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How Private Are Sites' Membership Lists?

CmdrTaco posted more than 7 years ago | from the private-enough-most-of-the-time dept.

Privacy 265

Slashdot contributor Bennett Haselton has written an essay on a subtle privacy issue affecting many websites (including Slashdot!) He says "Suppose your girlfriend called up Match.com and said, "I think my boyfriend might be cheating on me. His e-mail address is joeblow - at - aol - dot - com. Can you tell me if he's a member?" And Match.com phone support told her, "Why, yes, he is a member. You'd better have a talk with him." After you had gotten over the guilt of getting caught -- I mean, the guilt of cheating -- would you not feel like Match.com had violated your privacy by telling a third party that you were a member?" Keep reading to see what he's getting at and to decide if and when it's a problem.

Something like this is actually possible with quite a few well-known sites -- given a person's e-mail address, it is possible to find out if they have an account with Match.com, PayPal, Netflix, eBay, Amazon, and Google (and, by the way, Slashdot [CT: We'd fix it if I thought it mattered]). For some of those sites, it may even be possible to take a long list of e-mail addresses and use an automated process to find out which of those addresses have accounts with those sites (something I didn't want to risk trying myself, but as a general rule, if you can do it once, you can do it many times, at least if you do it slowly enough). It does not enable the attacker to extract addresses from a site's membership rolls, which is a much more serious type of breach -- in this case, the attacker would have to already know a list of e-mail addresses, and would only be able to find out which of those addresses have accounts with a given service. And it definitely wouldn't enable an attacker to extract more sensitive information like passwords or personal data. But the ability to get a yes/no answer for whether an e-mail address belongs to a member of a given site, should be something that the site designer should take into account. I'm not even saying that it should necessarily be considered a security hole in most cases, just that it should be something that the site designers decide whether or not they want to permit it -- not something that was left in the open accidentally. Representatives from PayPal and Netflix assured me that they knew about the possibility of this attack and had countermeasures to detect it. In the case of Match.com, on the other hand, I would argue it looks like an oversight. For other sites, whether it's a security hole or not depends on your point of view.

There are three main causes for concern with this issue. The first is simple privacy -- for a site like Match.com, a person may not want other people to be able to find out that they're a member. The second is the possibility of making phishing attacks easier. If a phisher sends spam to a huge number of recipients, hoping to trick them into entering their login details on a counterfeit site, then generally their success rate would be proportional to the number of recipients who are members of that site (of which a certain percentage will be duped into entering their login info), but the speed at which the phishing site is shut down would be proportional to the total number of recipients (since any recipient would carry the same likelihood of reporting the phishing site to an ISP and helping to get it shut down). So if the phisher could find out which addresses on their list belong to actual members of a given site, and send mail to just those people, they could get more successful attacks in proportion to the number of e-mails sent. This is especially true of "puddle phishing" attacks, where only a small percentage of recipients are likely to be members of the site being phished. The third possibility is that the data could be valuable to spammers wanting to advertise a competing site -- a spammer advertising a dating site, for example, could get more band for their buck by advertising only to Match.com members. (Maybe even try a hybrid spam-with-just-a-hint-of-phish -- spam that says "Rejected a lot on Match.com?" to make the user think at first that the e-mail really is from Match.com, but then steer them towards a competitor.)

With a build-up like this, the attack is disappointingly simple. (In fact, I listed the possible consequences of the attack first, because otherwise the attack itself is too easy to dismiss.) If you haven't already guessed at least one of these methods, the three easy ways to find out if an e-mail address is associated with an account at a given site, are:

  • Try to create a new account with that e-mail address. See if you get an error message saying the address is already associated with an account.
  • Log in under an existing account, and try to switch to another e-mail address. See if you get an error message saying the address is already associated with an account.
  • Use the forgot-your-password feature to request a password be sent to a given e-mail address. See if you get an error message saying that address is not associated with an account.
Each attack works better if you can avoid triggering an e-mail message sent to the e-mail address in question, whether in a success or failure condition. For example, if the forgot-your-password form only accepts an e-mail address as input, then if the e-mail address you enter really does belong to a member, a password reset e-mail will be sent to that member. That won't prevent you from continuing your attack, but if enough Match.com members get password reset e-mails that they didn't request, some of them will let Match.com know what is going on, and Match.com might find a way to stop the attack in progress. On the other hand, suppose the password-reset form requires an e-mail address and a birthdate, and if you enter an e-mail address without a birthdate, you get one error message telling you that the birthdate was missing, and another error message if the e-mail address you entered is not associated with an account. This avoids triggering an e-mail message to the user in either case, and increases the chance that you can carry on the attack longer without being noticed. And once you've confirmed that someone is a member, this type of password reset form would also let you use trial and error to determine their birthdate as well, something that might make identity theft easier later on. (This, by the way, is exactly how the current Match.com password reset form works. Match.com did not respond to requests for comment.)

With most popular sites that I tested, at least one of the above methods fail, but at least one other method succeeds. On Netflix, for example, the forgot-your-password form requires you to enter a last name and a credit card number, so that form can't be used to find out who is a member. On the new member signup page, though, you can enter an e-mail address and be told whether that e-mail address already belongs to a member. With Match.com, on the other hand, I already mentioned the weakness in the password-reset form, but if I tried to sign up for a new account but I didn't correctly pass the Turing test (reading numbers off a graphic and entering them in a text field), Match.com wouldn't tell me if the e-mail address was associated with an existing account. So that form could not be used to sift through 100,000 addresses and find which ones were Match.com members, but it could be used to find out if an individual person was a subscriber.

