Carbonite forces password reset after password reuse attack

Should a company force an entire user password reset proactively because some users’ credentials, obtained elsewhere, are being used to attempt to steal their data?

Carbonite, a provider of online computer and server backup services, notified its more than 1.5 million individual and small business customers that they were forcing a password reset.  The reset, announced today, was implemented after the firm discovered that some users’ credentials, obtained elsewhere, were being used to try to obtain user data:

“As part of our ongoing security monitoring, we recently became aware of unauthorized attempts to access a number of Carbonite accounts. This activity appears to be the result of a third party attacker using compromised email addresses and passwords obtained from other companies that were previously attacked. The attackers then tried to use the stolen information to access Carbonite accounts.”

The firm emphasized that, “Based on our security reviews, there is no evidence to suggest that Carbonite has been hacked or compromised.”

Carbonite is just the most recent entity to report a “password reuse” attack, in which there is no compromise of the company’s network or server, but customer data may be stolen because the customer had previously used the same login credentials on a site that was compromised. GitHub also reported a similar attack this past week, as did GoToMyPC.

In the notice posted on its blog, Boston-headquartered Carbonite does not indicate how many accounts may have been at risk, but in response, they  are requiring all Carbonite customers to reset their login information.

The company reiterates that files are still being safely backed up during this process.

In addition to continuing to monitoring the network, Carbonite writes that they will be rolling out additional security measures, “including increased security review and two-factor authentication [which we strongly encourage all customers to use].”

“Who Authorized You to Do That?”

The forced password reset was not appreciated by some customers, including one IT technician who sent a transcript of an irate chat he had with Carbonite Customer Service.  Noting that the password reuse attack had not affected all customers but only a “number of accounts,” he asked “Who gave you authorization to change our password to the admin account??”

When told that it was a senior management decision, he responded,

“If you want to enforce a policy, you do that from a login screen with a prompt notification, that is BASIC computer security. A company that decides for themselves to reset the password for the entire database of users is a company that has failed to properly secure and provide for customer needs and usage.”

For purposes of comparison, GitHub did not force a password reset for their entire user database in a similar situation, opting to contact only those whose accounts appeared at risk from password reuse. Citrix, on the other hand, forced all GoToMyPC users to reset their passwords.

The customer’s irritation was mirrored by other customers responding on Carbonite’s blog. Many indicated that the e-mailed notification looked like a phishing e-mail. Others commented that they were now unable to get into their accounts or reset their passwords:

“clicked on forgot password and no email received. Likewise locked out of my account.”

“I came directly to Carbonite to change my password, not clicking on the link. Not only does my password not work, but it will not allow me to reset it from the website, even after clicking “reset password” multiple times. Nothing about this looks right.”

Others, like the customer who wrote to this site, were just angry at the forced reset:

why would a firm reset ALL the passwords! And then disable the “rest” button on the login page!
Perhaps this website has been hacked……

Carbonite may have meant well, but their incident response is not impressing their customers, it appears.

In the meantime, consumers have gotten yet another reminder that reusing passwords across sites is bad security hygiene. Use a password manager to help you keep track of passwords if you worry about your ability to remember them, but avoid reuse.

About the author: Dissent

2 comments to “Carbonite forces password reset after password reuse attack”

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  1. Eric - June 22, 2016

    Yes it was annoying, but I rather appreciate Carbonite’s quick response. It is better to be inconvenienced than to find out you had a data breach and HIPAA or PCI violations.

    • Dissent - June 22, 2016

      At this rate, every company will be doing a forced all-users pwd reset. And of course, some users will STILL re-use pwds…

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