Congress grills former Equifax, Yahoo CEOs over identity data breaches

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Former Yahoo Chief Executive Marissa Mayer apologised on Wednesday for two massive data breaches at the internet company, blaming Russian agents for at least one of them, at a hearing on the growing number of cyber attacks on major US companies.

Mayer told the committee that Yahoo learned of a state-sponsored attack on its system in late 2014, and promptly reported it to law enforcement and notified users who were impacted by the hack. While the breach had been previously disclosed, the count of victims is triple Yahoo's December 2016 estimate that 1 billion accounts were compromised (see Yahoo: 3 Billion Accounts Breached in 2013).

Verizon, the largest USA wireless operator, acquired most of Yahoo Inc's assets in June, the same month Mayer stepped down.

Mayer left her position in January with a $23million severance package along with $186million in stock options after hackers stole information from billions of Yahoo users including names, email addresses, phone numbers, birthdates and security questions and answers.

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In March, federal prosecutors charged two Russian intelligence agents and two hackers with masterminding the 2014 theft of 500 million Yahoo accounts, the first time the United States government has criminally charged Russian spies for cyber crimes. Russian Federation has denied trying to influence the US election in any way. John Thune (R-S.D.), chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, today convened a hearing titled, "Protecting Consumers in the Era of Major Data Breaches".

"Massive data breaches have touched the vast majority of American consumers", said Thune.

Nevertheless, Yahoo still does not fully understand "how the act was perpetrated", Mayer admitted.

While testifying, the 42-year-old said she wants to "sincerely apologize to each and every one of our users.' She said that the company defended itself against a barrage of state-sponsored and private hacks over the years". Richard Blumenthal of CT says enforcing punishments for data breaches on executives like Mayer could motivate companies to protect users' data.

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