There are at least two simple countermeasures to this type of attack. The first is to require a Turing test when a user creates a new account, requests a password reset, or changes their e-mail address on file, and make sure that if the Turing test isn't completed correctly, then no error message is displayed about whether a given e-mail address does or does not exist in the system. This makes it hard for attackers to sift through a mountain of e-mail addresses finding out which ones already belong to accounts, but it still enables someone to check if someone is a member, one person at a time. For sites where that would be a privacy concern (again I'm thinking of Match.com), the other solution is better: send an error message to the e-mail address entered, not displayed to the user in their browser. If you try to sign up as joeblow@aol.com, and that address is already associated with an account, then display the normal message telling the user to check their inbox for confirmation -- but then send them a message saying their address is already in the system. eBay, for example, gets this right on their "forgot your userid" page -- if you enter an e-mail address not associated with an eBay account, it simply says, "eBay just sent your User ID to joeblow@aol.com. Check your email to get your User ID." (On the other hand, eBay's new user signup page lets you check if an e-mail address is assigned to an existing member, without needing to pass a Turing test.)

Netflix, eBay and PayPal also responded to say that they had monitors in place to detect "suspicious" activity, saying that even in cases where the forms did not require a Turing test, they could dynamically detect if someone were using a script to submit the form over and over to harvest data, but they declined to go into more detail. It seems to me this could work for forms that require you to be logged-in, but not for forms that don't. For example, on the Netflix new user page, how would they detect if it's the same person submitting e-mail addresses over and over again? Not by IP address -- you can use Tor and farms of open proxies scattered across the Internet to make it appear as if you're coming from lots of different IP addresses. However, consider the PayPal add-a-new-email-address form. This form does not require a Turing test, and does give you an error message if you try to add an address associated with another account. At first I thought this might be a loophole that an attacker could use to find all the PayPal users in a long list of addresses, but PayPal told me that if you do this enough times under the same account, eventually you will hit a limit where the form starts requiring a Turing test. I never got high enough to hit that limit. However, in this case the "dynamic detection" could actually work -- because you can only perform this action while logged in, and after you hit the limit, to continue testing more addresses would require another PayPal account -- and creating additional throwaway PayPal accounts does require a Turing test for each one. So I'll take their word for it that that attack is blocked, although, it seems to me it would be easier just to require a Turing test on the add-a-new-address page.

On the other hand, perhaps in the case of a site like Netflix, it's not something that users really need to worry about, if the company has no problem with it. Big deal, an attacker can find out whether you're a Netflix user -- but that's not a huge privacy violation, it's not like I shamefully hide those red envelopes under my shirt while I'm scurrying back from the mailbox. Now, a spammer can take a list of addresses and run them through the form to find out who is a Netflix customer, and then spam those users trying to lure them to a competing service -- but that's Netflix's problem, not ours, isn't it? (Well, it's our problem that we get the spam. But without using this attack, the alternative was that the spammer was just going to spam everybody on their list anyway, so by that argument, this attack actually results in less spam all around!)

Except... perhaps an attacker could try the third type of attack, a phishing attack to get people's Netflix usernames and passwords, but not in order to compromise their Netflix account, rather to see if the person has an account with the same password at eBay or PayPal. Perhaps a user would be wary of a PayPal phish since they see so many of them, but they might fall for a Netflix one -- although then the attacker's success would be limited to people who had Netflix and PayPal accounts, and were using the same password for them both...

So it seems to me it's not obvious when this should be considered a problem. (All of the sites mentioned in this article were e-mailed about this issue months ago, and so far none of them considered it a serious enough threat to block all three of the avenues of attack listed above.) If abuse of this type becomes common, perhaps eventually these "queryable membership lists" will come to be considered in the same way as open mail relays -- which were never considered a glaring security hole, but were abused in ways that triggered a shift in people's thinking that got them to be gradually phased out, going from open relays being the default standard up to the early 90's, to the point where many ISPs today prohibit customers from running them. Maybe "queryable membership lists" will start to be abused more, if anti-spam technologies get smart enough that spammers can't send 1 million messages at a time any more and have to limit themselves to, say, 100,000 messages at a time to get through people's filters, so they have to pick which 100,000 of their addresses they could get the most value out of. Or maybe things will go in a completely different direction and this will never become a problem. I just think that, for now, we should be aware that some form of this trick works on the majority of sites that require an account, and the types of abuses described are at least possible.

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Hmmmm (1, Interesting)

zoomshorts (137587) | more than 7 years ago | (#19411195)

Not in their best interests, but they ARE capitolists.

Not exactly (2, Insightful)

TodMinuit (1026042) | more than 7 years ago | (#19411281)

If people valued their privacy, it would be in a companies best interest to protect their customers privacy. If a company didn't, people wouldn't use them.

Re:Not exactly (5, Insightful)

Zanth_ (157695) | more than 7 years ago | (#19412061)

This is a completely invalid argument. Many companies realize their customers have no choice (save for litigation up through the supreme court via the clogged arteries of political and bureaucratic mayhem).

Think telecoms. I sign up for a service. I have to give a certain amount of information for service to my home of course as well as billing etc. Said company gets an enticing offer by a few marketing companies for their client list and any semblance of privacy has been taken from us without our consent, or deceptively with it, as consent was granted signing the contract for the service. Said consent was buried deep in the 6pt font on the back of Form B line 492.

How about credit card companies? Or major retail outlets? Many of these places offer reward cards or credit cards and the lists are sold off to other companies to use at their leisure. An old professor of mine used to have a Shopper's Drug Mart Optimum card. Shopper's Drug Mart is a massive chain in Canada (maybe in the US too?). Her son has a very rare disorder that requires a cocktail of drugs supplemented with high amounts of vitamin C. She started receiving snail mail spam regarding fresh fruit direct to her door as well as garbage mail from a competing pharmaceutical company regarding some meds. She only shopped at Shopper's and she always used her optimum points card. Outraged by this, she contacted the company who admitted that they do sell (or did at that time, about 10 years ago) their client lists to some "select and reputable companies."

Yeah sure right. They sell to whoever will pay large. When it comes to customer privacy, so long as the company realizes they have a stranglehold on a market, they can do what they want because either there is no competition, therefore no alternative for the consumer, or that their market dominance is such that even if they do lose a bunch of customers or have to deal with some legal issues, the benefits/profits far outweigh these marginal hiccups.

