Yahoo hack triggers need for digital literacy, expert says

Sep 23, 2016 | News

By Sargon Jajjo

Backlit keyboard

Yahoo reports 500 million users may have had some of their personal information hacked (Creative Commons.)

A web development educator says the best way to protect yourself online is to actively have a sense of digital literacy.

Bernie Monette, a professor at Humber College, made his comments one day after Yahoo reported over 500 million user accounts had been hacked by a state-sponsored cyberattack.

“It is the number one communication mechanism,” Monette said about email. “Always make sure you know who you are sending it to.”

The California-based company said personal data such as birth dates, telephone numbers and hashed passwords were some of the information hackers were able to get a hold of.

The hack goes beyond just Yahoo’s e-mail service.

“Yahoo owns Flickr… they got your username and password. They can start putting up images that you did not approve of,” said Monette.

Monette told Humber News the effect this hack may have on Canadians using Yahoo is still to be determined.

“With Canadian privacy laws, if you’re an American company operating in Canada, your data centres are supposed to be in Canada.”

Yahoo hasn’t confirmed if any Canadian data centres were affected by the hack.

Monette said many of the recent cyberattacks are being done through human interaction, rather than encryptions done through a machine.

“These guys are very persuasive,” said Monette. “It is amazing to think how clever they are… It’s not some guy pounding away on the computer, it’s some guy on the phone with a clever pitch.”

He said the puzzling part of the hack is why it took Yahoo this long to come out with the information.

“The companies are not obliged to say anything about them and they’re afraid to, because of their share price.”

In a press release, Yahoo said the attack took place in late 2014.

Yahoo believes there is no evidence to suggest that there is an active state-sponsored hacker in the current network.

The company is encouraging its users to update their passwords, security questions and other measures.