BT warns Yahoo email using customers of massive hack

Friday, December 16th 2016

BT has come out with a warning to their customers that accounts belonging to Yahoo, the internet giant, have been hacked, with a shocking 1 billion accounts having been affected. The Yahoo database was breached in August of 2013. Such an event follows a similar incident that was first revealed in September of 2016. Although a separate incident, Yahoo confirmed that at least 500 million accounts on their platform had been stolen in 2014.


Apparently Yahoo has realised the theft only years later. At that time BT and Sky Broadband made use of Yahoo's platform for some, or all, of their email services. BT's service was used by some customers and was a legacy product. But Sky's Sky Yahoo Mail was still the service central to their email platform.


Even if not among those affected, customers should change their password on Yahoo. However, Yahoo has revealed that they had been hit by a similar hack in 2013 now. What is troubling though is that Yahoo doesn't seem to know even now how they got stolen.


The old MD5 algorithm used by Yahoo for hashed passwords cannot be relied upon, as it can be easily broken and passwords would be exposed. Similarly worrying is the fact that unencrypted security questions and answers, that form part of a 'Two Factor Authentication' system, could be misused to enter other accounts, as similar questions are commonly used for verification.


BT has come out with a warning for those customers still making use of the old platform, even though via Twitter only. As of now, Sky is yet to issue such a notice to its customers, but it should be coming soon. As for Yahoo, they have claimed to have taken measures to secure the accounts of potentially affected users, including notifying them and requesting to change passwords. Yahoo has invalidated the unencrypted security questions and answers to prevent it from being used to access an account.


Reports coming from elsewhere indicate that the hacked Yahoo data is up for sale illegally. The two historically huge breaches could affect consumer confidence and also jeopardise the deal to sell Yahoo's internet business to Verizon Communications (for $4.8 billion), as shares of the company fell sharply. In fact, Yahoo has been put under renewed scrutiny by federal investigators and lawmakers. This has prompted Verizon to demand better terms for the planned deal to buy its internet business.


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