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Congress grills former Equifax, Yahoo CEOs over identity data breaches

09 November 2017

The 42-year-old, who testified before the Senate Commerce Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington on Wednesday, said the thefts occurred during her almost five-year tenure and she wants to 'sincerely apologize to each and every one of our users'.

Last month, Yahoo reported its entire user base of 3 billion accounts was compromised in an August 2013 data breach.

In the end, she said "Russian agents intruded on our systems and stole our users" data'. She also said business and government must work together to tackle this problem, including working to enact a national data breach notification law.

"As CEO, these thefts occurred during my tenure, and I want to sincerely apologize to each and every one of our users", Mayer told the Senate Commerce Committee, testifying alongside the interim and former CEOs of Equifax and a senior Verizon Communication executive.

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Mayer said Yahoo has not been able to identify how the 2013 intrusion occurred and that the company did not learn of the incident until the US government presented data to Yahoo in November 2016.

Mayer said Yahoo successfully defended itself against a barrage of state-sponsored and private hacks over the years and even employed hackers to test the company's defenses.

Mayer is part of a long line of company executives and former executives who have made their way to Capitol Hill in recent years to explain how their company fell victim to a cyberattack. Thune also pressed Equifax's former CEO Richard Smith and interim CEO Paulino Barros on Equifax's known security vulnerabilities that led to its recent data breach and how the company is now addressing these issues.

Barros mentioned that Equifax is working on an application that would let customers lock and unlock personal credit data.

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Special Agent Jack Bennett of the FBI's San Francisco Division said in March the 2013 breach was unrelated to the one Yahoo disclosed in December and that an investigation of the larger incident was continuing. But she also said the U.S. government has to do more to empower law enforcement to pursue and stop hackers, especially the state-sponsored kind. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., said.

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

To this day, she said, security experts have been unable to identify the specific intrusions that led to the breaches: "We don't exactly understand how the act was perpetrated".

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Congress grills former Equifax, Yahoo CEOs over identity data breaches