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Companies House confirms systems review following criticism of password security

Companies House confirms systems review following criticism of password security

Security company sCrib reveals that companies in England and Wales could be left vulnerable after passwords are posted in plain text

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Companies House has confirmed to Computerworld UK that it will be carrying out a review of its systems after it came under fire from a security firm that claimed it has been putting the online details of businesses at risk by storing passwords in plain text on its servers.

sCrib highlighted that when a business requests a reminder about its online password from the registrar companies in England and Wales it is sent to the company’s registered address by post.

sCrib said: “If this password is lost or forgotten there is no way to get it online, only resent by post – which is good.”

“What is not good is that the password is not reset if this happens. In order for Companies House to be able to send out a reminder of the password without resetting it, the password must be stored in plain text on a server somewhere.”

sCrib argues that this leaves a company’s details “vulnerable to hackers”.

If a hacker was to gain unauthorised access to Companies House online it could change a company’s address, add and remove directors, or change the share distribution or ownership.

Computerworld UK provided Companies House with the concerns laid out by sCrib and it has said that although it is certified to the ISO 27001 standard and adheres to the government’s Security Policy Framework, it will carry out a review of its systems in order to establish whether there is a threat to companies’ confidential information.

A spokeswoman for Companies House said: “Thank you for contacting us about this important matter. Companies House takes information security extremely seriously - as well as any concerns raised by customers or the public.”

“Our systems and services are regularly 'penetration tested' to further validate the controls we have in place.”

She added: “As a result of the concerns recently raised we will undertake a further review of these systems.”

These accusations follow similar claims made about Tesco’s online security, where security researcher Troy Hunt revealed that password reminders were being sent out to customers in plain text.

This led to an investigation by the Information Commissioner’s Office and Tesco promising to make changes to its online security.

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