350,000 Spotify users hacked in credential stuffing attack

Hackers left the stolen data unsecured and unencrypted, so anyone with internet access could access it

Spotify logo appearing on an Apple iPhone

Hackers have accessed as many as 350,000 Spotify user accounts as part of a credential-stuffing attack, and have done so without having to crack Spotify’s system. 

According to security researchers at vpnMentor, the attacks were successful because hackers reused login credentials from previous data breaches. The hackers simply needed to try various username and password variations on Spotify, which is known as credential stuffing, until they found a match. 

Noam Rotem and Ran Locar, part of vpnMentor’s research team, found an Elasticsearch database containing over 380 million records, including login credentials and other user data being validated against the Spotify service. It discovered the database as part of a huge web-mapping project. 

The researchers used port scanning to examine particular IP blocks and test different systems for weaknesses or vulnerabilities. The database they found through this scanning was accessible to them because it was completely unsecured and unencrypted, so anyone with internet access could see the data. This lapse shows that even hackers sometimes forget the basics of cyber security

The researchers said the origin of the database and how the fraudsters were targeting Spotify are unknown. “The hackers were possibly using login credentials stolen from another platform, app, or website and using them to access Spotify accounts,” researchers said in a blog post.

The researchers worked with Spotify to confirm the database belonged to a group or individual using it to defraud Spotify and its users.

Researchers discovered the issue in July and contacted the streaming service within a week. That same month, Spotify initiated a rolling password reset for all users affected, rendering the information on the database useless.

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Javvad Malik, security awareness advocate at KnowBe4, told IT Pro that this exposure goes to illustrate that criminals don't need sophisticated technical hacking abilities to compromise accounts, rather, they can take advantage of users’ lax security practices. 

“Credentials are a particular area in which users are left exposed because they either choose weak passwords or reuse them across different sites,” he said. “It's why it's important that users understand the importance of choosing unique and strong passwords across their accounts and where available enable and use MFA. That way, even if an account is compromised, it won't be possible for attackers to use those credentials to breach other accounts."

Niamh Muldoon, OneLogin’s senior director of trust and security, told IT Pro this is a great example of why single-authentication mechanisms are so weak. 

“It can be hard for individuals to remember all the accounts they hold and to keep up to-date with every data breach that is happening. Therefore, organizations should enable their end-users to be as security first and conscious as possible.

"An easy way for organizations to do this is by streamlining access via a single sign-on platform, securing their access via two-factor authentication to protect them against risks like the Spotify end-users experienced,” she said.

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