Without exception, all of the plain-text passwords are weak. In some cases, they’re the string of characters to the left of the @ sign in the email address. In other cases, they’re words found in most dictionaries. Others appear to be surnames, sometimes with two or three numbers tacked onto the end. These common traits mean that the most likely way these passwords became public is through credential stuffing. That’s the term for attacks that take credentials divulged in one leak to break into other accounts that use the same username and password. Attackers typically use automated scripts to carry out these attacks.
Last week, NordVPN disclosed a server hack that leaked crypto keys. While the scope of the breach is still being determined, Ars Technica’s Dan Goodin reports that NordVPN users’ passwords were exposed and at least one site still features user credentials, which include email addresses, plain-text passwords, and expiration dates associated with the accounts. An anonymous Slashdot reader shares an excerpt from his report: I received a list of 753 credentials on Thursday and polled a small sample of users. The passwords listed for all but one were still in use. The one user who had changed their password did so after receiving an unrequested password reset email. It would appear someone who gained unauthorized access was trying to take over the account. Several other people said their accounts had been accessed by unauthorized people. Over the past week, breach notification service Have I Been Pwned has reported at least 10 lists of NordVPN credentials similar to the one I obtained. While it’s likely that some accounts are listed in multiple lists, the number of user accounts easily tops 2,000. What’s more, a large number of the email addresses in the list I received weren’t indexed at all by Have I Been Pwned, indicating that some compromised credentials are still leaking into public view. Most of the Web pages that host these credentials have been taken down, but at the time this post was going live, at least one remained available on Pastebin, despite the fact Ars brought it to NordVPN’s attention more than 17 hours earlier.