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Site attacks, hackergate and resetting passwords - here's what we know, what we're doing about it and what we think you should do. PLEASE READ!

(1000 Posts)
JustineMumsnet (MNHQ) Tue 18-Aug-15 15:37:49

On the night of Tuesday 11 August, Mumsnet came under attack from what's known as a denial of service (DDoS) attack. Our servers were bombarded with requests, which required our internet service provider to massively increase server capacity to cope. We were able to restore the site at 10am on Wednesday 12 August. Meanwhile a Twitter account, @DadSecurity, claimed responsibility, saying in various tweets "Now is the start of something wonderful", "RIP Mumsnet", "Nothing will be normal anymore" and "Our DDoS attacks are keeping you offline".

To add to the 'fun', it seems @DadSecurity also resorted to Swatting attacks. Swatting is a criminal practice in which someone makes an emergency call to the police claiming that a crime is taking place at the house of the intended victim, in order to get them to send a swat team to the address.

An armed response team turned up at my house last week in the middle of the night, after reports of a gunman prowling around. A Mumsnet user who engaged with @DadSecurity on Twitter was warned to "prepare to be swatted by the best" in a tweet that included a picture of a swat team, after which police arrived at her house late at night following a report of gunshots. Needless to say, she and her young family were pretty shaken up. It's worth saying that we don't believe these addresses were gained directly from any Mumsnet hack, as we don't collect addresses. The police are investigating both instances.

@DadSecurity also claimed that he had access to Mumsnet user data. Later on 12 August, it became apparent that someone/ones had hacked into some of Mumsnet's administrative functions, at which point they were able to redirect our homepage to the @DadSecurity Twitter profile page, as well as to edit posts from two users' account and an MNHQ account on our forums.

Someone claiming to be the hacker also posted on the thread on which users were discussing the site outage. We immediately locked down all access to our admin functions and reported the attack to the police. We were confident that users' passwords had not been accessed, because MNHQ doesn't hold them as plain text; they're all encrypted, so that no one - not even us - can see them.

However, over the weekend, a user reported that posts had been made under her name which weren't by her, and we spotted two other cases where this had happened. This clearly suggested that the hacker had nonetheless been able to get hold of some users' passwords.

Our best guess at this stage (and it is just a best guess) is that this has been done via a form of phishing, in which the hacker creates a fake Mumsnet login page to which users are directed when clicking on our login button. The page would have had a different url but otherwise would look just like the usual page. The hacker would have been able to see passwords in plain text when they were typed in.

We take great care to protect the information you give us and not to ask for or store any more information than we need to run the site, but though we can't know how many accounts have been affected, there have been enough breaches for us to ask all Mumsnet users to change their passwords. As a result, you'll no longer be able to log in to Mumsnet with your current password, and will need to create a new one, here.

This will mean that any passwords the hacker has been able to harvest up to this point will be useless. We are looking into what we can do to strengthen our defences against phishing, but in the meantime we need to ask you to be vigilant, and to check the URL of the login page for the foreseeable future. The correct URL is www.mumsnet.com/session/login and it reads https:// rather than http:// at the beginning. We will place a warning on the login page reminding you to do this.

Alternatively use the social login option (ie Facebook/Google) as then you won't be required to enter a password. And if you log into any other sites using the same password that you use on Mumsnet, it makes sense to change your password on those sites, too.

We're really sorry for the alarm and inconvenience this might cause, and we realise you're likely to have further questions about what's been happening, so here's a summary of answers to the most obvious questions.

You say the hacker was able to access Mumsnet users' data: was data from my personal account accessed?
We have no way of knowing how many Mumsnetters were affected - so far we have evidence of 11 user accounts being hacked but it's an ongoing investigation. Those users have been informed, and their passwords have been reset. We think it prudent, however, that everyone reset their passwords - which in any case is a sensible thing to do from time to time.

What data could the hacker see?
By using your password and login, he would have been able to see the data on your profile - so that includes your username or email plus your password, your postcode if you've supplied it, your username history and your Mumsnet inbox.

Now that I've changed my password, can you guarantee that my data is safe?
Unfortunately, we can't give you a cast-iron guarantee of this - no site can. By forcing a password reset the hacker won't be able to log in as you; however, if phishing was the cause, the page could be phished again, which is why it's important that you check the URL of the login page when you enter your details, or use your social login. If the URL is anything other than www.mumsnet.com/session/login, don't use it.

Final thoughts
The internet is of course brilliant, but it's not 100% safe and secure. Whenever you share anything on the web, either publicly (such as on a Mumsnet thread) or privately (such as the data you give to a website when signing up), have a think about how happy you'd be for that information to fall into the hands of someone else. Make your passwords as secure as possible and change them every few months. Use different passwords for different accounts. Close redundant accounts that you no longer use.

And if you read nothing else...
I do realise this post is long, so here's a quick summary:

DO reset your Mumsnet password
DO make passwords really strong to reduce the risk of them being guessed
DO check the URL of any login page to reduce risk of phishing
DO verify that https:// is being used on login pages
DO use social login to avoid typing passwords
DON'T give out information to any organisations without verifying they are who they say they are (such as the fake @mumsnetsupport twitter account that had also been started but has now been removed by Twitter)

Please post here or mail us on contactus@mumsnet.com with any questions or thoughts. As you can imagine our inbox is fairly voluminous at the moment but we'll get back to you as quickly as we can.

