An interesting snippet from last month, AOL seems to have a strangely configued password system.
Users can enter up to 16 characters as a password, but the system only reads the first 8 and discards the rest. They are basically truncating the password at 8 characters.
A reader wrote in Friday with an interesting observation: When he went to access his AOL.com account, he accidentally entered an extra character at the end of his password. But that didn’t stop him from entering his account. Curious, the reader tried adding multiple alphanumeric sequences after his password, and each time it logged him in successfully.
It turns out that when someone signs up for an AOL.com account, the user appears to be allowed to enter up to a 16-character password. AOL’s system, however, doesn’t read past the first eight characters.
And if you can’t work out what’s wrong with this..well.
How is this a bad set-up, security-wise? Well, let’s take a fictional AOL user named Bob Jones, who signs up with AOL using the user name BobJones. Bob — thinking himself very clever — sets his password to be BobJones$4e?0. Now, if Bob’s co-worker Alice or arch nemesis Charlie tries to guess his password, probably the first password he or she will try is Bob’s user name, since people are lazy and often use their user name as their password.
And she’d be right, in this case, because even though Bob thinks he created a pretty solid 13-character password — complete with numerals, non-standard characters, and letters — the system won’t read past the first eight characters of the password he set, which in this case is exactly the same as his user name. Bob may never be aware of this: The AOL system also will just as happily accept BobJones for his password as it will BobJones$4e?0 (or BobJones + anything else, for that matter).
Not smart eh? AOL apparently are ‘looking into it’ and that’s all they’ve said regarding the matter.
Bruce Schneier, chief technology officer BT Counterpane, called the set-up “sloppy and stupid.”
Source: Washington Post