Not the first time, but hopefully the last time this is happening. Yahoo on Wednesday sent jitters down the spines of people around the globe when it announced that 1 billion accounts were hacked in 2013.
In September, Yahoo confirmed a breach that affected 500 million people around the world. That was the biggest data breach at the time; but even that announcement has turned out to be a child’s play compared to the one announced by the company on Wednesday.
Virtually every single Yahoo account holder got an email notifying them of the breach, which dates back to 2013. The company said in a statement on Wednesday that steps are being taken to “secure those user accounts and we’re working closely with law enforcement.”
How Yahoo managed to beat their September record of biggest data breach online remains a mystery. As Wired puts it, it’s the biggest known hack of user data ever, and it’s not really close. What’s even more worrying is how the company said in a statement that “this incident is likely distinct from the incident we disclosed on September 22, 2016.” That’s frightening to put it mildly, and capable of sending shock across the world of Yahoo email users.
What now for the Verizon-Yahoo deal? That’s a tough one, but given the fact that Verizon had hinted that it might yet pull out of deal to buy Yahoo because of the last breach, it won’t come as a shock if both parties return to the roundtable.
“I think we have a reasonable basis to believe right now that the impact is material,” Verizon General Counsel Craig Silliman said of the last data breach, speaking to a small group of reporters at a roundtable. A “material” effect in this case is one that would harm Yahoo’s financial value, and make the Web giant less attractive to purchase.
Here is Yahoo’s full statement explaining what happened:
As we previously disclosed in November, law enforcement provided us with data files that a third party claimed was Yahoo user data. We analyzed this data with the assistance of outside forensic experts and found that it appears to be Yahoo user data. Based on further analysis of this data by the forensic experts, we believe an unauthorized third party, in August 2013, stole data associated with more than one billion user accounts. We have not been able to identify the intrusion associated with this theft. We believe this incident is likely distinct from the incident we disclosed on September 22, 2016.
For potentially affected accounts, the stolen user account information may have included names, email addresses, telephone numbers, dates of birth, hashed passwords (using MD5) and, in some cases, encrypted or unencrypted security questions and answers. The investigation indicates that the stolen information did not include passwords in clear text, payment card data, or bank account information. Payment card data and bank account information are not stored in the system the company believes was affected.
Separately, we previously disclosed that our outside forensic experts were investigating the creation of forged cookies that could allow an intruder to access users’ accounts without a password. Based on the ongoing investigation, we believe an unauthorized third party accessed our proprietary code to learn how to forge cookies. The outside forensic experts have identified user accounts for which they believe forged cookies were taken or used. We are notifying the affected account holders, and have invalidated the forged cookies. We have connected some of this activity to the same state-sponsored actor believed to be responsible for the data theft the company disclosed on September 22, 2016.