Yahoo confirmed on Thursday that data associated with 500 million user accounts has been stolen in what is one of the largest cybersecurity breaches of all time. The breach reportedly occurred in 2014 and the company believes a “state sponsored actor,” or person working for a foreign government, is responsible. User’s names, email addresses, telephone numbers, dates of birth, and passwords have been stolen in the breach.
The company first became aware of the breach in August when a hacker that goes by the handle “peace” was attempting to sell 200 million user’s data for a paltry $1,800 sum. The company believes that up to 500 million users could have had their accounts compromised. This hacker is the same person responsible for taking similar data from LinkedIn and MySpace users earlier this year. The company states that the information that was being sold belongs to users from 2012.
At this time there is no government investigation into the breach. However, given the size and severity of the breach it is believed that a government investigation is pending. The hacker, Peace, told WIRED magazine that most of the data is likely to be used “for spamming” meaning the data will be sold to various marketing companies who will then flood the still active email addresses with junk mail.
Yahoo has issued a formal acknowledgement to all users urging them to change their passwords and security information to prevent further damage from being done. CISO Bob Lord released the following statement:
“An Important Message About Yahoo User Security
We have confirmed that a copy of certain user account information was stolen from the company’s network in late 2014 by what it believes is a state-sponsored actor. The account information may have included names, email addresses, telephone numbers, dates of birth, hashed passwords (the vast majority with bcrypt) and, in some cases, encrypted or unencrypted security questions and answers. The ongoing investigation suggests that stolen information did not include unprotected passwords, payment card data, or bank account information; payment card data and bank account information are not stored in the system that the investigation has found to be affected. Based on the ongoing investigation, Yahoo believes that information associated with at least 500 million user accounts was stolen and the investigation has found no evidence that the state-sponsored actor is currently in Yahoo’s network. Yahoo is working closely with law enforcement on this matter.
We are taking action to protect our users:
- We are notifying potentially affected users. The content of the email Yahoo is sending to those users will be available at https://yahoo.com/security-notice-content beginning at 11:30 am (PDT).
- We are asking potentially affected users to promptly change their passwords and adopt alternate means of account verification.
- We invalidated unencrypted security questions and answers so they cannot be used to access an account.
- We are recommending that all users who haven’t changed their passwords since 2014 do so.
- We continue to enhance our systems that detect and prevent unauthorized access to user accounts.
- We are working closely with law enforcement on this matter.
We encourage our users to follow these security recommendations:
- Change your password and security questions and answers for any other accounts on which you used the same or similar information used for your Yahoo account.
- Review your accounts for suspicious activity.
- Be cautious of any unsolicited communications that ask for your personal information or refer you to a web page asking for personal information.
- Avoid clicking on links or downloading attachments from suspicious emails.
Additionally, please consider using Yahoo Account Key, a simple authentication tool that eliminates the need to use a password altogether.
An increasingly connected world has come with increasingly sophisticated threats. Industry, government and users are constantly in the crosshairs of adversaries. Through strategic proactive detection initiatives and active response to unauthorized access of accounts, Yahoo will continue to strive to stay ahead of these ever-evolving online threats and to keep our users and our platforms secure.
For more information about this issue and our security resources, please visit the Yahoo Security Issue FAQs page,https://yahoo.com/security-update, which will be up beginning at 12pm (PDT).
Statements in this press release regarding the findings of Yahoo’s ongoing investigation involve potential risks and uncertainties. The final conclusions of the investigation may differ from the findings to date due to various factors including, but not limited to, the discovery of new or additional information and other developments that may arise during the course of the investigation. More information about potential risks and uncertainties of security breaches that could affect the Company’s business and financial results is included under the caption “Risk Factors” in the Company’s Quarterly Report on Form 10-Q for the quarter ended June 30, 2016, which is on file with the SEC and available on the SEC’s website at http://www.sec.gov./