Yahoo tells security critics to chillax regarding its email recycling program

Yahoo's plan to recycle old unused email addresses has come under criticisms for potential use by identity thieves.

It's not hard to find possibly abandoned Yahoo accounts attached to real people.

It's not hard to find possibly abandoned Yahoo accounts attached to real people.

So much for trying to be nice. Yahoo's latest bid to lift itself from the tech also-ran swamp with an email recycling initiative has been criticized for potential security threats to dormant users. To try and calm down the pitchfork-wielding crowd, the company has released a statement describing various security measures that will be taken to insure past users' data and security--but they may not cover all the bases.

How safe are old users?

A June 12 tumblr post unveiled Yahoo's plan to make available inactive, but succinctly-named Yahoo accounts. The company holds nearly two decades worth of accounts and their associated emails. Over the years, many of these users have moved on from the ecosystem forcing newer, active users to settle for an unintelligible email address like albert9330399@yahoo.com as opposed to albert@yahoo.com.

The primary concern is that with a little research into dormant Yahoo accounts, crafty identity thieves could use associated email addresses to access bank accounts, social media, and other online portals.

The threat of that isn't off base. For example, I signed into Yahoo Groups and joined a group dedicated to Janet Jackson's 2004 Super Bowl appearance. Oddly enough, the group (built around the event that took place in George W. Bush's first term!) features posts as recently as a month ago, though all the newer posts appear to be spam bots. However, Yahoo offers an "oldest" function in their posts that automatically took me back to a number of original and peopled posts from 2004.

Going back in time nine years, I was able to find a bounty what appears to be genuine users full real name along with their Yahoo email handle--or at least a handle for some other email address. Within this glut of information are surely some genuine Yahoo address handles along with a user's full name.

Playing the numbers game, a would-be identity thief would be able to have their pick of retired Yahoo accounts along with the associated person's real name and use that information to access online information.

According to Wired's Matt Honan, Yahoo has responded the concerns with the following statement:

Our goal with reclaiming inactive Yahoo! IDs is to free-up desirable namespace for our users. We're committed and confident in our ability to do this in a way that's safe, secure and protects our users' data. It's important to note that the vast majority of these inactive Yahoo! IDs don't have a mailbox associated with them. Any personal data and private content associated with these accounts will be deleted and will not be accessible to the new account holder.

To ensure that these accounts are recycled safely and securely, we're doing several things. We will have a 30-day period between deactivation and before we recycle these IDs for new users. During this time, we'll send bounce back emails alerting senders that the deactivated account no longer exists. We will also unsubscribe these accounts from commercial emails such as newsletters and email alerts, among others. Upon deactivation, we will send notification for these potentially recycled accounts to merchants, e-commerce sites, financial institutions, social networks, email providers and other online properties.

The most important part of the statement is the notification of merchants, e-commerce sites, financial institutions, social networks, email providers and other online properties, which will hopefully help lax users remain secure. Hopefully the various online entities will act quickly to avoid any unwanted access.

Protect your ghost accounts

Yahoo's recycling plan will free-up IDs that have been inactive for the past 12 months. Current users will be able to apply for newly-freed Yahoo ID beginning in mid-July, and they will find out which accounts they were able to by mid-August.

If you wish to keep your Yahoo address, simply log-in to any Yahoo property before July 15 and your account will be spared from the recycling program. If you can remember your old Yahoo account, it may be worth it to log-in to that Flickr account you haven't touched in five years. Just to be on the safe side.

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection

Tags emailYahoosecurity

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Evan Dashevsky

TechHive (US)
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

George Khoury

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The biggest perks for me would be that it comes with easy to use and comprehensive programs that make the collaboration process a whole lot more intuitive and organic

David Coyle

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

I rate the printer as a 5 out of 5 stars as it has been able to fit seamlessly into my busy and mobile lifestyle.

Kurt Hegetschweiler

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

It’s perfect for mobile workers. Just take it out — it’s small enough to sit anywhere — turn it on, load a sheet of paper, and start printing.

Matthew Stivala

HP OfficeJet 250 Mobile Printer

The HP OfficeJet 250 Mobile Printer is a great device that fits perfectly into my fast paced and mobile lifestyle. My first impression of the printer itself was how incredibly compact and sleek the device was.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?