If you're a web developer, you've probably had to make a user account system. The most important aspect of a user account system is how user passwords are protected. User account databases are hacked frequently, so you absolutely must do something to protect your users' passwords if your website is ever breached. The best way to protect passwords is to employ salted password hashing. This page will explain why it's done the way it is.
We've seen how malicious hackers can crack plain hashes very quickly using lookup tables and rainbow tables. We've learned that randomizing the hashing using salt is the solution to the problem. But how do we generate the salt, and how do we apply it to the password?
Most websites use an email loop to authenticate users who have forgotten their password. To do this, generate a random single-use token that is strongly tied to the account. Include it in a password reset link sent to the user's email address. When the user clicks a password reset link containing a valid token, prompt them for a new password. Be sure that the token is strongly tied to the user account so that an attacker can't use a token sent to his own email address to reset a different user's password.
The token must be set to expire in 15 minutes or after it is used, whichever comes first. It is also a good idea to expire any existing password tokens when the user logs in (they remembered their password) or requests another reset token. If a token doesn't expire, it can be forever used to break into the user's account. Email (SMTP) is a plain-text protocol, and there may be malicious routers on the internet recording email traffic. And, a user's email account (including the reset link) may be compromised long after their password has been changed. Making the token expire as soon as possible reduces the user's exposure to these attacks.
Your users are entering their password into your website. They are trusting you with their security. If your database gets hacked, and your users' passwords are unprotected, then malicious hackers can use those passwords to compromise your users' accounts on other websites and services (most people use the same password everywhere). It's not just your security that's at risk, it's your users'. You are responsible for your users' security. 2b1af7f3a8