There are aspects of privacy one should not expect to retain (walking in public and not being noticed, or photographed etc) it is quite a different problem entirely when a company starts selling off or divulging information. Any of these releases of info should be opt-in only. Heck, in a lot of ways I believe a phone book should be the same way vs. paying to opt-out with an unlisted number.

Re:Hmmmm (-1, Offtopic)

Kortalh (1102177) | more than 7 years ago | (#19411379)

They worship Jupiter?

Answer (5, Insightful)

MyLongNickName (822545) | more than 7 years ago | (#19411205)

If you are doing something you don't want to get caught for, use a throwaway email address. If you trust a web site to keep your information private, you need a reality check. You can fight the windmills all you want, but they will keep spinning away and ignore you.

Problem solved.

Re:Answer (4, Insightful)

fohat (168135) | more than 7 years ago | (#19411425)

Exactly. Even better, If you have your own domain name where all email gets delivered to one "catch all" makes it even easier. My friend uses a different email address for each site he signs up for to see who spams him or sells his email out. It's also a good way to know if a site is being honest with any policy where they state they won't do anything with your email address.

Additionally, it is a good idea to not use the exact same username for each site you have to "sign up" for, especially if you are unsure of the sites policies. The main problem for most folks is trying to remember all of this information when they want to log in. I've heard of devices that will help with this but have never tried them.

Re:Answer (2, Interesting)

inkedgeek (1067346) | more than 7 years ago | (#19411627)

Yeah the device that keeps track of all them is called a paper and pencil.

Re:Answer (1)

Abcd1234 (188840) | more than 7 years ago | (#19411817)

Exactly. Even better, If you have your own domain name where all email gets delivered to one "catch all" makes it even easier.

Actually, anyone can do this if they have a gmail account. Any address of the form "myaddress+suffix@gmail.com" will be sent to "myaddress@gmail.com". So if you want to see who's sending you spam, just create a new address of that form for each site you register to.

Re:Answer (1)

networkBoy (774728) | more than 7 years ago | (#19412019)

Which is cool till you want to dump +suffix. I mean it's better than nothing for sure but I have a mailserver host with unlimited forwarders and a boatload of real boxes (to a max of a gig of mail). Thus I register sitename(+seq#)@networkboy.net (i.e. slashdot01@networkboy.net) I point the address to my root account (random numbers and letters@networboy.net). If an account goes bad and spammy, and I don't want the service I forward to :blackhole:. if OTOH I think the address is compromised but still want the service I change my e-mail (seq++) and then :blackhole: the old one.

On the surface it seems like a lot of work, but in reality it's dead easy.
-nB

Re:Answer (1)

Abcd1234 (188840) | more than 7 years ago | (#19412101)

If an account goes bad and spammy, and I don't want the service I forward to :blackhole:

You can do the same with gmail. Just create a mail filter on the To: line and instruct it to delete the emails. Easy peasy. And works for those who don't maintain their own email infrastructure.

Re:Answer (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19412217)

That fails on some sites that disallow a "+" sign in email addresses even though they are perfectly valid.

Re:Answer (1, Informative)

nametaken (610866) | more than 7 years ago | (#19412063)

This essay seems to be largely about phishing attacks, etc.

What worries me more, is that my mother, who is not my guardian anymore (by a longshot) can still call educational institutions that I attend and get information about my enrollment with nothing more than my name and social security number. She's hardly what anyone would call an expert in social engineering.

Or how about banking? Many banks use your ssn as an identity verification. Both stupid AND dangerous! Somewhere along the line someone decided that the ssn was a secure pin that everyone was guaranteed to have, and was easier than managing your own secret pin system. I'd love to see that person flogged.

Re:Answer (1)

AVee (557523) | more than 7 years ago | (#19412067)

Indeed, and while you're at it, only use this email address outside of your house. Like in internet cafe's and such. You girlfriend might just poke around on your computer. Als make sure she does not follow you when you are going out. Tell you're colleages not to let here in, since she might sneak up on you at work. Or perhaps it's best to just tie her up in the basement, that will solve the issue.

Or maybe, just maybe, we are solving the wrong problem here. Do i really need to explain something is wrong when you have to hide stuff for your SO?

Offcourse there is another problem, your SO is not the only one who has your email address. But do you really think that someone who is checking your email address against various websites to see if you have an account there should be having your email address? Nope, so solve that problem, make sure that people/organisations that cannot be trusted with you email address will not get it.

anyone here use match.com? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19411207)

I'm thinking about using it to get laid and maby settle down. Anyone here used it? What do you think of it? Do you have advice for the rest of us?

Must find female (preferably cute).

Re:anyone here use match.com? (5, Funny)

MyLongNickName (822545) | more than 7 years ago | (#19411247)

Personally, I've been using Slashdot to meet my dating needs. Needless to say I have been less than impressed.

Re:anyone here use match.com? (0, Offtopic)

joto (134244) | more than 7 years ago | (#19411375)

You need to work on you gheyness

Re:anyone here use match.com? (1)

Billosaur (927319) | more than 7 years ago | (#19411465)

20+ y.o. male geek, likes long walks on the beach, dark rooms, WoW, and Ubuntu, seeking female with similar interest to keep me company in my parents basement while I hack -- prefer a virgin.

Re:anyone here use match.com? (1)

inkedgeek (1067346) | more than 7 years ago | (#19411703)

Wow I'd fit your needs perfectly. Too bad I'm gay and looking for the same girl. ;)

Re:anyone here use match.com? (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19411831)

If you find her, for pity's sake take pictures!

Re:anyone here use match.com? (1)

BosstonesOwn (794949) | more than 7 years ago | (#19411939)

News flash ! Any females that meet that criteria ARE virgins.

As for me , give me a dirty girl every day of the week over a virgin , them dirty girls know how to work it !

Re:anyone here use match.com? (2, Funny)

CrackedButter (646746) | more than 7 years ago | (#19411509)

I find there's too many women on this site. I'm going to check out digg.

Re:anyone here use match.com? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19411423)

I met my wife there. I'm wishing now I hadn't.

Enjoy being single. Marriage isn't all it's made out to be.

