Reader Comment Saga

As most of you are probably aware, the Reader Comments subsystem is presently disabled – here’s a brief explanation of why, without giving too many details.

We’ve received a few emails from people that aren’t quite clear on what the problem actually was, saying that people should only allow authenticated comments if they’re having problems and that its the diarists responsibility to sort these things out etc. Here’s whats really going on;

The security breach is that people can leave AUTHENTICATED comments and appear to be someone else. This means that even though the diarist has authenticated comments only allowed, someone can appear to be someone else. Worse than that, the someone else has no idea they are being impersonated, and of course since the comment is authenticated, the diarist totally believes the person is who (s)he appears to be.

Unfortunately this particular problem is a significant hole in our system that can be exploited. If we continued to allow it to be exploited, we would be legally liable. That position is untenable to us, and the other solution would be to close the entire site, which is clearly a worse solution than disabling reader comments for a few weeks.

We will get the problem resolved, the solution is fairly straightforward, but unfortunately time consuming (we need to implement some significant extra checks at the ‘updateuser’ script level). We’re right in the middle of migrating ALL of our sites to new servers for performance and administration reasons and this couldn’t have come at a worse time for us. The ONLY option at the moment is to disable reader comments. However, they will return, once we have a chance to breathe 🙂