Yahoo's Last Yodel
Yahoo is a widely used platform which allows users to create and send emails, check the weather, and get the latest news, and all of the content browsing is controlled by the user with a user specific I.D. and password. Within the last several years Yahoo has had its share of misfortunes. The company “had churned through five CEOs in six years.” The lack of leadership at the company has had a negative impact on the company’s efficiency. Unfortunately, in 2014 Yahoo was hacked, in one of the largest cyberattacks ever committed. Interestingly, Yahoo in 2015, wrote an article about the biggest hack attacks within the last five years, and its own hack did not make the list. However, Yahoo was unsure of how many people were affected. As a result, there was a lack of communication between Yahoo and the consumer. This lack of information creates an unstable business relationship, which could be responsible for the decline of the tech company. Yahoo stated that it did reset the passwords for people who were impacted, which implies that they had more information then they were willing to share with the general public. The Sunnyvale company with the help of federal investigators launched an investigation, but no information was released as a result of that investigation until now, nearly two years after the hack. Simply put, it is the lack of oversight of both Yahoo and the federal investigators that led to a poorly handled investigation that continues to affect the millions of users’ privacy.
A 2016 New York Times article, states that, 500 million users were affected and that the information illegally acquired included names, email addresses, telephone numbers, birth dates and passwords. The same article also states that, “Yahoo said it learned of the data breach this summer after hackers posted to underground forums and online marketplaces what they claimed was stolen Yahoo data. A Yahoo team investigated the data and was unable to confirm that the stolen data had originated from a breach at Yahoo.” It remains unclear as to why it has taken so long for this information to come to light. How is it possible that a giant tech company and federal investigators were both unaware until this summer that 500 million users were affected? It stands to reason that if Yahoo were able to reset to the affected users’ passwords back in 2014, then Yahoo would have been aware as to how many people were actually affected.
However, Yahoo claims that because the financial information was not compromised that some of their consumers' privacy was maintained. However, the “investigation suggests that stolen information did not include unprotected passwords, payment card data, or bank account information.” Even though their investigation only suggests that financial information was not included in the stolen information, the hackers could still potentially gain access to those types of accounts with the stolen information. Tracey Lien, a writer for the Los Angeles Times, in 2016 writes that “the FBI is aware of the hack at Yahoo and is investigating, according to a U.S. official briefed on the case.” According to the previous article in the New York Times, the federal investigators were already involved in the case.
The stolen information, experts say, could have had major implications, because a lot of people connect their accounts together to make handling their lives online easier. Accounts include the various social media platforms, but more importantly, people link their bank accounts and other sensitive information to their emails. It can also be assumed that if consumers became aware of how widespread the hack actually was, then it could be argued that the major implications of the attack would not have affected just the users, but also an already struggling company in the form of public backlash for failing to protect their right to privacy. It also must be understood that once personal information is placed online whether in a private account or not, there is always a risk involved.
Yahoo believes that the group responsible for the hack is a part of a state-sponsored actor. Although there is little to corroborate their claim, and it’s unclear as to what a state-sponsored actor would gain from a hack on Yahoo. As no further information is provided by Yahoo or the federal investigators.
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