Yahoo Suffers New Hack; 1 Billion Users Impacted This Time

The newly disclosed attack involved sensitive user information, including unencrypted security questions. How this will affect buyout by Verizon is anybody's guess.

Exactly what Yahoo and its pending new owner, Verizon Communications, did not want to see happen happened again Dec. 14.

The Wall Street Journal reported that the pioneering search and web services provider has discovered new security issues that impact the data of more than 1 billion users, a theft of personal information that is different and twice as large as the hack it admitted to suffering last September. Yahoo said that attack happened in 2014.

The newly disclosed security event, which took place in 2013, involved sensitive user information, including unencrypted security questions. Yahoo is requiring all of its users to change passwords, and it is automatically invalidating the security questions.

Yahoo had agreed earlier this year to sell its core businesses to Verizon Communications for $4.8 billion. Verizon said that it might seek to renegotiate the terms of the transaction after the first hacking was discovered. It's not known how the Dec. 14 hack attack will affect the purchase, which is still in process.

Yahoo sent out this notice to its registered users on the afternoon Dec. 14, Pacific time:

NOTICE OF DATA BREACH

"Dear <Username>,

We are writing to inform you about a data security issue that may involve your Yahoo account information. We have taken steps to secure your account and are working closely with law enforcement."

What Happened?

"Law enforcement provided Yahoo in November 2016 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 a broader set of user accounts, including yours. 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 Sept. 22, 2016."

What Information Was Involved?

"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. Not all of these data elements may have been present for your account. 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 we believe was affected."

What We (Yahoo) Are Doing

"We are taking action to protect our users:

--We are requiring potentially affected users to change their passwords.

--We invalidated unencrypted security questions and answers so that they cannot be used to access an account.

--We continuously enhance our safeguards and systems that detect and prevent unauthorized access to user accounts.

What You Can Do

We encourage you to follow these security recommendations:

--Change your passwords and security questions and answers for any other accounts on which you used the same or similar information used for your Yahoo account.

--Review all of 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 on Yahoo altogether.

For More Information

For more information about this issue and our security resources, please visit the Yahoo Security Issues FAQs page available at https://yahoo.com/security-update.

Protecting your information is important to us and we work continuously to strengthen our defenses.

Sincerely,

Bob Lord
Chief Information Security Officer,
Yahoo"

Chris Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger is Editor of Features & Analysis at eWEEK, responsible in large part for the publication's coverage areas. In his 12 years and more than 3,900 stories at eWEEK, he...