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Yahoo's data hack nightmare continues

28 Sep 2016

Poor Yahoo. First it had to come out and admit the theft of data associated with at least 500 million user accounts, then it had to deal with claims the hack was the biggest in history.

Now, The Privacy Commissioner has confirmed it is monitoring the situation, with Commissioner John Edwards saying the hack exemplifies the international nature of privacy.

The Yahoo hack included names, email addresses and security questions and answers used to reset passwords.

The hack affects a portion of the 825,000 email accounts that Spark provides to users through its partnership with Yahoo. According to a statement from Spark, 130,000 customers have potentially been put at risk.

Most Spark customers have probably not had their security questions and answers compromised.

According to Edwards, it is not yet clear when Yahoo learned about the hack, which took place in 2014.

“When agencies lose customer data, they need to help those customers take steps to protect themselves by alerting them as quickly as possible,” the Commissioner says.

“This is particularly true with a breach of this size and with such sensitive information,” he explains.

“Email accounts are often a central repository of peoples’ online identities, so a compromised email account can lead to other information being compromised, such as banking and medical information.”

Proposed reforms to the Privacy Act include mandatory breach notification, where agencies must report breaches of a certain scale. These reforms are due to be tabled in Parliament in 2017.

“We are grateful that Spark quickly alerted us about this breach and immediately began taking action to resolve it,” says Edwards.

“However, the fact that Yahoo may have known about the breach for a number of months before alerting the public shows why we need mandatory breach notification,” he notes.

"Every day counts in a data breach and agencies need greater incentive to take a leaf out of Spark’s book by promptly telling customers that their personal information has been compromised.”

The US Federal Trade Commission and Irish Data Protection Commissioner are already working together to make enquiries into the incident.

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