Re:anyone here use match.com? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19412247)

Every self-important neurotic loser I know has a match.com account. If you're looking for someone with issues (that probably rival your own), I'd say it's the de-facto place to go.

Doh! (2, Funny)

ReidMaynard (161608) | more than 7 years ago | (#19411215)

Sounds like Bennett's wife discovered his match.com account.

*looks through subscriptions* (5, Insightful)

Mockylock (1087585) | more than 7 years ago | (#19411233)

Fuck.

If most spouses were savvy enough to call up sites and ask for information on their significant other, they probably would have caught them previously in some way, shape or form.

Chat logs, history and everything else, show quite a bit of information for any computer-literate person to evaluate.

Not only that, but I'm sure that anyone smart enough to hide everything and cover their trail, wouldn't leave personal information for their spouse to find.

Re:*looks through subscriptions* (1, Troll)

Shakrai (717556) | more than 7 years ago | (#19411437)

Not only that, but I'm sure that anyone smart enough to hide everything and cover their trail, wouldn't leave personal information for their spouse to find.

Yeah, there's this really advanced technology, called hotmail, that can be used to obtain an e-mail address your spouse doesn't know about ;)

Re:*looks through subscriptions* (1)

Mockylock (1087585) | more than 7 years ago | (#19411555)

Exactly.

Along with thousands of other providers. Not that I would KNOW about any of those situations, but I'm trackin'. *cough*

Re:*looks through subscriptions* (2, Insightful)

Nephilium (684559) | more than 7 years ago | (#19411771)

Of course... if the relationship is already at the point where they're attempting to secretly investigate each other, it's a dead relationship anyways...

Nephilium

Re:*looks through subscriptions* (1)

Mockylock (1087585) | more than 7 years ago | (#19411927)

To an extent, that's true.

But, even when stress of everyday life hits you, be it children.. work.. school.. household issues and other things that build up, bumps in the road lead to unneeded paranoia in some cases.

Even if it's miscommunication, there are lots of reasons that people take those steps.

My wife and I had arguments over little household spats and daily stress with the kids. Little did I know, post-partum depression can last over a year after having a child. Everything was REALLY fucked up and I couldn't figure out why. I started seeing if she was talking to someone else or something along those lines.

The relationship wasn't "Dead" by any means, but when people are twisted over miscommunication and only have so many places to turn for information, they take different measures for reassurance.

In other thoughts... if you haven't got anything to hide, then you haven't got anything to worry about. So, you're at least half right.

Re:*looks through subscriptions* (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19412037)

But you will want to gather as much information about the intentions of your significant other as you can so you can protect yourself, kids, assets, etc. Divorce is not a nice thing to go through, and lack of trust is the primary reason for checking up on someone. Sure the relationship is "over," but the messy details of the breakup probably aren't.

Re:*looks through subscriptions* (1)

Bucc5062 (856482) | more than 7 years ago | (#19411899)

People, like programs are not infallible. In an affair, at somepoint the subconscious begins to leaves clues so the affiar can be revealed. Asked someone having an affair if they would confront their sponse directly with the news and the response would be some variation of "Hell No". yet, watch them long enough and slip ups, mistakes in the stories, items left out by accient get more frequent.

A lie is to hard to maintian for a long time. No one is perfect in the cover up.

Re:*looks through subscriptions* (1)

Mockylock (1087585) | more than 7 years ago | (#19412111)

I'm glad someone thinks the same way I do.

All the little subconsious snippets that we've gathered from other failed relationships, tend to give you that uneasy feeling that something bad is going on. You may not be able to pick out exactly what it was... but it's just the way she's acting (outside of the norm) that makes your mind say, "wait... I know this intuition... and it's not good."

I've been there before and KNOW what you mean. Even when you know the feeling, and you know that something is going on.... they still deny it with no reassurance. One ends up in a downward spiral of disbelief, distrust and lack of confidence.... either way, they'll end up leaving you over: A. Acting paranoid and accusing them of cheating; or B. You letting it go and losing them to what you feared was true (in this case, the intuition of cheating).

But, of course, most women would rather call it rhetoric.. rather than psychology.

Re:*looks through subscriptions* (1)

networkBoy (774728) | more than 7 years ago | (#19412153)

hence the moon landing can't be a fake...

But, you are right, marital infidelity is hard to cover up. My spouse and I have a covenant that should either of us want to stray it's automatically OK so long as neither of us hides it from the other (from family is fine, but not from each other). This has worked out very well as one of us was... interested in another person. This person was known to both of us, and was reciprocal in the interest. Nothing ended up happening, because my wife and I were able to talk about it openly and without fear. Had this been a buried interest I'm willing to bet something would have happened.

-nB

That's a very long article (0, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19411235)

About something that I care not a whit about.

Author: Learn to edit yourself
Editors: Learn not to post crap

need to check the regdate too (5, Insightful)

iteyoidar (972700) | more than 7 years ago | (#19411267)

I hope you can get the registration date too, what if this person's girlfriend had a match.com account before he met her.

what if they met on match.com. but then she figured out he had two match.com accounts, like a secret one. then he would be cheating on her.

Seems to me... (5, Insightful)

catbutt (469582) | more than 7 years ago | (#19411291)

...that if you are that paranoid, you should just use a different email address than the one known to your girlfriend. I just don't see this as a problem.

Re:Seems to me... (5, Insightful)

Qzukk (229616) | more than 7 years ago | (#19411347)

that if you are that paranoid, you should just use a different email address

Seems to me that if a society decides that paranoia is required in order to "earn" privacy, it should quit being surprised when it creates paranoid people.

Re:Seems to me... (2, Insightful)

speaker of the truth (1112181) | more than 7 years ago | (#19411905)

Seems to me if society creates people who can't be honest with each other, it should quit being surprised when people in relationships distrust their significant other.

Re:Seems to me... (5, Funny)

LighterShadeOfBlack (1011407) | more than 7 years ago | (#19411563)

Seems to me you should never give out your emmail address to your girlfriend, period. And why take any risks, don't even give them your number, or your real name for that matter. Personally I prefer to be extra careful about giving out personal information, I don't let them see my face or even let them know that we're dating.

