The Great Russian Internet Heist – What Now?

by JD Supra Perspectives

Unfortunately, it is highly unlikely that either impacted companies or consumers will have recourse against the Russian hackers...

The theft of more than 1 billion (yes, with a “B”) and 500,000 email addresses by Russian hackers is yet another wake-up call for businesses and consumers alike. Questions persist as to whether the story released by Hold Security is completely accurate given that very little concrete information outside “the headline” has been released or made available. According to the New York Times, an independent (but unnamed) security expert verified the database of stolen user details.

Even if there is a scintilla of truth to this story -- and it is not out of the question – companies and consumers need to sit up, pay attention, and take action. Unfortunately, it is highly unlikely that either impacted companies or consumers will have recourse against the Russian hackers.

Companies need to take development and implementation of their online presence seriously. According to reports, the Russian hackers did not target large or small or US-only companies. The theory is that they discovered a programming vulnerability allowing them access to user information stored by the website. Once that was discovered, the hackers then cruised the Internet to find every other website with that same vulnerability and “hoovered" up anything they could access exploiting that vulnerability. It could have resulted from anything from failures to update code, apply patches, or to vet developers. We also do not know whether the user names and passwords were hashed and encrypted or whether they were in clear text. If the user information was stored in clear text on 430,000 websites, that is a far more interesting and important development. The Adobe breach numbers were quite large, but many of the user credentials proved to be disposable or no longer active.

...whether or not this story is completely accurate, it is time for password hygiene.

Regardless, website owners should take notice and analyze their code and apply patches as soon as they are released. If you have not had a risk and vulnerability assessment performed on your website since you went live in 2005, you are seriously overdue. Failures to provide reasonable security for user personal information could be a violation of your website privacy policy – “we take your security seriously” – and could subject the company to Federal Trade Commission scrutiny. Further, a breach of this nature is reportable under the breach notification laws in both California and Florida, as recently amended:  “Personal Information” includes user name or email address, in combination with a password or security question and answer that would permit access to an online account.

For the rest of us (because we are all website users), whether or not this story is completely accurate, it is time for password hygiene. Until other solutions to the username/password convention to access online information come into practice, users will need to adopt other means for protecting their own identities. Stolen credentials are sold on the “dark web” every day. If you have a single user name/password for all of your online life, it is time to change that very bad habit. Changing all of your passwords immediately is not absolutely necessary, although some security experts are recommending that drastic course of action. It is more practical to start with smaller steps. Use distinct (and strong) passwords for those online accounts most important to your life and keep a close eye on accounts. Use a password manager to help create more secure passwords and to organize them all and the best use two-factor authentication. Secure your home network and do not trust third-party free Wi-Fi hotspots for any online transactions that require the use of a password.

We need more information from Hold Security, and we hope that it is forthcoming as a public service and without charge for “breach notification” services.


[[Cynthia Larose is chair of the Mintz Levin’s Privacy & Security Practice and a Certified Information Privacy Professional (CIPP). Among other things, Cynthia represents companies in information, communications, and technology, including e-commerce and other electronic transactions.]

Written by:

JD Supra Perspectives

JD Supra Perspectives on:

Readers' Choice 2017
Reporters on Deadline

"My best business intelligence, in one easy email…"

Your first step to building a free, personalized, morning email brief covering pertinent authors and topics on JD Supra:
Sign up using*

Already signed up? Log in here

*By using the service, you signify your acceptance of JD Supra's Privacy Policy.
Custom Email Digest
Privacy Policy (Updated: October 8, 2015):

JD Supra provides users with access to its legal industry publishing services (the "Service") through its website (the "Website") as well as through other sources. Our policies with regard to data collection and use of personal information of users of the Service, regardless of the manner in which users access the Service, and visitors to the Website are set forth in this statement ("Policy"). By using the Service, you signify your acceptance of this Policy.

Information Collection and Use by JD Supra

JD Supra collects users' names, companies, titles, e-mail address and industry. JD Supra also tracks the pages that users visit, logs IP addresses and aggregates non-personally identifiable user data and browser type. This data is gathered using cookies and other technologies.

The information and data collected is used to authenticate users and to send notifications relating to the Service, including email alerts to which users have subscribed; to manage the Service and Website, to improve the Service and to customize the user's experience. This information is also provided to the authors of the content to give them insight into their readership and help them to improve their content, so that it is most useful for our users.

JD Supra does not sell, rent or otherwise provide your details to third parties, other than to the authors of the content on JD Supra.

If you prefer not to enable cookies, you may change your browser settings to disable cookies; however, please note that rejecting cookies while visiting the Website may result in certain parts of the Website not operating correctly or as efficiently as if cookies were allowed.

Email Choice/Opt-out

Users who opt in to receive emails may choose to no longer receive e-mail updates and newsletters by selecting the "opt-out of future email" option in the email they receive from JD Supra or in their JD Supra account management screen.


JD Supra takes reasonable precautions to insure that user information is kept private. We restrict access to user information to those individuals who reasonably need access to perform their job functions, such as our third party email service, customer service personnel and technical staff. However, please note that no method of transmitting or storing data is completely secure and we cannot guarantee the security of user information. Unauthorized entry or use, hardware or software failure, and other factors may compromise the security of user information at any time.

If you have reason to believe that your interaction with us is no longer secure, you must immediately notify us of the problem by contacting us at In the unlikely event that we believe that the security of your user information in our possession or control may have been compromised, we may seek to notify you of that development and, if so, will endeavor to do so as promptly as practicable under the circumstances.

Sharing and Disclosure of Information JD Supra Collects

Except as otherwise described in this privacy statement, JD Supra will not disclose personal information to any third party unless we believe that disclosure is necessary to: (1) comply with applicable laws; (2) respond to governmental inquiries or requests; (3) comply with valid legal process; (4) protect the rights, privacy, safety or property of JD Supra, users of the Service, Website visitors or the public; (5) permit us to pursue available remedies or limit the damages that we may sustain; and (6) enforce our Terms & Conditions of Use.

In the event there is a change in the corporate structure of JD Supra such as, but not limited to, merger, consolidation, sale, liquidation or transfer of substantial assets, JD Supra may, in its sole discretion, transfer, sell or assign information collected on and through the Service to one or more affiliated or unaffiliated third parties.

Links to Other Websites

This Website and the Service may contain links to other websites. The operator of such other websites may collect information about you, including through cookies or other technologies. If you are using the Service through the Website and link to another site, you will leave the Website and this Policy will not apply to your use of and activity on those other sites. We encourage you to read the legal notices posted on those sites, including their privacy policies. We shall have no responsibility or liability for your visitation to, and the data collection and use practices of, such other sites. This Policy applies solely to the information collected in connection with your use of this Website and does not apply to any practices conducted offline or in connection with any other websites.

Changes in Our Privacy Policy

We reserve the right to change this Policy at any time. Please refer to the date at the top of this page to determine when this Policy was last revised. Any changes to our privacy policy will become effective upon posting of the revised policy on the Website. By continuing to use the Service or Website following such changes, you will be deemed to have agreed to such changes. If you do not agree with the terms of this Policy, as it may be amended from time to time, in whole or part, please do not continue using the Service or the Website.

Contacting JD Supra

If you have any questions about this privacy statement, the practices of this site, your dealings with this Web site, or if you would like to change any of the information you have provided to us, please contact us at:

- hide
*With LinkedIn, you don't need to create a separate login to manage your free JD Supra account, and we can make suggestions based on your needs and interests. We will not post anything on LinkedIn in your name. Or, sign up using your email address.