Print 13 comment(s) - last by tastyratz.. on Dec 29 at 12:35 AM

File containing sensitive information was posted to common file server for all to see

These days internet firms seem to be having a tougher and tougher time holding on to your private data.  Following lost emails databases at Walgreens, McDonalds, and others; Microsoft's leak of business users' contacts from the cloud; and Gawker's loss of users names, passwords, and site information, Mozilla has become the latest to fail to keep its users confidential data secure.

Chris Lyon, Director of Infrastructure Security at Mozilla, wrote users of its addons page to let them know it might have accidentally shared their encrypted passwords.  Writes Lyon:
Dear user,
The purpose of this email is to notify you about a possible disclosure of your information which occurred on December 17th. On this date, we were informed by a 3rd party who discovered a file with individual user records on a public portion of one of our servers. We immediately took the file off the server and investigated all downloads. We have identified all the downloads and with the exception of the 3rd party, who reported this issue, the file has been download by only Mozilla staff. This file was placed on this server by mistake and was a partial representation of the users database from The file included email addresses, first and last names, and an md5 hash representation of your password. The reason we are disclosing this event is because we have removed your existing password from the addons site and are asking you to reset it by going back to the addons site and clicking forgot password. We are also asking you to change your password on other sites in which you use the same password. Since we have effectively erased your password, you don't need to do anything if you do not want to use your account. It is disabled until you perform the password recovery.


We have identified the process which allowed this file to be posted publicly and have taken steps to prevent this in the future. We are also evaluating other processes to ensure your information is safe and secure.


Should you have any questions, please feel free to contact the infrastructure security team directly at If you are having issues resetting your account, please contact We apologize for any inconvenience this has caused.


Chris Lyon

Director of Infrastructure Security

Worse yet, it turns out that the file contained passwords protected by an older hashing algorithm MD5, without any salting (random input to protect against dictionary attacks).  Writes Lyon in his blog:
The database included 44,000 inactive accounts using older, md5-based password hashes. We erased all the md5-passwords, rendering the accounts disabled. All current accounts use a more secure SHA-512 password hash with per-user salts. SHA-512 and per user salts has been the standard storage method of password hashes for all active users since April 9th, 2009.
In other words, active users likely don't have much to worry about, but if you created an account in the past, which you haven't used in some time, it's likely that malicious parties may have at least your name and email address.  And if your password is weak, they'll likely soon have that as well -- so users who fall into this category might want to immediately change any identical passwords on accounts on other sites.

For those confused what these accounts even are, Mozilla encourages users of its popular extensions/add-ons to register.  According to Mozilla:
You only need to register if:
  • You want to submit reviews for add-ons
  • You want to keep track of your favorite add-on collections or create one yourself
  • You are an add-on developer and want to upload your add-on for hosting on AMO
Judging by the number of inactive accounts, many of Mozilla's millions of users decided to take the plunge and create an account.  Now some of those users' security may be at risk due to the organization careless post of user account information to a public server.

Given that a third party noticed and reported this file was available, it's safe to assume that someone preserved a copy of it.  And just like that, Mozilla became the latest to allow its users to become the victim of a security bungle.

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This is a complete non-issue.
By ThePooBurner on 12/28/2010 10:54:45 AM , Rating: 3
We have identified all the downloads and with the exception of the 3rd party, who reported this issue, the file has been download by only Mozilla staff.

Nothing has been leaked. This story could have gone entirely unwritten. Especially since all the accounts were disabled. And they were all old inactive accounts that haven't been used in a year and a half.

RE: This is a complete non-issue.
By kmmatney on 12/28/2010 12:29:32 PM , Rating: 4
The issue is that a lot of these users might be using the same username/passwords they use for other websites. So someone can start trying out these user names at Paypal, Bank sites, etc...

RE: This is a complete non-issue.
By ThePooBurner on 12/28/2010 12:46:14 PM , Rating: 3
Except n one has them . That's the point. If nothing actually got out into the wild, then no one is actually at risk.

RE: This is a complete non-issue.
By Lerianis on 12/28/2010 2:00:24 PM , Rating: 2
Good point. If it was only Mozilla and one "third party" who Mozilla immediately took seriously and fixed the problem with their website who were able to download this.... total non-issue, I agree.

I'm usually harsh on this, but this is the epitome of a non-issue.

RE: This is a complete non-issue.
By tastyratz on 12/29/2010 12:35:17 AM , Rating: 2
So it appears and so we hope, but the person who might have reported it might also be the sole controller of a list which has a value. It only has to be downloaded once to have been leaked. Manning was just 1 person too...

Kudos to Mozilla for disclosure even if it is low risk.

'alicious entity having passwords ?
By MarcLeFou on 12/28/2010 10:22:56 AM , Rating: 2
If Mozilla is to be believed, nobody outside Mozilla has the passwords in hand apart from the person who reported it.

Why are users password at risk then again ?

By amanojaku on 12/28/2010 10:40:19 AM , Rating: 2
Mozilla could be lying about the scope of the breach, or it may not know. That's the thing about security: you only know how bad it is when someone tries, and possibly succeeds, in breaking in. And Mozilla doesn't control the 3rd party's security, so who's to say the file won't get out from there?

By JasonMick on 12/28/2010 11:52:05 AM , Rating: 1
From the sound of it, all third-party add-on/extension developers had access to this server and, in theory, could have offloaded this file.

Granted Mozilla might be able to track who d/l'ed the file archive to minimize the breach, but nonetheless, given the potential value of this easily-crackable name-email-password data (assuming weak pwds), I'd be shocked if SOMEONE doesn't have it who you wouldn't want to have it. (e.g. a malicious user/profiteer)

Note that it has not said yet whether or not whether copies were made of this archive

I disagree
By bug77 on 12/28/2010 11:16:59 AM , Rating: 2
These days internet firms seem to be having a tougher and tougher time holding on to your private data.

Firms always had a hard time keeping private data. Once you share that data, it's only a matter of time until it falls into unauthorized hands. Banks, online stores, everybody has had a leak at some point.
There's only one rule you must keep in mind when dealing with online privacy: it doesn't exist.

Maybe I'm a little slow today...
By Egglick on 12/28/2010 1:55:31 PM , Rating: 2
I'm confused. Why would a password list be stored anywhere but locally? Was this done by some specific add-on?

RE: Maybe I'm a little slow today...
By fic2 on 12/28/10, Rating: 0
By Motoman on 12/28/10, Rating: -1
RE: Hooray!
By amanojaku on 12/28/2010 10:31:17 AM , Rating: 3

I wonder just how big a deal this is. I'm not thrilled that data leaked, but it appears to be the inactive accounts that are at risk of being compromised. The former owners don't care about making add-ons any more, so it's just their email accounts that are potentially at risk. Which means:

1) You neglect to close accounts you don't use (dumb)

2) Your email password has to be the same as the Mozilla password (dumber)

3) You haven't changed your email password in over a year (dumbest)

That doesn't mean Mozilla is off the hook, however.

"There is a single light of science, and to brighten it anywhere is to brighten it everywhere." -- Isaac Asimov

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