The rumored breach of Yahoo user accounts was far, far worse than expected.
Yahoo admitted late Thursday that more than 500 million accounts were affected in one of the largest cyber-security breaches to-date — a breach that Yahoo is blaming on state sponsored hackers. Perhaps even more shocking is the fact that the breach occurred back in 2014 and Yahoo was completely unaware of the fact until this year.
Yahoo first began looking into a potential breach a few months back when a supposed hacker, known as Peace, began bragging about scoring hundreds of millions of Yahoo usernames and passwords to sell on the dark Web. It is not thought that ‘Peace’ is part of the alleged sate-sponsored attack that managed to filch names, e-mail addresses, telephone numbers, dates of birth, hashed passwords (the vast majority with bcrypt) and, in some cases, encrypted or unencrypted security questions and answers.
“A recent investigation by Yahoo has 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,” Yahoo chief information security officer Bob Lord said in a blog post. “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.”
Yahoo is still investigating the matter along with law enforcement officials and is in the process of notifying potentially affected users. The company is recommending those who have been affected change their passwords and adopt alternate means of account verification. Yahoo is urging anyone who has had the same password since 2014 to make a change. Unencrypted security questions and answers are being invalidated by the tech firm as well, so they cannot be used to access an account.
Yahoo also released 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.
- Consider using a Yahoo Account Key, a simple authentication tool that eliminates the need to use a password altogether.
- Check out Yahoo’s FAQ here.
“An increasingly connected world has come with increasingly sophisticated threats. Industry, government and users are constantly in the crosshairs of adversaries,” Lord said. “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.”
News of the breach comes just a few months after Verizon agreed to acquire Yahoo’s Internet business for $4.83 billion in cash. It is not known if news of the breach will impact the deal. If the deal closes on schedule, it will be in the first quarter of 2017.