A fifth of passwords used by federal agency cracked in security audit

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More than a fifth of the passwords protecting network accounts at the US Department of the Interior—including Password1234, Password1234!, and ChangeItN0w!—were weak enough to be cracked using standard methods, a recently published security audit of the agency found.

The audit was performed by the department’s Inspector General, which obtained cryptographic hashes for 85,944 employee active directory (AD) accounts. Auditors then used a list of more than 1.5 billion words that included:

Dictionaries from multiple languages
US government terminology
Pop culture references
Publicly available password lists harvested from past data breaches across both public and private sectors
Common keyboard patterns (e.g., “qwerty”).

The results weren’t encouraging. In all, the auditors cracked 18,174—or 21 percent—of the 85,944 cryptographic hashes they tested; 288 of the affected accounts had elevated privileges, and 362 of them belonged to senior government employees. In the first 90 minutes of testing, auditors cracked the hashes for 16 percent of the department’s user accounts.

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