Monthly Archives: January 2012

The Mistake Zappos Made After the Hack

After being hacked and apparently exposing customer password data in some form, Zappos has made it impossible for you to tell what password you had used on their site.

Zappos just made a big mistake – their site was hacked, and information about 24 million customer accounts was stolen, including password hashes ( In response, Zappo has asked that its customers create new passwords for the site (

Part of the above-linked request reads as follows: “We also recommend that you change your password on any other web site where you use the same or a similar password.”

This implies that you should be able to tell somehow what your password with Zappos was. However, it looks as though any attempt to log in with a recognized account (email address) generates the same message, regardless of what password you use:

Try it yourself – if you pick a likely-to-be-taken address (I used the surname “Miller” in the attempt above), you’ll get the message, regardless of what password you use. This shows that you can’t figure out what your Zappos password used to be, and so unless you remember it, you won’t be able to change it on other sites that use the same one.

What would have been better? It would have been better to force users through the password reset process using their registered email, but after allowing some way for them to verify that they had authenticated correctly with the formerly valid credentials.