Yahoo Reports Half a Billion Accounts Hacked

Company blames a “state-sponsored actor” for the massive hack that affected 500 million of its users

Last Updated: September 22, 2016 @ 12:56 PM

Half a billion Yahoo accounts have been hacked, the company revealed Thursday.

That’s 300 million more accounts than were indicated in earlier reports. Yahoo is advising people who haven’t changed their password since late 2014 to do so.

The information accessed by the hacker could be your name, phone number, date of birth, back-up e-mail addresses, or an encrypted version of your password. In a blog post and an e-mail to affected users, Chief Information Security Officer Bob Lord said that the ongoing investigation indicates that unencrypted passwords and financial information like credit card numbers or bank account numbers were not accessed by the hacker.

Even if you only use your Yahoo account to sign up for websites you would rather not give the e-mail address you actually use, you should still probably change your password.

It’s never a good time to have a hacker gain access to 500 million of your company’s accounts, but this is an especially sub-optimal time for Yahoo. Verizon agreed to buy the company for $4.8 billion in July, but the deal isn’t set to close until the first quarter of 2017.

The deal has been seen as a way for Verizon to leverage Yahoo’s massive digital ad sales apparatus and data collection, an ability that could be severely compromised by the hack and expose both companies to liability.

News of a possible hack surfaced in August, when a hacker known as “Peace” claimed to be offering up information like names and birth dates associated with 200 million Yahoo accounts. The price for this massive amount of information? A mere $1,850 (3 bitcoin).

Read a copy of the e-mail Yahoo sent to its users below:

Dear [personalized salutation],
We are writing to inform you about a data security issue that may involve your Yahoo account information.
What Happened?
A copy of certain user account information was stolen from our systems in late 2014 by what we believe is a state-sponsored actor. We are closely coordinating with law enforcement on this matter and working diligently to protect you.
What Information Was Involved?
The stolen user 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. Not all of these data elements may have been present for your account.
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.
What We Are Doing
  • We are taking action to protect our users:
  • 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 beused 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.
What You Can Do
We encourage you to follow these security recommendations:
  • Change your password and security questions for any other accounts on which you used the same or similar information as the ones 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.
For More Information
For more information about this issue and our security resources, please visit the Yahoo Security Issue FAQs page available at https://yahoo.com/security-update.
Protecting your information is important to us and we work continuously to strengthen our defenses against the threats targeting our industry.
Sincerely,
Bob Lord
Chief Information Security Officer

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