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May 21, 2014

EBay asks users to change their passwords after cyber-attack

NEW YORK — EBay, operator of the online- auction site, asked users to change their passwords after a cyber-attack exposed a database with login information and data such as birthdays and phone numbers.

There's no evidence of unauthorized activity resulting from the breach, eBay said Wednesday in a statement. While credit-card numbers are stored separately and encrypted, it's still best to change passwords, the company said.

The revelations from eBay come on the heels of an Internet security bug known as Heartbleed, which was made public on April 7, and follows high-profile consumer-data breaches at Target and Neiman Marcus. In this case, hackers reached eBay's corporate network by getting access to a small number of employee passwords, prompting the company to disclose the attack.

"Cybersecurity and cyber-attacks have really become as much a part of day-to-day life as folks using the Internet and mobile offerings," said Scott Kessler, an analyst at S&P Capital IQ in New York. "This seems like mostly a precaution but a precaution that companies find themselves increasingly looking to communicate about."

EBay's disclosure stands in contrast to the actions of three U.S. public companies that were recently identified as Chinese hacking victims. The companies, including Alcoa Inc. and Allegheny Technologies, didn't report the theft of trade secrets and other data to investors, according to a Justice Department indictment unsealed on May 19.

EBay said that it's working with police and security experts to investigate the breach, which occurred between late February and early March. The database that was compromised contained encrypted passwords and personal information on users, though not financial data related to its PayPal customers, the company said.

"PayPal data is stored separately on a secure network, and all PayPal financial information is encrypted," eBay said.

EBay is asking users to change their passwords on its own service and on any other site where that password is used.

The Heartbleed bug, unrelated to the eBay attack, was spotted by a cybersecurity firm that was looking for gaps in communications software called OpenSSL. The OpenSSL Project announced the bug and the availability of a fix for it last month, sending Web companies scrambling to apply a patch.

After last year's security breaches at Target and Neiman Marcus, data-security professionals urged U.S. retailers to upgrade their credit and debit card technology to reduce fraud.

          

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