Mid of last week, Security had raised alarms in all corners of the tech-savvy world. Hold Security, a Wisconsin-based security firm famous for obtaining hoards of stolen data from the hacking underworld, claimed to have recovered 272 million stolen email credentials along with the passwords consumers use to log in to websites.
Though, by the end of last week, the email provider preceded to say the action as media hype.
Hold asserts that nearly 57 million of the stolen email accounts uncovered were from the popular Russian service Mail.ru. But more than 99.9 percent of the Mail.ru account credentials in a sample examined by the provider are invalid, the Russian company said.
Gmail, Hotmail, and Yahoo accounts were also included in the loop, the company claimed to have recovered, as were credentials from numerous other services.
“The database is most likely a compilation of a few old data dumps collected by hacking Web services where people used their email address to register,” Mail.ru said. “Therefore, it is fair to assume that the sole purpose of issuing the report was to create media hype and draw the public attention to Holden’s cybersecurity business.”
The Chief information security officer, Alex Holden of Hold Securities is known to have said that even if many of the accounts included in the data set are inactive, there could still be a risk for users who rely on their email address as a user ID for other services.
In addition, the credentials could be used for spam or phishing, thereby exposing “a sizable portion of the user base to unwanted abuse,” he added.
Further analysis by Mail.ru found that 22.6 percent of the database entries analyzed contain email addresses that do not exist while 64.3 percent contain incorrect passwords or no passwords at all. A full 12.4 percent of the remaining accounts had already been marked as suspicious and blocked by Mail.ru, the company said, meaning that its system considers them either hacked or controlled by a robot.
“Those accounts cannot be accessed by simply entering username and password, as the owner would have to recover access to the account first,” the provider explained.
In its original announcement, Hold itself noted that a sizable portion of the credentials it found in the stash of 272 million were duplicates of credentials it had already found in other data sets.
The bottom line is that only 0.018 percent of the username/password combinations in the sample analyzed might have worked, and Mail.ru has already notified the affected users. A fuller account of Mail.ru’s analysis is available in its blog post on the topic.
Either of the big technology giants declined to comment on this issue.