'Assume it affects you': Yahoo breach hit 3 billion accounts

Yahoo triples down on what was already the largest data breach in history, saying it affected all three billion accounts on its service, not the one billion it revealed late last year.

2013 hack was three times bigger than originally thought, investigation reveals

The Yahoo logo is displayed in front of the Yahoo headquarters in July 2012 in Sunnyvale, Calif. The troubled internet giant said all three billion of its accounts were affected by the hack it revealed last year. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Yahoo has tripled down on what was already the largest data breach in history, saying it affected all three billion accounts on its service, not the one billion it revealed late last year.

The company announced Tuesday that it has sent emails providing notice to additional user accounts affected by the August 2013 data theft.

The breach now affects a number that represents nearly "half the world," said Sam Curry, chief security officer for Boston-based firm Cybereason, though there's likely to be more accounts than actual users.

"Whether it's one billion or three billion is largely immaterial. Assume it affects you," Curry said. "Privacy is really the victim here."

Yahoo first disclosed the breach in December. The stolen information included names, email addresses, phone numbers, birthdates and security questions and answers.

Following its acquisition by Verizon in June, Yahoo says, it obtained new intelligence while investigating the breach with help from outside forensic experts. It says the stolen customer information did not include passwords in clear text, payment card data or bank account information.

Yahoo had already required users to change their passwords and invalidate security questions so they couldn't be used to hack into accounts.

The disclosure is also a huge embarrassment for Verizon, which has just started running TV ads for its new subsidiary Oath, which will consist of Yahoo and AOL services.

Verizon spokesman David Samberg said the company has no regrets about buying Yahoo, despite the latest revelation.

Companies often don't know the full extent of a breach and have to revise statements about how it affects customers years later, said Ben Johnson, co-founder and chief technology officer for Obsidian Security, based in Newport Beach, Calif.. Johnson said Yahoo might never know exactly what was accessed.

"The fact is attackers are having field days and the problem is only going to get worse," he said.

The chairman of the U.S. Senate Commerce Committee said he plans to hold a hearing later this month over the data breaches at both Yahoo and Equifax.

Senator John Thune of South Dakota said after the latest revelation he will ask witnesses from the two firms whether "new information has revealed steps they should have taken earlier, and whether there is potentially more bad news to come."

With files from Reuters