How secure is Mastodon as a Twitter replacement?

If you’re considering setting up a Mastodon account or already have you’re going to want to take a few minutes to read Dan Goodin’s article about the security of Mastodon and Mastodon instances.

This substantial increase raises important questions about the security of this new platform, and for good reason. Unlike the centralized model of Twitter and virtually every other social media platform, Mastodon is built on a federated model of independent servers, known as instances. In this respect, it’s more akin to email or Internet Relay Chat (IRC), where security depends on the ability and attention of the admin who configured it and maintains each individual server.

The past month has seen the number of instances mushroom from about 11,000 to more than 17,000. The people running these instances are volunteers who may or may not be versed in the nuances of security. The difficulty of configuring and maintaining instances leaves plenty of room for mistakes that can put user passwords, email addresses, and IP addresses at risk of being revealed (more about that later). Twitter security left much to be desired, but at least it had a dedicated staff with a deep background in security.

[…]

The lack of an audit and years of robust security testing by outsiders means that serious security weaknesses are almost surely present.

To that point, a separate researcher this month discovered a server that had somehow managed to scrape the data of more than 150,000 users from a misconfigured server. Fortunately, the data was limited to account names, display names, profile pictures, following count, follower count, and last status update. A third vulnerability discovered this month on one instance made it possible to steal users' plaintext passwords by injecting specially crafted HTML into the site.

Dan points out that “those who follow his guidelines aren’t likely to assume any more risk than they do if they continue to use Twitter under Musk’s leadership, and they very likely will assume less.”

The Guidelines

Source: Ars Technica

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