Published: Thu, June 07, 2018
Money | By Michele Stevens

Genealogy site MyHeritage says 92 million user accounts compromised

Genealogy site MyHeritage says 92 million user accounts compromised

Upon analysis of the file, the company confirmed it was legitimate and included the email addresses and hashed passwords of 92,283,889 users. Its database now has DNA samples from over 1.25 million people.

This was found to contain a large quantity of information about everyone who had signed up with the site up to October 26, 2017. Password hashes are cryptographic representations of passwords, meaning companies don't have to store the actual password themselves. In 2012 and 2016 nearly 200 million LinkedIn user passwords went on sale following a 2012 breach, despite the fact the service hashed its passwords.

A security researcher contacted the company after discovering a file named "myheritage" on a private server, MyHeritage said. MyHeritage stated that it does not store user passwords but rather uses a one-way hash with an individual key for each customer.

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MyHeritage said that the hashing is "one-way", meaning that it is nearly impossible to turn the hashed password back into the original.

Even if genetic data from a commercial site like MyHeritage is compromised, it's not clear how they might be used. It is unclear if the breach is the result of a hacker attack or because of a malicious employee selling the company's data.

Mr Deutsch added: "Immediately upon receipt of the file, MyHeritage's Information Security Team analysed the file and began an investigation to determine how its contents were obtained and to identify any potential exploitation of the MyHeritage system". Credit card information isn't stored on MyHeritage, it said, but is instead stored on "trusted third-party billing providers" like BlueSnap and PayPal.

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MyHeritage has also taken steps to inform relevant authorities, as per new GDPR rules.

Deutsch nonetheless recommended that all registered MyHeritage users change their password anyway.

MyHeritage said that it only learned of the breach earlier that day-more than seven months after the fact-when an unidentified "security researcher" sent the company's chief information security officer a message. Other types of sensitive data such as family trees and DNA data are stored by MyHeritage on segregated systems, separate from those that store the email addresses, and they include added layers of security.

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As consumer DNA testing has grown into a $99 million industry, questions about the security of users' intimate data have increased as well. MyHeritage also said that it will be rolling out two-factor authentication to all users.

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