Opera Forces Password Reset After Sync Breach

The approximately 1.7 million people who use Opera's synchronization service were potentially at risk. However, the breach was blocked quickly.

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Opera security breach

Browser vendor Opera, the victim of a breach last week, reported on Aug. 26 that the attack was blocked quickly. The breach affected the Opera sync system, which provides users with the ability to synchronize settings and passwords across multiple devices.

"Although we only store encrypted [for synchronized passwords] or hashed and salted [for authentication] passwords in this system, we have reset all the Opera sync account passwords as a precaution," Opera developer Tarquin Wilton-Jones wrote in a blog post.

Opera has reset end-user passwords for accessing Opera sync to help limit risk. Additionally Opera is advising its sync users to reset passwords used for third-party sites that they used with Sync as well. Opera estimates that approximately1.7 million people use the sync service.

It's unclear who attacked Opera and what the root cause of breach is.

Security experts eWEEK contacted were not entirely surprised by Opera's breach.

"There are no real surprises with this disclosure by Opera as it was only a matter of time before a browser-based password vault was compromised," Joseph Carson, head of global strategic alliances at Thycotic, told eWEEK.

Since the Opera browser's market share is relatively low, the impact of the breach isn't all that large, Carson said. However, he expects the breach will motivate other browser vendors that have greater market share and provide similar functionality to review their security controls and ensure they are not the next victim.

Andrew McDonnell, vice president, security solutions at AsTech Consulting, noted that Opera's reset of user passwords and suggestion that stored passwords be changed indicates that Opera is not necessarily confident in the hashing or encryption they used to protect the passwords. Opera uses security controls, such as hashing passwords in its sync service, making it harder for an attacker to use a stolen password database.

"Hashing and encryption should be implemented such that the data is useless to an attacker without the passwords or keys, as any sufficiently attractive server can be breached," McDonnell told eWEEK. "When LastPass' servers were breached last year, password experts like Jeremi Gosney didn't even change their master passwords because the underlying encryption was so strong."

LastPast, a password management vendor, disclosed in June 2015 that it was the victim of a breach.

Rob Sadowski, director of marketing at RSA, EMC's security division, commented that, overall, password managers are making the use of longer, more complex and (theoretically) more secure passwords easier and more convenient.

"Unfortunately, it also creates a new risk of the password manager being hacked, which is made more risky if that password manager stores passwords for multiple users in the cloud rather than locally, as it did in this case," Sadowski told eWEEK. "A better approach would be to push for more pervasive, easy-to-use two-factor authentication technologies for websites, which would obviate the need for extremely complex password schemes."

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at eWEEK and InternetNews.com. Follow him on Twitter @TechJournalist.

Sean Michael Kerner

Sean Michael Kerner

Sean Michael Kerner is an Internet consultant, strategist, and contributor to several leading IT business web sites.