, Mogull said.

"It's kind of a juvenile thing. It's like spray-painting," he said.

Such attacks are very common and difficult to stop, as long as the hackers have enough time to try to breach the system, he said. "If someone is determined and knowledgeable, you can't keep them out," he said.

The attacks probably are unrelated to recent cyberspace attacks over the WikiLeaks site's release of classified government documents, but Gawker could have angered some of the same people, Mogull said.

Last week, the Visa and MasterCard sites were inaccessible for a short time likely because of attacks by supporters of WikiLeaks. Supporters were angry that the credit card companies had stopped processing donations to WikiLeaks.

Both MasterCard and Visa said that cardholders' accounts were not at risk and that people could continue using their credit cards.

Supporters of WikiLeaks, which has released thousands of classified government documents in recent weeks, said they would attack companies and groups hostile to the site and its founder. An Internet group operating under the label "Operation Payback" claimed responsibility for the MasterCard and Visa problems in messages on Twitter and elsewhere.

Messages were left Sunday night for Gawker chief Nick Denton.

Gawker's Gizmodo tech blog gained fame in May when it posted pictures of an iPhone prototype. The phone was lost by an Apple Inc. engineer in a Silicon Valley bar.

Explore further: Gizmodo editor's home raided in iPhone prototype probe

0 shares

Related Stories

Hackers strike at MasterCard to support WikiLeaks

December 8, 2010

(AP) -- Hackers rushed to the defense of WikiLeaks on Wednesday, launching attacks on MasterCard, Swedish prosecutors, a Swiss bank and others who have acted against the site and its jailed founder Julian Assange.

Visa becomes next target for WikiLeaks backers

December 9, 2010

(AP) -- The websites for Visa and MasterCard were inaccessible for parts of Wednesday, likely the result of attacks by WikiLeaks supporters who are angry that the credit card companies had stopped processing donations to ...

WikiLeaks' payment processor to sue card companies

December 9, 2010

(AP) -- WikiLeaks' payment processor said Thursday that it was preparing to sue credit card companies Visa and MasterCard over their refusal to process donations to the secret-spilling website.

Dutch police investigate apparent hacker attack

December 10, 2010

(AP) -- Police said Friday they are investigating if hackers were responsible for taking down websites of police and prosecutors in the Netherlands after the arrest of a 16-year-old for involvement in a cyberattack on several ...

WikiLeaks backlash all bark, no bite: experts

December 12, 2010

Despite their martial overtones, the attacks on credit card and other websites by supporters of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange are more political protest than real cyber war, experts say.

Recommended for you

Power grid forecasting tool reduces costly errors

July 30, 2015

Accurately forecasting future electricity needs is tricky, with sudden weather changes and other variables impacting projections minute by minute. Errors can have grave repercussions, from blackouts to high market costs. ...

Microsoft describes hard-to-mimic authentication gesture

August 1, 2015

Photos. Messages. Bank account codes. And so much more—sit on a person's mobile device, and the question is, how to secure them without having to depend on lengthy password codes of letters and numbers. Vendors promoting ...

Netherlands bank customers can get vocal on payments

August 1, 2015

Are some people fed up with remembering and using passwords and PINs to make it though the day? Those who have had enough would prefer to do without them. For mobile tasks that involve banking, though, it is obvious that ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.