Yahoo data breaches unlikely to sink Verizon deal, Bloomberg finds

Think December’s reveal that hackers were able to harvest personal information from 1 billion Yahoo Inc. accounts in 2013 is going to affect its pending $4.8 billion USD acquisition by U.S. telecommunications giant Verizon Communications Inc.? Think again, a recent investigation by U.S. financial media company Bloomberg L.P. has found.

While Verizon could use the breach – the largest in recorded history, one that broke Yahoo’s personal record of 500 million account leaks, which the company set in September – to reduce Yahoo’s purchase price by up to 10 per cent, investors and the public have become too inured to the constant drumbeat of cyberattacks for the breaches to permanently destroy Yahoo’s brand, according to the Dec. 27 article.

“I tend to not feel like these hacks are that big of a deal in the broader scheme of things,” Michael Mahoney, senior managing director at investment firm Falcon Point Capital, told Bloomberg. “Obviously they can be damaging, but it doesn’t take too long before people forget about it.”

According to the San Diego, Calif.-based Identity Theft Resource Center, nearly 1,000 data breaches, including Yahoo’s, occurred in the U.S. in 2016, exposing more than 35 million personal records, including social security and passport numbers, and medical and banking data.

And as Bloomberg reporter Olga Kharif notes, Yahoo itself is only the latest in a long line of high-profile victims, which in recent years have included Sony Corp., Target Corp., Home Depot Inc., JPMorgan Chase & Co., EBay Inc., and Toronto-based dating website Ashley Madison.

Since Target was attacked in 2013, affecting up to 70 million customers, public opinion of data breaches has shifted, Identity Theft Resource Center CEO Eva Casey Velasquez told Bloomberg.

“People know what a data breach is,” she said. “But because it did become so ubiquitous in our conversation, there’s a little bit of apathy.”

Nor do stolen names and account information have the impact you might think, Bloomberg’s Kharif wrote, noting that Target and Home Depot lost around $200 million each once insurance was taken into account – a paltry amount for companies of their size.

Falcon Point Capital’s Mahoney told Bloomberg that while Verizon is likely to use the breaches to reduce Yahoo’s purchase price by up to 10 percent, the company’s brand remains a powerful one, and neither breach affects the key reason Verizon wanted to buy Yahoo in the first place: its digital media assets such as Yahoo Finance, which collectively draw some 43 million daily readers, making it the world’s sixth most-popular online property, according to Alexa Internet.

While Yahoo’s shares have gone down by 5.5 per cent since mid-December, when the company announced its second breach, those assets – and their accompanying traffic – remain a valuable asset for Verizon.

Yahoo representatives told Bloomberg they remain confident in the company’s value and have continued to pursue integration with Verizon, while a Verizon spokesperson said the company will continue to evaluate the situation before making any final decisions.

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Eric Emin Wood
Eric Emin Wood
Former editor of turned consultant with public relations firm Porter Novelli. When not writing for the tech industry enjoys photography, movies, travelling, the Oxford comma, and will talk your ear off about animation if you give him an opening.

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