Oracle database users could be at risk because of weak encryption mechanisms around the password system, security experts have warned.
Researchers Joshua Wright of the Sans Institute and Carlos Cid of Royal Holloway College's Information Security Group warned that it was straightforward for an attacker to recover a user's password.
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Using a standard Intel Pentium 4 2.8GHz workstation, where passwords in the database were set to eight alphanumeric characters and a known user name, the researchers said a password could be found in about 20 days.
Although users can protect the password table and enforce complexity rules for passwords, the researchers encouraged Oracle users to lobby the company to make the password system more secure.
David Litchfield, managing director of NGS Software and an expert on Oracle security, said the problem lay with Oracle's use of a simple version of the TripleDES encryption algorithm, which automatically converts passwords to upper case letters. This made it more vulnerable to a brute-force password attack - where all combinations of password are tried.
Litchfield warned that a bigger problem with Oracle database security lay in poor practices by IT departments, with default passwords not being changed in the database.
Oracle said it was unable to comment on the warning.