Yahoo Cybersecurity Team Labeled ‘Paranoids’ Often Clashed With CEO Mayer

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Eric Lieberman Managing Editor
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Disregard and stubbornness may have been the primary causes for the massive 2014 Yahoo breach that allowed 500 million accounts to be hacked.

New details have emerged that show internal squabbles and mismanagement impeded the company’s technological safeguards, according to The New York Times. While other companies, like Google, reportedly chose to adjust business strategies to deal with the growing threat of hacks, Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer focused on updating Yahoo’s interface and creating new features.

Mayer took over the struggling company in the middle of 2012. She opted to update capabilities like email over cybersecurity protocol, The NYT reports. Mayer, who signed a $365 million, five-year contract in July of 2012, was originally reported to have resigned in July, but has since stayed on and is dealing with the onslaught of criticism.

Following the new details of the breach, lawmakers sent Mayer a published letter pressing her on the issue, specifically pertaining to why there was such a delay in notifying users and the general public.

Others within the company also contributed to the decision making processes that potentially led to the breach. Yahoo’s security team, known internally as the “Paranoids,” apparently got into many disagreements with the business team.

Yahoo Senior Vice President Jeff Bonforte said Alex Stamos, chief information security officer, adamantly advocated for end-to-end encryption for all services. This cybersecurity feature would permit only the people involved in the conversation (not even Yahoo) to be able to see the communications.

Bonforte explained that this would hamper Yahoo’s capacity to catalog and browse message data that would further development of new features. “I’m not particularly thrilled with building an apartment building which has the biggest bars on every window,” he said, according to The NYT.

Mayer and Stamos reportedly had differences regarding Stamos’ safety initiatives. Current and former employees told the Times that Mayer denied Stamos funding and resources to implement security defense, like intrusion-detection technology.

Members of the Paranoids have since been poached by competitors like Apple, Facebook and Google — companies that seem to place more emphasis on cybersecurity and the potential dangers that come with an absent security infrastructure. (RELATED: 3 Out Of 4 Organizations Hacked Due To Internal Sloppiness)

Stamos, who created a reputation in the tech world for empowering the Paranoids with the resources to boost cybersecurity capabilities, left Yahoo last year and now works at Facebook.

Virginia Sen. Mark Warner has called for the SEC, “to investigate whether Yahoo and its senior executives fulfilled their obligations to keep investors and the public informed, and whether the company made complete and accurate representations about the security of its IT systems.”

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