Yahoo fined £250,000 for 2014 data breach

Yahoo has been fined over a hack on email accounts around the world 500,000 in Britain

Yahoo's British subsidiary has been fined £250,000 by the UK's data watchdog after losing the data of more than half a million people.

The ICO said the fine related to the impact on 515,121 accounts that were co-branded as Sky and Yahoo services in the United Kingdom, for which Yahoo! UK Services Ltd is the data controller.

Although the United Kingdom has just ratified a new Data Protection Act, which implements the General Data Protection Regulation and comes with larger fines, this investigation was carried out under the Data Protection Act 1998.

The breach was publicly disclosed in September 2016, almost two years after it took place.

Nonetheless, ICO deputy commissioner of operations James Dipple-Johnstone said that cyber attacks were a fact of life and that companies had to keep up.

The UK wing had "ample opportunity" to improve security and potentially prevent the breach, he said.

It considered the breach to be a "serious contravention of Principle 7 of the Data Protection Act 1998" - which states that appropriate technical and organisational measures must be taken against unauthorised or unlawful processing of personal data.

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And given Verizon was able to knock $350M off the acquisition price of Yahoo on account of a pair of massive data breaches, well, it's not going to be too concerned with the regulatory sting here. "If organisations, especially well-resourced, experienced ones, do not properly safeguard their customers' personal data, they may find customers taking their business elsewhere", added Dipple-Johnstone.

Cyber thieves may have stolen names, email addresses, telephone numbers, dates of birth and encrypted passwords, the company said.

The ICO listed some mitigating factors in its decision notice, including that the exfiltrated data in the Yahoo! incident didn't include payment card or bank account info, as TalkTalk's did, and noted that it was a "sophisticated and persistent criminal attack, supported by the Russian Federal Security Service".

In December 2016, it was learned that an even bigger breach took place in August 2013.

That data breach at Yahoo is just another in a long line of security woes at the company, which was acquired by Altaba in 2017 after a period of rapid decline.

Past year while under new ownership the company acknowledged that another data breach in 2013 affected all three billion of its users.

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