It's going pretty well with my latest one I think. She's a bit shy though. Every time I call her it's nothing but awkward silences. Plus she's started closed the curtains :(

Re:Seems to me... (4, Funny)

BosstonesOwn (794949) | more than 7 years ago | (#19412039)

Dad ?

...thought it mattered (5, Funny)

Radon360 (951529) | more than 7 years ago | (#19411337)

CT: We'd fix it if I CT: We'd fix it if I thought it mattered]]

Thought it mattered?!? I don't want people being able to find out that I'm a nerd!

...oh wait.

I can see it now... (5, Funny)

Billosaur (927319) | more than 7 years ago | (#19411341)

Harold, I know... you've been on that Slashdot site again haven't you? Haven't you? Admit it!!!! You're fooling around with Ubuntu... behind my back!!!

Re:I can see it now... (3, Funny)

Rob T Firefly (844560) | more than 7 years ago | (#19411589)

Honey, no! I mistyped the URL for digg, I swear! You know I would never betray you and Gentoo...

Re:I can see it now... (1)

Kjella (173770) | more than 7 years ago | (#19412077)

Harold, I know... you've been on that Slashdot site again haven't you? Haven't you? Admit it!!!! You're fooling around with Ubuntu... behind my back!!!

We need to have a talk. Dear aunt, let's set so double the killer delete select all.

Re:I can see it now... (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19412125)

Before there were faggots..now there are geek faggots

Privacy on match.com? (5, Insightful)

rob1980 (941751) | more than 7 years ago | (#19411345)

Think about the purpose of that site for a second: the whole idea of match.com is you post a picture and a profile so you can meet new people. You're already spilling a ton of personally-identifiable information about yourself, and presumably someone is going to be able to search for you - so why get pissy about someone being able to determine that your e-mail address is registered there?

And while I'm thinking about it, if you're using match.com while you're already in a relationship with somebody then maybe you need to have a talk with that person and let them know things aren't working out.

Re:Privacy on match.com? (1)

d0rp (888607) | more than 7 years ago | (#19412301)

Think about the purpose of that site for a second: the whole idea of match.com is you post a picture and a profile so you can meet new people. You're already spilling a ton of personally-identifiable information about yourself, and presumably someone is going to be able to search for you - so why get pissy about someone being able to determine that your e-mail address is registered there?
That's what I was thinking too. Also, in the example given, there's no mention that the account is currently active. What's to say that the guy had an account previously and has since discontinued it's use? Wouldn't his email address still be tied to an (inactive) account?

Social Engineering (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19411351)

Amazing how much stuff you can get done by asking. A friend recently bought a new house. To shut off the power to his old house he simply called the power company and gave them his name and old address. No more power to that house. Of course names and addresses are usually a click away but I bet you already know the name of your neighbor who blasts music all night....

Re:Social Engineering (2, Funny)

ArsenneLupin (766289) | more than 7 years ago | (#19411503)

but I bet you already know the name of your neighbor who blasts music all night....
A very efficient method indeed. But you better get a good UPS before you do that, because your neighbor certainly also knows where the geek who can't stand loud music lives...

Saved By The Force (0, Offtopic)

andrewd18 (989408) | more than 7 years ago | (#19411381)

Simple fix - just train all your customer support employees in the light side of The Force. The conversation changes into:

Theoretical Girlfriend: I think my boyfriend might be cheating on me. His e-mail address is joeblow - at - aol - dot - com. Can you tell me if he's a member?
Phone Support: You don't need to see his identification.
TGF: I don't need to see his identification.
PS: This isn't the guy you're looking for.
TGF: This isn't the guy I'm looking for.
PS: He can go about his business.
TGF: He can go about your business.
PS: Move along.
TGF: Move along... move along.
Problem solved.

Re:Saved By The Force (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19411793)

You can use the "I've lost my password [match.com] " form on their website. The question: Does it give an "OK" response if it knows the email address - and an error if it doesn't?

Although:

(1) you need to know someone's date of birth (this is a really good idea actually).
(2) they'll receive an email saying that someone's trying to reset their password.

Login error notifications (2, Interesting)

tonypeters (573741) | more than 7 years ago | (#19411393)

So many sites out there tell you if you have got your email address or password wrong when you log in, when what it should do is tell you that your email OR password are incorrent. By entering someone elses email address (if used for login) into one of these sites, you can tell if they have registered or not.

disposable web mail (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19411401)

If you can't be bothered to spend the time on creating a disposable Yahoo, Gmail, Hotmail or whatever then you should get caught. That is like robbing a liquor store with your name and address printed on the back of your shirt. Even the dateline predators created new accounts like "analrapist69@yahoo.com" or whatever.

Either you're together, or not, or you're open... (1)

davidsyes (765062) | more than 7 years ago | (#19411433)

But if you're NOT "open", then think about your other half/significant other/whatever. If you're mutually apart for a period of time (a day, a week, whatever) then you've got a limited window. If you violate your other half, then you should have IN ADVANCE considered and expected to accept the consequences.

If Joe Blow gets caught, tough. If his girlfriend KNEW he was logging in to such sites, then she could live with it or walk away on her own. IF she finds out by other means, whatever they may be aside from personally breaking into his computer/s, then tough for him. Maybe people should mutually declare or assign a "sanctity rating" to their relationships so they can responsibly handle each others' emotions so no one is crushed when an occasional fling occurs.

Oh well, so many people are feeble-minded. And, DAMNED RUDE with others' feelings

Captch: "odorous"

Re:Either you're together, or not, or you're open. (1)

faqmaster (172770) | more than 7 years ago | (#19411577)

The couple that porns together, stays together.

Re:Either you're together, or not, or you're open. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19412257)

Not every fling deserves to be made known - sometimes people keep secrets from their partner because they love them. And relationships based on a pre-determined set of rules are not appropriate for most couples, because most couples are emotional and fallible human beings.

