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How Hacking Works
If only somebody had warned them that the world would roll them like this.
Title text: If only somebody had warned them that the world would roll them like this.

Explanation

Ambox notice.png This explanation may be incomplete or incorrect: Created by SMASH MOUTH. Please mention here why this explanation isn't complete. Do NOT delete this tag too soon.

In similar spirit to 538: Security this comic deals with how many people perceive hacking and security best practices. Specifically, the comic points out the flaw in the argument of some security minded people that writing passwords down on a sheet of paper is a massive operational security vulnerability, not accounting for the threat model of the general public: reused passwords being leaked from seemingly benign places.

While it is true that storing passwords on paper is generally a bad idea, one has to keep in mind the alternatives—password reuse or unencrypted password documents on a computer—that non-technical people might otherwise engage in. These are far easier to exploit for a casual attacker that goes for quantity over quality. The trade-off of course being that targeted attacks (for example by a family member or close friend) are more easily possible.

The second panel goes into detail how such an attack is usually executed: First, a database containing usernames/emails and associated passwords/password hashes is stolen from an improperly secured website. Randall's example uses a fictional breach of a small forum dedicated to the band Smash Mouth, but even large companies are not immune to leaks. Assuming the passwords were not hashed, the crooks then go on and automatically try to log in to a popular payment service, Venmo, with the harvested credentials. Even though the success rate might be just fractions of a percent, due to the scale and cheapness of the attack it is likely still profitable. Such an attack has previously been discussed in 792: Password Reuse.

The title text is referring to Smash Mouth's song, "All Star," where the first line of the lyrics is "Somebody once told me the world is gonna roll me".

Transcript

Ambox notice.png This transcript is incomplete. Please help editing it! Thanks.
[Two panels with a caption below each panel:]
[Panel 1 - Three masked characters standing near a desk with a computer inside a home]
Masked Character 1 [holding a walkie-talkie]: Control, we have flown to the USA and breached the target's house.
Masked Character 2: They wrote all their passwords in a book labeled "Passwords"!
Masked Character 3: The fool!
Caption: How people think hacking works
[Panel 2 - Two Cueball-like characters, each sitting on opposite sides of a single desk with laptops in front of them]
Character 1: Hey look, someone leaked the emails and passwords from the Smash Mouth message boards.
Character 2: Cool, let's try them all on Venmo.
Caption: How it actually works


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