Yahoo Says Hackers Stole Data on 500 Million Users in 2014
Yahoo announced on Thursday that the account information of at least 500 million users was stolen by hackers two years ago, in the biggest known intrusion of one company’s computer network.
In a statement, Yahoo said user information — including names, email addresses, telephone numbers, birth dates, encrypted passwords and, in some cases, security questions — was compromised in 2014 by what it believed was a “state-sponsored actor.”
While Yahoo did not name the country involved, how the company discovered the hack nearly two years after the fact offered a glimpse at the complicated and mysterious world of the underground web.
The hack of Yahoo, still one of the internet’s busiest sites with one billion monthly users, also has far-reaching implications for both consumers and one of America’s largest companies, Verizon Communications, which is in the process of acquiring Yahoo for $4.8 billion. Yahoo Mail is one of the oldest free email services, and many users have built their digital identities around it, from their bank accounts to photo albums and even medical information.
Changing Yahoo passwords will be just the start for many users. They’ll also have to comb through other services to make sure passwords used on those sites aren’t too similar to what they were using on Yahoo. And if they weren’t doing so already, they’ll have to treat everything they receive online with an abundance of suspicion, in case hackers are trying to trick them out of even more information.
The company said as much in an email to users that warned it was invalidating existing security questions — things like your mother’s maiden name or the name of the street you grew up on — and asked users to change their passwords. Yahoo also said it was working with law enforcement in their investigation and encouraged people to change up the security on other online accounts and monitor those accounts for suspicious activity as well.
“The stolen Yahoo data is critical because it not only leads to a single system but to users’ connections to their banks, social media profiles, other financial services and users’ friends and family,” said Alex Holden, the founder of Hold Security, which has been tracking the flow of stolen Yahoo credentials on the underground web. “This is one of the biggest breaches of people’s privacy and very far-reaching.”