While Yahoo is still reeling from a critical data breach that affected at least one billion of its users, it faces another tragedy in the eyes of the public.
Reports came out with information about how Yahoo allegedly provided personal information to a US intelligence agency upon request.
Yahoo was believed to have made a program that can scan its users’ email inboxes for specified information from US intelligence agents, according to a Reuters report.
According to several sources that were familiar with the issue, Yahoo developed the tool in 2015 after an undisclosed court order to review hundreds of millions of email inboxes was received from the National Security Agency (NSA) or the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).
Authorities stated that this instance would be the first wherein a US-based Internet/technology company agreed to a search this wide-ranging and extensive – scanning incoming messages, reviewing inboxes, spying on specific accounts in real time, among others.
Yahoo made a program that could scan incoming emails, review inboxes, and spy on accounts in real time.
The email-scanning program was used to look for a definite set of character strings, and to save and store them for remote retrieval when needed; although the main targets were never clarified.
It is worth noting that almost 10 years ago; Yahoo denied the US government’s requests of joining a surveillance program until they were threatened with a fine of US $250,000 each day.
This project was kept under lock and key, so much so that even Yahoo’s own security team did not know of it.
The report stated that Yahoo CEO Marissa Meyer and general counsel Ron Bell cooperated with the US government in a way that their own security team was not involved nor informed from the start.
Mayer and Bell instead tasked their engineers to create the program that fit the needs of the government.
In mid-2015, when Yahoo’s security group first came across the program, they thought they were hacked. Yahoo’s chief information security officer Alex Stamos immediately resigned from the company upon learning Mayer had allowed such a plan, even telling his team “he had been left out of a decision that hurt users’ security.”
Yahoo released a short statement that said, “Yahoo is a law-abiding company, and complies with the laws of the United States.”
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