Yahoo! this week announced that it will notify users when it suspects that their accounts might have been targeted by state-sponsored actors.
Bob Lord, Chief Information Security Officer at Yahoo!, announced in a blog post that the company already has a system for detecting and preventing unauthorized access to user accounts by third parties, and will now will inform users when it believes they are being targeted by attackers working on behalf of a nation-state.
Lord explained that the notifications users will receive will include information on the specific actions they can take to ensure that their Yahoo accounts are safe and secure. He also notes that users should take one of these actions as soon as they receive the notification from the company.
To keep their accounts protected, users should turn on Account Key or Two-Step Verification to approve or deny sign-in notifications, thus being able to deny access to their accounts. They should also choose a strong, unique Yahoo account password they’ve never shared or used before.
Lord also advises users to check that their account recovery information such as phone number or alternate recovery email address is up to date and that they still have access to them, while removing those they no longer have access to or don’t recognize. Users should also check their mail forwarding and reply-to settings, and should be reviewing recent activity in account settings for sessions they don’t recognize.
Users are also strongly encourage to protect themselves outside of their Yahoo account by avoiding falling for phishing attacks by not clicking on links they are not sure about and never providing account information when asked to, especially via email. Users should also have an up-to-date anti-virus software on the computer and should review the account security guidelines posted by other services they use, including social networks, financial institutions, and other email providers.
Lord reminded that although users might receive one of the notifications, it does not necessarily mean that the account has been compromised.He also notes that the warning does not mean that Yahoo’s internal systems have been compromised in any way in such attacks.
The security chief did not share details on how Yahoo! can tell if an attack is state-sponsored.
“However, rest assured we only send these notifications of suspected attacks by state-sponsored actors when we have a high degree of confidence,” he wrote.
Other Internet companies also made formal announcements regarding their position on state-sponsored attacks against user accounts. Google did so in 2012, while Facebook made the announcement in October 2015. Last week, Twitter also informed some users on suspected state-sponsored attacks, though it did not make an official announcement on the matter.