On Wednesday, Yahoo announced an enormous data breach, believed to be the largest ever for an email provider, according to the Associated Press.While data breaches have become depressingly common, the incident reported by Yahoo is especially worrisome because of the enormous scope of those affected, as well as the sensitive nature of information leaked.Also, since Yahoo says some users’ security questions are compromised, the hackers will have an easy way into those accounts too. If you haven’t changed your password since late 2014, which is when the breach occurred, you should do so immediately.
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Here’s everything you need to know about the hacks: More than 1 Billion Users Affected Yahoo says that “data associated with more than one billion user accounts” was stolen in August 2013.
That is a separate, unrelated episode from the 2014 incident that Yahoo announced in September 2016, in which personal information was stolen from 500 million users.
Yahoo says that its messages will always show the company’s “Y” icon as proof of legitimacy.
Be aware that messages that are legitimate almost never ask you to click on links or download attachments, and financial institutions will never request that you provide PINs, account numbers, passwords, and the like via email.
A “hashed password,” Yahoo says in the new security notice, involves a special safety measure in which a mathematical function “converts an original string of data into a seemingly random string of characters.” Yahoo also says that it’s in the process of investigating how hackers created forged cookies, which allow them to access user accounts without the requirement of a password.
The breach apparently didn’t extend to users’ credit card numbers or bank accounts — although information such as one’s date of birth, email, and telephone number can be used in identity theft and phishing scams.Yahoo has also invalidated unencrypted security questions and answers so that they cannot be used to access an account.” Do not take alerts such as these lightly, even if the affected account is one you rarely use.If your email provider suggests you change your password, security questions, or other information, just do it.If you use that same Yahoo password elsewhere — something you’re not supposed to do, but many people do anyway — the safest step is to change those passwords too.To Protect Yourself From Scams, Be Vigilant While this is always true, it’s especially important for victims of the breach: Be on guard when receiving unsolicited communications.This goes even when it comes to what seems to be your email provider or bank alerting you of a data breach.