92 million MyHeritage users had their data quietly swiped

A man holds a laptop computer as cyber code is projected on him

The company announced the breach on its blog, explaining that an unnamed security researcher contacted them to warn them of a file he had encountered "on a private server", tellingly entitled "myheritage".

The 92,283,889 million accounts present on the server included users who signed up for the service up until October 26, 2017, the date MyHeritage believes the breach occurred. Its database now has DNA samples from over 1.25 million people.

He stressed that MyHeritage did not store actual passwords, but rather a "one-way hash", in which the hash key differs for each customer, meaning that anyone gaining access this information did not have the actual passwords.

The security researcher, whom MyHeritage didn't name, reported that the server didn't contain any other data related to the company. While passwords were part of the compromised file, each was hashed using an algorithm that renders them useless in the event of the breach.

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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. 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.

When you trust a company for genealogy and DNA testing services, you trust them with your highly sensitive private data. "We have no reason to believe that any other MyHeritage systems were compromised". A hacker able to decrypt the hashed passwords exposed in the breach could access personal information accessible when logging into someone's account, such as the identity of family members. "As an example, credit card information is not stored on MyHeritage to begin with, but only on trusted third-party billing providers". After Deutsch was alerted, the company said its security team analyzed the file sent from the researcher and confirmed that its contents were legitimate and that the data originated from MyHeritage.

"We are taking steps to inform relevant authorities including as per GDPR", the DNA testing site notes.

It goes without saying that MyHeritage users should change their passwords as soon as possible. It plans to hire an independent cybersecurity firm to investigate the incident and potentially beef up security. Family trees or genetic data, it said, are stored on different systems with "added layers of security". The company said it's also speeding up its work to roll out two-factor authentication for users.

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