Thanks very much for reading,

Justine

DonkeyOaty Tue 18-Aug-15 15:43:32

Oh my giddy aunt at all of this

Bloody hell

Thank you Justine

Onetwothreeoops Tue 18-Aug-15 15:47:11

Do the 11 users know that it was their information taken?

cozietoesie Tue 18-Aug-15 15:50:59

I think Justine said that they'd been told etc, One.

Thanks you Justine. Useful to remember that it's not just Mumsnet where there might be problems but all internet accounts.

JustineMumsnet (MNHQ) Tue 18-Aug-15 15:51:18

Onetwothreeoops

Do the 11 users know that it was their information taken?

Yes - those users have been mailed, and their passwords have been reset.

stareatthetvscreen Tue 18-Aug-15 15:53:19

blimey

thank you

Waltermittythesequel Tue 18-Aug-15 15:56:37

Fucking hell what a nightmare.

Do you think his willy is tinchy??

Indomitable Tue 18-Aug-15 16:00:09

I followed your password reset link, entered my email, followed the link in the email and attempted to change my password but it times out. hmm

Indomitable Tue 18-Aug-15 16:01:29

Oh no, just got a confirmation email. It must've worked after all.

BoreOfWhabylon Tue 18-Aug-15 16:02:29

Thanks Justine. What a nightmare.

Do you think you should sticky this in chat and aibu?

Onetwothreeoops Tue 18-Aug-15 16:05:10

Thanks for the clarification JustineMumsnet I will blame my silly question on the small person distracting me smile

poocatcherchampion Tue 18-Aug-15 16:05:20

How grim - especially for you and the other households that was "swatted" I hope you are all OK.

SurlyCue Tue 18-Aug-15 16:05:23

Thanks this is a really helpful post justine and what an absolute shit to be sending swat teams to the homes of MNer's familes! angry

JustineMumsnet (MNHQ) Tue 18-Aug-15 16:09:33

BoreOfWhabylon

Thanks Justine. What a nightmare.

Do you think you should sticky this in chat and aibu?

Yes we will do - txs for the suggestion.

ItsAllGoingToBeFine Tue 18-Aug-15 16:10:46

Thank you for the update, and for keeping us properly informed thanks

AuntieStella Tue 18-Aug-15 16:10:56

<hopes the post is indeed from the real Justine>

Thank you for this explanation.

Presumably it's all linked to the requests to login again - eg in www.mumsnet.com/Talk/site_stuff/2443405-Keep-having-to-log-in which straddled the incidents?

HoneyDragon Tue 18-Aug-15 16:11:35

Hope all the posters who were shitty as hell to the op of the other thread see this post.

BlackAmericanoNoSugar Tue 18-Aug-15 16:12:55

I'd only every heard of 'swatting' as an occasional American thing. I hope it's taken very seriously by the police here. It obviously should be as it's hugely expensive and disruptive to the police force, as well as to the victims, but I suspect that they could only charge the person with wasting police time which doesn't seem serious enough really. How horrible for you and the other MNetter, and worrying that the other MNetter could be found so easily by this man.

Hassled Tue 18-Aug-15 16:15:17

Bloody hell you've had a time of it. Hope you're all OK - those at MNHQ and those directly affected.

BigChocFrenzy Tue 18-Aug-15 16:24:49

Crikey, Justine Armed police turning up in the middle of the night shock
How scary for you. Have a big brew and put your feet up for 30.

Bastards ! angry
That "swatting" must be a jailable offence - think of the possible accidents / misunderstandings with nervous young coppers armed to the teeth, prowling around houses in the dark.

MiddleAgedandConfused Tue 18-Aug-15 16:26:19

Every time I type my email address to login in the pulls up my password automatically - so I never have to enter it. But any body who knows my emails address can loin gin . How do I stop that happening?

ItsAllGoingToBeFine Tue 18-Aug-15 16:27:07

Just to add:
If you use the same email address and password combo on a site other than MN you must change your password there too It is possible that a list of email addresses with passwords could be used to try and access any other site that requires a login and password.

ItsAllGoingToBeFine Tue 18-Aug-15 16:29:31

Every time I type my email address to login in the pulls up my password automatically - so I never have to enter it. But any body who knows my emails address can loin gin . How do I stop that happening?

There will be something in the settings to turn this off (uncheck "remember passwords" or similar.) However, this only pops up because you are logged into your browser as you. If some random somewhere on the internet typed in your email address, your password would not autocomplete for them)

Toooldtobearsed Tue 18-Aug-15 16:30:03

Turns what was quite amusing at the time into something far more frightening for you and a fellow user, what a dreadful thing to go through.

Thank you for this full and frank post, it is much appreciated and I will certainly be getting off my arse and changing my passwords.

Hope you are both a wee bit less shaken by it all now.

SecretSquirrels Tue 18-Aug-15 16:31:28

Blimey Justine Swat at the door and all that! That is very nasty. Are you allowed to tell us whether they have got the perpetrator?

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