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VOICE OVER: Matthew Wende
Experts are calling it the largest internet hack in history. Welcome to WatchMojo News, the weekly series from where we break down news stories that should be on your radar. In this instalment, we’re counting down 5 crucial facts you should know about the Yahoo accounts hack.

#5: What Was the Extent of the Hack?

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The Crime On September 22nd, 2016, the American technology giant Yahoo revealed that it had been subject to a massive security breach in late 2014. As part of the hack, the details from a reported 500 million user accounts are said to have been stolen, in what Yahoo claims was a ‘state-sponsored’ attack, and in what analysts believe could be the largest internet data breach in history. Details including account holders’ names, email addresses, phone numbers, hashed passwords and security questions and answers are believed to be among the hacker’s haul. However, Yahoo has said that it does not believe unprotected passwords or bank and credit card information has been jeopardised. The revelations come weeks after Yahoo opened an investigation into claims that details from at least 200 million accounts were being sold on the dark web earlier in the summer. The problem has since proven worse than first thought, and the story breaks just two months after Yahoo’s $4.8 billion sale to Verizon – which claims that it learned of the hack just hours before mainstream media reports emerged.

#4: How Big Is Yahoo Inc.?

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The Company Founded by Jerry Yang and David Filo in 1994, Yahoo was one of the first big internet brands. It operates as a search engine, news, media and social media service, and is one of the most popular email providers on the planet. Between 500 and 700 million users reportedly utilise Yahoo services every month, in more than 30 languages. When news of the data breach emerged, it was the fifth most visited website in the world. Despite all the stellar statistics however, Yahoo has been in relative decline since the turn of the century, with Verizon’s $4.8 billion potential purchase showing a hugely reduced price considering the company was once valued at more than $100 billion – Forbes labelled the sale as ‘the saddest $5 billion deal in tech history’. The eighth and seemingly final CEO of Yahoo, Marissa Mayer, has a net worth of around $430 million, and Mayer had stood to receive a severance package worth close to $50 million. However, in light of September 2016’s data breach it remains to be seen whether the Yahoo/Verizon deal will close.

#3: Who Is Responsible for the Hack?

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The Criminal There is still a degree of confusion concerning who hacked Yahoo, and why. It is believed that Yahoo’s initial investigation was triggered after a well known hacker – going by the name ‘Peace’ – claimed responsibility for a data dump of about 200 million account details on the dark web marketplace, reportedly selling them for around $2,000. Some reports say that the first investigation drew no evidence, but did lead to discovery of another, separate hack. Yahoo have said that they believe this breach to have been conducted by a government-backed hacker, though they are yet to name the nation believed to be responsible. Users are calling for Yahoo to accept its own share of the blame however, and the company is even being sued for gross negligence in some countries. A major lawsuit was filed in California on Friday, September 23rd, 2016 one day after news of the hack emerged. New York resident Ronald Schwartz filed on behalf of all American Yahoo users, arguing that the company had failed to deliver on previous promises to take user privacy seriously and that it should be punished for taking almost two years to uncover and reveal the hack.

#2: What Is Being Done to Fix the Problem?

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The Solution In the aftermath of the data breach, Yahoo has urged all of its users to change their passwords immediately, to change or delete their security questions, and to consider changing details for any other online accounts with a similar password. Going forward, Yahoo users – and Internet users in general – have been reminded of the importance of changing passwords regularly, keeping them unpredictable and individual from one account to another. The company has also asked its users to be alert to any suspicious activity, and to check through their account especially in the sent items folder. Finally, users are recommended to turn on two-factor authentication, which adds a second line of defence to any account. Yahoo has said that it will work to contact users believed to have been directly affected, to advise them of their best plan of action. The company is also working alongside the FBI to investigate how the breach occurred, and who exactly was behind it. Yahoo has so far declined to comment on Schwartz’s reported lawsuit, or on mounting questions as to why it has taken so long for the 2014 hack to come to light.

#1: What Does This Mean for Yahoo’s Future?

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The Outcome Yahoo was a company under pressure before the data hack. Though still considered an industry giant, it had long been usurped at the Internet’s topmost table by the likes of Google and Facebook. Now, confidence in Yahoo is expected to fall to an all-time low, and analysts have predicted a series of financial blows to fall its way. Ronald Schwartz’s legal action could prove the first of many challenges for the company, and Verizon could yet seek to renegotiate the sale of Yahoo’s Internet business. It remains to be seen whether Yahoo or the FBI can identify who was responsible for the hack, whether they really did receive state support, and from which government they received it. Yahoo’s overall reputation appears irreparably damaged regardless. As subject to one of the largest and widest reaching Internet data breaches ever seen, there doesn’t seem to be an easy solution to the company’s problems.