Today In Hacks: Opera Sync, Voter Databases

Image courtesy of Saechang

If it’s a day that ends in Y, someone who shouldn’t have access to a system is trying to get access to that system. Unfortunately, today there’s news in the air of two big successes for the bad guys. One has hit 1.7 million web browser users; the other, at least 200,000 registered voters.

The Browser
The browser Opera has had a big server breach, as Mashable reports.

Opera might not be the most popular browser in the world, but it’s still got 350 million users. Given that, perhaps it’s a relief that this issue only hit 1.7 million of them.

In a blog post, Opera security explained what happened: an attack on the sync system was detected and “quickly blocked.”

Opera made sure to specify that all passwords it stores are either encrypted or hashed and salted (having random data added to them to make them useless if stolen), but said that all users of Opera sync are having their account passwords reset as a precaution.

“In an abundance of caution,” Opera writes, they have also “encouraged users to reset any passwords to third-party sites they may have synchronized with the service.”

The company adds, “We take your data security very seriously, and want to sincerely apologize for the inconvenience this might have caused.”

The (Voting) Booth
This one is more serious. As Yahoo News first reported, the FBI is investigating suspected foreign intrusion into two different states’ election systems.

In a memo obtained by Yahoo, the FBI disclosed it was investigating intrusions into state election websites in Arizona and Illinois over the course of the summer.

In Illinois, officials had to shut down the state’s voter registration system for ten days in July, after discovering that hackers had managed to steal personal data about 200,000 voters.

In Arizona, at least, the attackers were less lucky. In that case, malware was discovered in the voter registration system but there was no sign that any data had yet been “exfiltrated” (i.e. stolen).

The FBI bulletin Yahoo looked at indicated that there may have been a connection between the two hacks, based on the IP addresses they came from. Yahoo News spoke to a security expert who said that one of those IP addresses has previously been linked to Russian underground hacker forums.

An Illinois election official told Yahoo News that in a recent briefing about the situation, FBI agents confirmed to him that the attack was believed to be foreign, although they did not specify from what country it came. And while investigators are considering “possible links” between these and other recent high-profile political hacks, he possibility always remains that the hack is of the ordinary, “steal your identity and your tax refund to make some cash” type that so many folks get hit by every year.

Meanwhile, in the wake of the existing intrusions, the FBI is urging state officials to take additional steps to secure their voting systems, and to sharply restrict access to their databases, in the run-up to November.