Does anyone expect privacy in this digital era? (0, Offtopic)

Noose For A Neck (610324) | more than 7 years ago | (#19411445)

Now, I can't speak for everyone who reads Slashdot, but when I go online and, for example, order computer parts from Newegg, I have no illusions about the safety of my personal information. It is unrealistic to expect, in this age of running Windows on servers and constant security breaches of merchants, that the information you give out online will remain secure. The best that I expect to do is damage control, which involves frequently monitoring my credit card transactions, using throwaway email accounts from various free email providers such as Yahoo! and Google, Snape dies so Harry can kill Voldemort without dying and using web proxies to access sites where I will be doing things that I wouldn't want everyone I know or don't know to find out.

I think the best a savvy 'net user can do these days is to give up on the hope that someone else is going to protect you and take matters into their own hands. That's why projects such as Tor [eff.org] are so important, not just for Chinese dissidents and child pornographers, but for average citizens like you and me who might not want the whole world to know that we are buying books on dealing with grief or surfing internet dating sites. Because we can't rely on the government to protect us when the interests of Big Business run counter to our own.

Mod Parent Down (1)

PhxBlue (562201) | more than 7 years ago | (#19411547)

For squirting spoilers into the text of his post. Jackass.

Re:Mod Parent Down (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19411635)

What are you talking about? Everything he said about the iPhone is already well-known, even if you don't browse rumor sites.

an email address that's in use... (1)

yskel (1020399) | more than 7 years ago | (#19411457)

...should be considered public information. The street address comparison seems analogous here in many ways - just like anyone can see your address from the street, any time you use an e-mail address as a UID, it should be assumed that it's public. In other words, there should be no expectation on the part of someone sharing their address that it'll be kept secret.

I'm not saying this is a good thing (I think that, in general, sites that collect private information have at least an implicit responsibility to keep it private), but the bigger issue is that the average internet user needs to be aware of these really basic facts. Just like he/she needs to be skeptical enough not to click through to phishing attacks.

Until the state of awareness on these issues increases, there will always be opportunities for these sorts of marginal attacks on people's privacy.

Privacy in the US Sucks. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19411469)

This will NOT change until we start getting our elected officials to actually listen to their constituents--instead of having their heads up their asses and their palms greased by lobbyists.

Is privacy really a good thing though? (0, Troll)

Hal_Porter (817932) | more than 7 years ago | (#19411477)

I like the idea of a Panopticon [wikipedia.org] style world actually, with no privacy at all. My parents live in a distinctly non private village where everyone knows what everyone else is doing and it has no crime whatsoever.

Re:Is privacy really a good thing though? (1)

Pyrion (525584) | more than 7 years ago | (#19411679)

Is that village isolated from the outside world though?

There may be no crime perpetuated by the villagers themselves but what of visitors?

Re:Is privacy really a good thing though? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19412031)

My parents live in a distinctly non private village where everyone knows what everyone else is doing and it has no crime whatsoever.

Yeah, I think I've heard of the village [wikipedia.org] .

Essay? (1)

AutopsyReport (856852) | more than 7 years ago | (#19411483)

I don't know, but I'll be sure to let everyone know when I finish page 467 of the book you just wrote.

Proper password management (1)

Charles Dodgeson (248492) | more than 7 years ago | (#19411485)

Many (most) email systems now will allow suffixed addresses, typically using "+" as the separator. Chances are that most of the services that use email address as a username or have the features that allow a third party to detect whether a particular email address is registered will treat "foo@domain.example" as entirely distinct from "foo+bar@domain.example". So most people have easy access to throw away addresses. Unfortunately this doesn't fully solve the problem. Sites use email addresses as identifiers exactly because people remember their own. Using unique addresses for each service defeats that purpose.

The real solution to the real problem is for people to use proper username and password management tools. With such tools users don't have to remember their usernames and passwords, so schemes that try to verify whether a username is registered on a system won't identify to the world the person behind that username the way an email address might.

Oh pfeh. (0, Redundant)

Pyrion (525584) | more than 7 years ago | (#19411497)

You don't even have to ask most sites. Just punch in the person's email address in the "forgot password" form page and see if it corresponds to a registered member's email address. If it's not in the database, you'll get an error. If it is, they'll get a reset password email that they never requested.

Call me old-fashioned ... (0, Flamebait)

PhxBlue (562201) | more than 7 years ago | (#19411505)

I believe a person's right to privacy ends when they're breaking the law -- adultery is still illegal last I checked, at least insofar as it's a violation of a marriage contract -- or when their actions are causing harm to an innocent third party.

And as others have already stated, a privately owned Web site doesn't have to respect your right to privacy. You signed up for their service; within their terms of service, they can do whatever they damn well like with your user information.

Re:Call me old-fashioned ... (1)

plague3106 (71849) | more than 7 years ago | (#19411695)

You're a dolt. Adultery is NOT illegal in almost every county in the US. That, along with many other blue laws have been tossed out years ago. What contract did you sign when you got married? Most people only get a piece of paper stating that they are married.. there are no terms on it.

Re:Call me old-fashioned ... (1)

sconeu (64226) | more than 7 years ago | (#19411891)

Depends. If you're Jewish, then you *did* sign a contract. Your Ketubah is a contract. Because a Jewish marriage is a contract, that's why you can't get married on Shabbat.

Re:Call me old-fashioned ... (1)

FatMacDaddy (878246) | more than 7 years ago | (#19411789)

While I wouldn't say that this guy had as yet done anything illegal (maybe slimy), you're right about privately owned web sites not having to respect one's right to privacy. Especially because in the USofA, there is no right to privacy. We have that expectation, but there is no constitutional right to it. This was hardly an issue when the constitution was written, but I think the time has come to address that.

Re:Call me old-fashioned ... (1)

PhxBlue (562201) | more than 7 years ago | (#19411867)

Especially because in the USofA, there is no right to privacy. We have that expectation, but there is no constitutional right to it.

Actually, that falls under Amendment 9. The government doesn't explicitly get to regulate it, therefore it belongs to the people.

