AOL suffers open-source hacking

Wired News ran an unsigned piece claiming that Salon had been first on the air with the story, and quoted Salon correspondent David Cassel. (Wired News probably didn't get around to reading the hackers' e-mail quickly enough.) MSNBC ran the only piece that quoted from the Sunday e-mail message itself, and the only one that printed the nom-de-Net of one of the hackers. MSNBC went easy on the mechanics of the hack, omitting the fact that most AIM users who have separate AOL accounts cannot be hacked in this fashion. MSNBC's quote from the hackers' letter -- that they use the pilfered names "just for the pure joy of trying to ruin friendships" -- evokes the more sensational journalistic treatment of hackers. (ZDNet also carried MSNBC's story.) CNET's Courtney Macavinta gave more of the nitty-gritty of how the hack works, but whether through reticence or misdirection from her source, she got one detail wrong. Macavinta wrote that an "AOL staff tool [the hackers] unearthed while poking around the company's proprietary online service" plays a pivotal role in the process of taking over an AIM user's online identity.

Salon's David Cassel, editor of the AOL Watch newsletter, laid out the hack more fully. No stolen AOL administrative tool is involved, he said -- just the knowledge of what one needs to type in order to get to a different screen at a certain point in AOL's registration process. Cassel went further, revealing a second way to steal an AIM identity that does not rely on arcane knowledge at all. Wired News quoted Cassel's damnation of AOL's technique: "AOL left a gaping hole in the way they implemented it. To promote such an easily cracked software really violates any reasonable expectation of security."

Cassel has left AOL no choice but to fix the hole.

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Keith Dawson

PC World
Show Comments

Cool Tech

Toys for Boys

Family Friendly

Stocking Stuffer

SmartLens - Clip on Phone Camera Lens Set of 3

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Michael Hargreaves

Microsoft Office 365/Dell XPS 15 2-in-1

I’d recommend a Dell XPS 15 2-in-1 and the new Windows 10 to anyone who needs to get serious work done (before you kick back on your couch with your favourite Netflix show.)

Maryellen Rose George

Brother PT-P750W

It’s useful for office tasks as well as pragmatic labelling of equipment and storage – just don’t get too excited and label everything in sight!

Cathy Giles

Brother MFC-L8900CDW

The Brother MFC-L8900CDW is an absolute stand out. I struggle to fault it.

Luke Hill

MSI GT75 TITAN

I need power and lots of it. As a Front End Web developer anything less just won’t cut it which is why the MSI GT75 is an outstanding laptop for me. It’s a sleek and futuristic looking, high quality, beast that has a touch of sci-fi flare about it.

Emily Tyson

MSI GE63 Raider

If you’re looking to invest in your next work horse laptop for work or home use, you can’t go wrong with the MSI GE63.

Laura Johnston

MSI GS65 Stealth Thin

If you can afford the price tag, it is well worth the money. It out performs any other laptop I have tried for gaming, and the transportable design and incredible display also make it ideal for work.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?