Yahoo! And The Hack Heard ‘Round The World

Evan Schendel is a help desk specialist for Tech Experts.

In the age of Russian super-hackers and nationwide credit reporting agencies with pitiful security, what could be safe? One thing is for sure – not Yahoo!.

In September of 2016, Yahoo! released the news that 500 million accounts were hacked in the latter half of 2014. That news severely impacted Verizon’s business deal to buy them out, but they only lowered the price by $350 million USD to a total of $4.48 billion USD.

Three months after this business deal was done and the prior hack had been announced, Yahoo! let the nation know that approximately 1 billion accounts had been hacked in 2013. Verizon was not pleased, to say the least.

Just recently, Yahoo! released even more grave information.

In the earlier part of October, Yahoo! bumped the number of affected accounts up to 3 billion. This estimate encompasses every single Yahoo! account, including its subsidiaries like Tumblr and Flickr. That is a lot of data – and if you had any accounts (even unused) linked to these websites dating back to 2014, you could have even had the information sold.

The cybersecurity firm InfoArmor has reported some of this information has been sold on the dark web, a small part of the web not indexed by search engines.

The group selling this information has sold the data to three sources, two of which are known spammers. All paid upwards of $300,000 USD.

With this information, reused passwords from past accounts can be the largest risk, as many people recycle the same password(s) for all of their various online accounts. While no financial information was stolen, security questions, dates of birth, and backup emails were taken.

All of this can be used for not only breaking into the Yahoo! account in question, but also any other accounts with similar information.

A good course of action from here on would be to, as you should, never reuse passwords, and change any existing passwords you feel might be in danger. Ensure that no shady happenings have occurred with any accounts, up to and including bank accounts.

The information sold was reportedly utilized to spy on a range of US White House and military officials, alongside Russian business executives and government officials.

With this information kept in mind, a document was released stating that four men were indicted, two of whom were Russian intelligence officers working for the Russian Federal Security Service. Which is, ironically enough, an agency dedicated to aiding foreign intelligence agencies track cybercriminals.

To finalize, remember to keep safety measures on all your accounts and protect yourself from email fraud or spam to the best of your ability. Only sign up for accounts on legitimate websites and, when you do create an account, use a unique password for that site. For sites with sensitive information, elect to use two-factor authentication when possible.

That way, when a company’s security is pushed back in lieu of other things, you can serve as a second defense for yourself.