In-depth

Why following Get Safe Online's advice could leave you anything but

Davey Winder points out the short-comings in the password security tools used by Get Safe Online

Password

OPINION: I seem to have become the Mystic Meg of IT security journalism. I mention some potential issue in passing and that very same problem gets exposed elsewhere for all the world to see.

Take the small matter of pathetically poor password strength meters. I recently mentioned them at the very end of a piece about how badly eBay handled its data breach, in that its site features a totally broken one.

Advertisement - Article continues below

This was in light of its suggestion that a seven character string password with one uppercase letter was more secure than a 12-string combination of nine random lowercase letters and three random numbers.

I shouldn't have been surprised, as most (if not all) password strength meters are at best nothing more than eye candy.

My personal surprise meter hit the red within a week of the article being published, after I saw a news story reporting that another site - which really should know better - was also using broken password meters.

The site in question was the Government-backed Get Safe Online, which is described as being a "security service to help protect computers, mobile phones and other devices from malicious attack."

A screenshot of the meter in action showed that the ridiculously insecure combination of a name and date, in this case Julia1984, had been graded as 'exceptional' in terms of strength.

Advertisement
Advertisement - Article continues below
Advertisement - Article continues below

I shouldn't have been surprised, as most (if not all) password strength meters are at best nothing more than eye candy.

It even told the user they had "all the right moves", as far as creating strong passwords are concerned.

If that wasn't bad enough, the password being tested by this user was right there in plain text when the result of the strength meter was returned and displayed on screen for anyone who might be looking over the shoulder of said person to note down.

So that's two alarm bells ringing for the price of one in terms of offering insecure advice and implementing an insecure web service. Nice.

Nobody who knows anything about security would use a first name followed by a year as a password and think it was secure, but it takes a real class of idiot to present this as acceptable to those who don't know anything about security.

Advertisement - Article continues below

There's a widely-used phrase within the IT industry about eating one's own dog food, which essentially means that those offering advice should follow it themselves.

Despite the fact Get Safe Online acted pretty quickly to remove the offending, and offensive, password meter from their site after the story broke, I'm inclined to think that with advice like this being handed out, no wonder reported breaches are on the up.

Featured Resources

Preparing for long-term remote working after COVID-19

Learn how to safely and securely enable your remote workforce

Download now

Cloud vs on-premise storage: What’s right for you?

Key considerations driving document storage decisions for businesses

Download now

Staying ahead of the game in the world of data

Create successful marketing campaigns by understanding your customers better

Download now

Transforming productivity

Solutions that facilitate work at full speed

Download now
Advertisement

Recommended

Visit/security/ransomware/356292/university-of-california-gets-fleeced-by-hackers-for-114-million
ransomware

University of California gets fleeced by hackers for $1.14 million

30 Jun 2020
Visit/security/cyber-security/356289/australia-announces-135b-investment-in-cybersecurity
cyber security

Australia announces $1.35 billion investment in cyber security

30 Jun 2020
Visit/cloud/cloud-security/356288/csa-and-issa-form-cybersecurity-partnership
cloud security

CSA and ISSA form cyber security partnership

30 Jun 2020
Visit/business/policy-legislation/356215/senators-propose-a-bill-aimed-at-ending-warrant-proof-encryption
Policy & legislation

Senators propose a bill aimed at ending warrant-proof encryption

24 Jun 2020

Most Popular

Visit/business/business-operations/356395/nvidia-overtakes-intel-as-most-valuable-us-chipmaker
Business operations

Nvidia overtakes Intel as most valuable US chipmaker

9 Jul 2020
Visit/laptops/29190/how-to-find-ram-speed-size-and-type
Laptops

How to find RAM speed, size and type

24 Jun 2020
Visit/server-storage/servers/356083/the-best-server-solution-for-your-smb
Sponsored

The best server solution for your SMB

26 Jun 2020