Re:Call me old-fashioned ... (2, Insightful)

Vellmont (569020) | more than 7 years ago | (#19411811)


I believe a person's right to privacy ends when they're breaking the law -- adultery is still illegal last I checked

Maybe in some states, but last I checked it's not illegal in most states.

at least insofar as it's a violation of a marriage contract --

I don't know much about marriage law. But I've never heard of anyone being charged with a crime, at least in the last 30 odd years for committing adultery. I was under the impression most states had "no fault divorce laws" on the books many years ago.

or when their actions are causing harm to an innocent third party.

Wow, if "causing harm to an innocent third party" (assuming non-physical) is illegal, then can I put Rush Limbaugh in jail because he pisses me off?

Re:Call me old-fashioned ... (1)

PhxBlue (562201) | more than 7 years ago | (#19411965)

Wow, if "causing harm to an innocent third party" (assuming non-physical) is illegal, then can I put Rush Limbaugh in jail because he pisses me off?

No, you have to get him for abusing prescription drug medications.

I didn't mean to imply that causing harm to an innocent third party is illegal, but it is clearly wrong, at least IMO.

Re:Call me old-fashioned ... (2, Insightful)

ewieling (90662) | more than 7 years ago | (#19411879)

That is odd. I never signed a contract when I got married. If I was still married would I be arrested for not signing the "marriage contract"?

Just because something is illegal does not mean it is wrong. Just because it is wrong does not make it illegal. For example, it is illegal in the USA state of Georgia to have oral sex with your wife. At least it was in 1989 when James David Moseley went to prison for 17 months for going down on his wife. It was consensual. http://www.ling.upenn.edu/~kurisuto/sodomy.html [upenn.edu]

I have an open relationship. Each of us get to play with most anyone we want to. There are a few rules, but not many. In my world there isn't a lot of difference between "lying" and "cheating" in a relationship. They are both a violation of trust.

I don't have a lot of sympathy for a guy that is on match.com trying to "find someone the side", but only because he is trying to hide it. To me that is also a violation of trust.

Re:Call me old-fashioned ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19412043)

Maybe you're not married anymore because you're a male slut.

Re:Call me old-fashioned ... (1)

PhxBlue (562201) | more than 7 years ago | (#19412207)

I have an open relationship. Each of us get to play with most anyone we want to. There are a few rules, but not many. In my world there isn't a lot of difference between "lying" and "cheating" in a relationship. They are both a violation of trust.

I agree. Polyamory introduces a third dimension of complication, but the basics -- trust and communication -- are equally essential for any poly relationship as for any monogamous relationship. Maybe more so, because there's a lot of communication required from the very beginning insofar as explaining what polyamory is (at least to non-poly folks), what it means in the context of a relationship, what the ground rules are for relationships, etc.

On the other hand, I think poly folks have a leg up on most monogamous folks because they know they can't take any of this stuff for granted. Whenever people don't communicate (because of assumptions), they leave themselves open to being hurt.

Re:Call me old-fashioned ... (0)

UbuntuDupe (970646) | more than 7 years ago | (#19412095)

Wow, a lot of the responders were kind of beside the point, so let me sort through:

-No, there isn't necessarily a "marriage contract".
-But, the law typically is specified so that by getting married, certain obligations attach.
-Yes, adultery is legal in some places, BUT not others
-Breach of contract isn't the same thing as breaking a law.
-But, the website will typically have a policy against married users signing up.
-But, and this is the most important, just because someone claims they're married to a user and want you to share information, doesn't mean you should believe them and comply. That was the point all along! There are proper channels to go through, and the site should give that level of information that easily.

CORRECTION (0)

UbuntuDupe (970646) | more than 7 years ago | (#19412167)

I know it's obvious from context, but just to pre-empt a long lecture: the last statement should be "There are proper channels to go through, and the site shouldn't give that level of information that easily."

Re:Call me old-fashioned ... (1)

Anon-Admin (443764) | more than 7 years ago | (#19412163)

I believe a person's right to privacy ends when they're breaking the law -- adultery is still illegal last I checked, at least insofar as it's a violation of a marriage contract -- or when their actions are causing harm to an innocent third party.

From the statement, I guessed that you were female. Most females I know seem to think that adultery is illegal or if it is not, that it should be.

Sorry Jennifer, it is not illegal. I thought pagans enjoyed a verity of non-standard living arrangements... Polygamy, etc.

The problem is that there is little to no privacy and few really understand that.

Re:Call me old-fashioned ... (1)

hasbeard (982620) | more than 7 years ago | (#19412209)

I am not a lawyer, and I have not researched the laws of all 50 states. I do know that in my county an individual was recently sued for "Alienation of Affections." The defendant lost the case. I can't remember if the defendant had to pay damages or, if so, what the damages were. I am not aware of a criminal penalty for adultery where I live, but it seems there is a civil liability for the person who instigates the breakup of a marriage.

Sex Offenders Will Have It Rough (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19411651)

Just think of the fun that people are going to have when they get their hands on the sex offender email list. Spammers will KNOW that these are valid emails. I reckon that people will use the Sex offender list to sign them up for all kind of things. The attacks listed in the article show that it's way to easy to mess with people when you only have a little information about them.

i am almost certain that: (1)

FudRucker (866063) | more than 7 years ago | (#19411731)

Match.com and Yahoo's personals were both caught and fined for creating fake identities...

would you trust match.com and yahoo? not me...

Shame... (1)

AVee (557523) | more than 7 years ago | (#19411737)

Big deal, an attacker can find out whether you're a Netflix user -- but that's not a huge privacy violation, it's not like I shamefully hide those red envelopes under my shirt while I'm scurrying back from the mailbox.

So here you are, making a big fuss about some perceived privacy problem. Yet appearantly privacy mainly means being able to hide the thing you are ashamed of. If that is all you are concerned with your privacy is not the problem.

