The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) said an issue that arose in conjunction with its proxy server provider is to blame for a breach in which the usernames and passwords of about 100,000 members were exposed to a researcher.
In a statement released Thursday, IEEE, one of the world's largest technology professional organizations, apologized for the incident, which was brought to light by Radu Dragusin, a computer science researcher at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark.
Last week, he visited IEEE's FTP site, hoping to discover articles the group publishes, but instead found something far more alarming: the clear-text usernames and passwords of roughly 100,000 members from around the world.
Dragusin has said that he opened a number of ZIP log files -- 100 gigabytes in total -- inside a folder labeled "Akamai," a company that IEEE uses for content delivery. The files chronicled whenever a member entered their username and password on the IEEE site, meaning they contained, among other things, the credentials, IP addresses and HTTP requests of the visitors. He estimates this information was publicly available for at least a month.
"An anomaly occurred with a process executed in coordination with a proxy provider of IEEE, with the result that copies of some of the logs were placed on our public FTP server," the IEEE statement said. "These communications affected approximately two percent of our users. The log files in question contained user IDs and accompanying passwords that matched our directory."
IEEE said that upon learning that the files were publicly available, they were disabled, and victims' accounts were "locked down" until members changed their password.
Globally IEEE has about 2.5 million members.