Former CEO of Yahoo testifies before Congress

Marissa Mayer

Marissa Mayer

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 USA companies.

For Yahoo, lawmakers are probing a 2013 breach, which the company reported in December of 2016 as it proceeded with its plans to merge with Verizon.

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'.

Mayer, who left Yahoo after Verizon completed its acquisition of Yahoo in June, apologized for the breaches during the hearing.

"Even robust defenses and prosecutors aren't sufficient to protect against the state-sponsored attack, especially when they're extremely sophisticated and persistent", Marissa Mayer testified.

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Mayer and Smith were flanked by officials from their former companies, as Congress sought to get to the bottom of how three billion global user accounts at Yahoo and 146 million American Social Security numbers and more at Equifax were stolen by hackers.

In the end, she said "Russian agents intruded on our systems and stole our users" data'. After reportedly declining a request to testify, the panel issued a subpoena to compel her to appear (see Life After Yahoo: Mayer Forced to Testify Before Senate).

In March, federal prosecutors charged two Russian intelligence agents and two hackers with masterminding a 2014 theft of 500 million Yahoo accounts, the first time the US government has criminally charged Russian spies for cyber crimes. So far, no nation-state connection to the much larger 2013 breach has been revealed. Among those hired, she said: security specialists focused on threat investigations, e-crimes, product security, risk management and offensive engineering.

Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., the committee chairman, said 48 states have separate laws governing how and when companies must notify consumers of a breach.

"We verified that it came from Yahoo, but we don't exactly understand how the act was perpetrated", she told the committee.

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