A more in-depth have a look at a password storage challenge affecting 3,420 clients


We not too long ago started emailing 3,420 Coinbase clients to allow them to know {that a} bug on our signup web page resulted in some registration particulars being saved in clear textual content in our inside net server logs. Whereas we're assured that we’ve mounted the foundation trigger and that the logged data was not improperly accessed, misused, or compromised, we're requiring these clients to alter their passwords as a best-practice precaution.

Right here’s what occurred

Below a really particular and uncommon error situation, the registration kind on our signup web page wouldn’t load appropriately, which meant that any try to create a brand new Coinbase account below these situations would fail. Sadly, it additionally meant that the person’s identify, e mail handle, and proposed password (and state of residence, if within the US) can be despatched to our inside logs.

If the person reloaded the web page after which submitted the shape for a profitable registration, their registration data would (appropriately) not be logged, and the password can be securely hashed. Nevertheless, within the 3,420 cases referenced above, the person efficiently registered utilizing a password with a hash that matched the one beforehand logged.

Right here’s how we responded

After we recognized and stuck the bug, we traced again all of the locations the place these logs might need ended up. We've got an inside logging system hosted in AWS, in addition to a small variety of log evaluation service suppliers. Entry to all of those programs is tightly restricted and audited. An intensive evaluate of entry to those logging programs didn't reveal any unauthorized entry to this knowledge. Moreover, we triggered a password reset for impacted clients, regardless that a password alone is just not enough to entry a Coinbase account — our machine verification emails and necessary 2FA mechanisms would each have been triggered and blocked any unauthorized login makes an attempt.

The technical particulars

The Coinbase front-end net app is constructed utilizing the React.js framework and leverages React’s Server Aspect Rendering (SSR) for key pages (together with /signup). SSR signifies that, as an alternative of sending a barebones HTML web page and relying on React to totally populate it within the browser, we ship a partly rendered web page from the server and let React put the ending touches on within the browser. We use SSR with the intention to give searchable content material to go looking engine crawlers, which usually don’t run Javascript. Any person trying to register must have JavaScript enabled, and must have that JavaScript load appropriately. In just about all circumstances, each of these items are true, and React handles kind validation and submission to the server. Nevertheless, if a person had JavaScript disabled or their browser acquired a React.js error when loading, there was sufficient pre-rendered HTML {that a} person might fill out and try to submit our registration kind.

The HTML kind itself was extraordinarily primary, since we anticipated that the small print can be crammed in by React: <kind>[list of fields]</kind>. This had two implications for default habits:

  1. As a result of no “motion” attribute was set, the official habits outlined within the W3C specification was “undefined”. In observe, nevertheless, some browsers will set “motion” to the present URI and make a greatest effort to submit the shape.
  2. As a result of the “technique” was not set, per W3C specification the browser defaulted to GET, which meant that, all kind variables have been URL encoded and appended as a question string to submit knowledge to the server, e.g within the sample /signup?first_name=Alice&last_name=Smith&e mail=alice%40instance.com&password=password

This question string then ended up in our logs. The repair itself was easy and easy: we modified the default kind technique to POST, as knowledge submitted within the request physique (as an alternative of a question string) is just not logged: <kind technique=”POST”>[list of fields]</kind>. We additionally searched the remainder of our repository for some other types with that problematic habits, and didn't establish any. We’re additionally within the technique of implementing further mechanisms to detect and forestall the inadvertent introduction of this type of bug sooner or later.


We preserve extremely excessive requirements for securing the Coinbase platform, and any time we fall even barely wanting these requirements, we mobilize a crew to determine what went fallacious, and the way we forestall it from taking place once more. We additionally consider in being clear with our clients, which is why we’re sharing the outcomes of our investigation as we speak.

As a reminder, Coinbase additionally maintains an energetic bug bounty program on HackerOne, which has paid out over 1 / 4 of one million {dollars} so far: https://hackerone.com/coinbase. Whereas this specific bug was found internally, we welcome safety researchers to submit reviews any time they consider they might have uncovered a flaw in certainly one of our programs.

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