Yahoo, Equifax apologize with fixes. Congress doesn't buy it

Marissa Mayer

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

Some of the most pointed questioning came from Thune when he asked Mayer how the company for so long failed to recognize that data for all 3 billion of its user accounts were compromised.

Yahoo had bumped its estimate of affected accounts from a previous 1B to all of them (3B in total).

"Unfortunately, while all our measures helped Yahoo successfully defend against the barrage of attacks by both private and state-sponsored hackers, Russian agents intruded on our systems and stole our users' data". The source of the 2013 breach remains unknown. Yahoo's former CEO Marissa Mayer, as well as parent company Verizon's chief privacy officer Karen Zacharia, also testified.

Former CEOs of Yahoo and Equifax brought apologies to Capitol Hill as they faced lawmakers with questions about the massive data breaches at their companies and what can be done to protect consumers' personal information. 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.

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"Yahoo worked closely with law enforcement, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation, who were ultimately able to identify and expose the hackers responsible for the attacks", she said.

Mayer said Yahoo still doesn't know exactly hackers breached all of its users, and isn't sure what flaws it needs to fix. She said "really aggressive" pursuit of hackers was needed to discourage the efforts, and that even the most well-defended companies "could fall victim to these crimes".

"When you think of a sophisticated state actor, China or Russian Federation, your companies can't stand up against them", said Florida's Senator Bill Nelson. A breach in 2014 affected 500 million Yahoo accounts and, in a first, led to the USA government criminally charging two Russian spies for cyber crimes. The companies also said they would work with Congress on more comprehensive data security reforms.

The Senate Commerce Committee took the unusual step of subpoenaing Mayer to testify on October 25 after a representative for Mayer declined multiple requests for her voluntarily testimony.

"Right now there's just not enough of a disincentive to hack", she said.

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