CNBC just collected your password and shared it with marketers

An exercise in password security went terribly wrong, security experts say

CNBC inadvertently exposed peoples' passwords after it ran an article Tuesday that ironically was intended to promote secure password practices.

The story was removed from CNBC's website shortly after it ran following a flurry of criticism from security experts. Vice's Motherboard posted a link to the archived version.

Embedded within the story was a tool in which people could enter their passwords. The tool would then evaluate a password and estimate how long it would take to crack it.

A note said the tool was for "entertainment and educational purposes" and would not store the passwords.

That turned out not to be accurate, as well as having other problems.

Adrienne Porter Felt, a software engineer with Google's Chrome security team, spotted that the article wasn't delivered using SSL/TLS (Secure Socket Layer/Transport Layer Security) encryption.

SSL/TLS encrypts the connection between a user and a website, scrambling the data that is sent back and forth. Without SSL/TLS, someone one the same network can see data in clear text and, in this case, any password sent to CNBC.

"Worried about security? Enter your password into this @CNBC website (over HTTP, natch). What could go wrong," Felt wrote on Twitter. "Alternately, feel free to tweet your password @ me and have the whole security community inspect it for you."

The form also sent passwords to advertising networks and other parties with trackers on CNBC's page, according to Ashkan Soltani, a privacy and security researcher, who posted a screenshot.

The companies that received copies of the passwords included Google's DoubleClick advertising service and Scorecard Research, an online marketing company that is part of comScore.

Despite saying the tool would not store passwords, traffic analysis showed it was actually storing them in a Google Docs spreadsheet, according to Kane York, who works on the Let's Encrypt project.

"The 'submit' button loads your password into a @googledocs spreadsheet!," York wrote.

In an interview over email, York said he has written some macros for Google Docs and recognized the domain "script.google.com."

He watched what happened after a password was submitted using the developer tools in Google's Chrome browser. He saw this: {result: "success", row: 1285}.

"Specifically, that 'row' increased by one each time I clicked the button," York said. "I was pretty sure that they were inserting the rows into a spreadsheet.

Luckily, the spreadsheet was marked as private, so it wouldn't have been accessible to the public.

Efforts to reach CNBC and the author of the story were not immediately successful.

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.

Tags passwords

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Jeremy Kirk

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Jack Jeffries

MSI GS75

As the Maserati or BMW of laptops, it would fit perfectly in the hands of a professional needing firepower under the hood, sophistication and class on the surface, and gaming prowess (sports mode if you will) in between.

Taylor Carr

MSI PS63

The MSI PS63 is an amazing laptop and I would definitely consider buying one in the future.

Christopher Low

Brother RJ-4230B

This small mobile printer is exactly what I need for invoicing and other jobs such as sending fellow tradesman details or step-by-step instructions that I can easily print off from my phone or the Web.

Aysha Strobbe

Microsoft Office 365/HP Spectre x360

Microsoft Office continues to make a student’s life that little bit easier by offering reliable, easy to use, time-saving functionality, while continuing to develop new features that further enhance what is already a formidable collection of applications

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!

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?