So let me get this straight... (2, Insightful)

untaken_name (660789) | more than 7 years ago | (#19411815)

You want to be able to go get all the services you want while maintaining total privacy, huh? Well, if you want privacy, I have a 100% guaranteed-to-work solution for you. Don't give your email address out. Don't sign up for stuff on the web. If you're going to go in 'public', you're going to lose 'privacy', see, because they're opposites. That's how it works. You can go as emo about it as you want. It won't change the fact that in public, there is no expectation of privacy. (excepting that of your person, but that's not applicable online because you don't have an online 'body')

mod$ d0wn (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19411841)

If you don't understand the system your either: (1)

Browzer (17971) | more than 7 years ago | (#19411849)

a. deserve to be caught
or
b. should not be fooling around

Not exactly the same thing, but I know a few married, computer-illiterate people who correspond daily with their fling using email. They think it is safe just because their local computer account is password protected. At the same time, their email program (OL, TB) is set to remember the password, and don't mind walking hand and hand with their fling down Broadway.

Why would you use match.com? (1)

Colin Smith (2679) | more than 7 years ago | (#19411857)

Okcupid is free and has some geek cred, it uses a least squares regression to match people.

And why would you use your regular email address? There is no anonymity on the Internet.

 

Re:Why would you use match.com? (1)

gdr (107158) | more than 7 years ago | (#19412133)

Okcupid is free and has some geek cred, it uses a least squares regression to match people.
But what if I want to meet more squares?

How much privacy should one expect? (1)

richg74 (650636) | more than 7 years ago | (#19411883)

As a practical matter, I have always assumed that anything that I submitted to a Web site was public, or close to being so. At most, it might be secured with what my grandfather called "the kind of locks that keep honest people out." After all, I chose to submit the information -- and if I were really paranoid, nothing forced me to tell the truth. The one obvious exception is payment data for E-commerce transactions, which I do think reputable sites (e.g., Amazon) take care over, despite a few highly-publicized lapses.

As far as a relationship goes, I would say that if the parties are fishing around for each others' correspondence and Internet accounts, the relationship already has some pretty serious problems with trust.

Don't use your personal email address! (5, Insightful)

gsslay (807818) | more than 7 years ago | (#19411889)

It's simple really. Maintain 3 email addresses.

The first is your personal email address you give to friends and people who you actually want to communicate with.

The second is your 'account' address you give to companies, organisations, websites that you either have a financial arrangement with or some other connection that you actually care about.

The third is your 'trash & spam' address you give to websites/organisations that demand it, but you don't care about and never read.

I do this, and no person or organisation knows of the other. Not because it's a massive secret, but simply because they've no need to know. So in the scenario given here; my signup at Match would either be on my 'account' or 'trash & spam' email address and my girlfriend would only know my personal address.

Anyways, if I was the lying, cheating type, all I'd need to do would be tell the girlfriend that it was a ancient account I signed up to years ago and never use now.

Dump her! (1)

danlock4 (1026420) | more than 7 years ago | (#19411901)

I wouldn't want a girlfriend that would not trust me enough to ask me directly if I'm a match.com member. I would, of course, answer honestly.

If a girlfriend treats you with that much mistrust, you probably don't have a happy future together.

Please stop... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19411903)

Please stop calling "type in the numbers that you see" a Turing test. I find it insulting.

-Eliza

match.com? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19411933)

Why would anyone care if you had an account at a site specializing in philluminism [wikipedia.org] ?

Article starts off with wild assumptions (5, Funny)

192939495969798999 (58312) | more than 7 years ago | (#19411959)

"Suppose your girlfriend"....you can stop right there, buddy, this is slashdot!

An even simpler solution (1)

Todd Knarr (15451) | more than 7 years ago | (#19412097)

I use an even simpler solution to the problem than any Mr. Hasselton suggests. Each site I sign up with where I care about this gets a unique e-mail address dedicated to them, one that isn't my regular e-mail address. I don't bother telling anyone else what these site-specific addresses are because nobody but that site should be sending mail to them anyway. Anyone checking my regular e-mail addresses would get back "not a member", since that address isn't a member. They can try and guess what different address I used, but that's only likely to work for sites like eBay where having an account isn't particularly embarrassing. For someplace like Match.com I'd be using something plausible but arbitrary like "tk487c5", and that's going to be all but impossible to guess if you don't know what it is already.

joeblow? (1)

wbren (682133) | more than 7 years ago | (#19412109)

"I think my boyfriend might be cheating on me. His e-mail address is joeblow - at - aol - dot - com. Can you tell me if he's a member?"
Was the submitter really worried about poor joeblow@aol.com being hounded by a spambot? I mean, his email address is joeblow@aol.com for Christ's sake...

Slashdot is the most secure site out there (3, Funny)

GBC (981160) | more than 7 years ago | (#19412181)

It is necessary to have a girlfriend (whatever that is) for this to be a problem, so I guess we are all safe...

Suspicious data (1)

moderatorrater (1095745) | more than 7 years ago | (#19412187)

His argument that the requests would only be suspicious if the attacker is logged in misses some of the point. Let's say that Match.com usually gets 10 password requests per second, now they're suddenly getting an average of 15. That's a significant increase, so then they'll do some data mining or start requiring a Turing test. Also, his argument depends on not having to reuse any IP addresses, since the same IP address checking 3 email addresses that correspond to 3 unrelated accounts would be suspicious. I'm not saying that it's not harder to spot the attack when someone isn't logged in, but I am saying it's not impossible.

There are easier ways (1)

rehtonAesoohC (954490) | more than 7 years ago | (#19412283)

One of the examples in the essay is that a girlfriend wants to know if her boyfriend is cheating on her... but by checking if he has an account?

Give me a break... First of all, what if he created the account several years ago and hasn't visited in that long? If the said girlfriend sees only that he has an account and automatically jumps to "He's cheating on me, the louse!" then I think they have some trust issues that go way deeper than Match.com.

Second of all, it's a social networking / matchmaking site. How difficult would it be to sign up for a freebie account and just search for his damn name? Seems to me like that would be a lot more definitive than checking the magic 8 ball of "Does he have an account?"
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