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A Russian Gang Probably Has All Your Online Passwords

A masked pro-Russian activist sits in front of a computer inside a room.

A masked pro-Russian activist sits in front of a computer inside a room. // Evgeniy Maloletka/AP

Security experts have determined that a crime ring out of Russia has stolen a whooping 1.2 billion username and password combinations. They also got away with 500 million email addresses. To date, this is the single largest theft of login information. 

Initially, Hold Security, who spotted the breach, thought they were "run-of-the-mill spammers." But overtime, the gang upped its thievery and went after SQL servers. Alex Holden, chief information security officer at Hold Security, told USA Today that the e-gang used malicious code to infiltrate 420,000 websites, and was then able to steal their databases. Holden found his own login and password information were compromised in this theft. 

Technically, the gang could be brought to justice as Hold Security has both the location and names of the criminals. However, Holden believes this won't occur, "The perpetrators are in Russia so not much can be done. These people are outside the law." 

Phil Lieberman, CEO of Lieberman Software, believes this hack was politically charged, "I think this is a political statement rather than a security threat. I think there is a message being sent and the message is: Watch out." Lieberman believes Kremlin could have prevented this. Considering Russian based energy hacking group "Energetic Bear" was found to be working Moscow business hours, it is very possible these hackers are also a professional, known operation in country. 

Now begins the major undertaking of contacting all of the victims, and protecting all 420,000 of these websites. Hold Security has not released which companies specifically were affected, but noted they included companies in the auto industry, real estate, oil, consulting, car rental, hotels, computer hardware, software firms and the food industry. 

In case all of this isn't terrifying enough, Marc Maiffret, the chief technical officer at BeyondTrust, believes this massive breach indicates there are others, "I would absolutely assume there are others." He called this security breach "a perfect storm." 

For scale, this breach is more than five times the size of the Target security threat this past winter. 

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