The latest hacking victim is AOL, which urged users to change their password even though the risk sounds small.
| Dear AOL User,
At AOL, we care deeply about the safety and security of your online experience. We are writing to notify you that AOL is investigating a security incident that involved unauthorized access to AOL's network and systems. Recently, our systems alerted us to an increased incidence of email users receiving spam emails from "spoofed" AOL email addresses. AOL's security team immediately began investigating the cause of the spoofed emails. Spoofing is a tactic used by spammers to make it appear that the message is from you in order to trick the recipient into opening it. These emails do not originate from the AOL Mail system – the addresses are just edited to make them appear that way. AOL is working with other email providers like Gmail, Yahoo! Mail and Outlook·com to stamp out spoofing across the industry, and we have implemented measures that will significantly limit its future occurrence.
Although our investigation is still underway, we have determined that there was unauthorized access to AOL users' email addresses, postal addresses, contact information (as stored in the AOL Mail "Address Book"), encrypted account passwords, and encrypted answers to security questions that we ask when a user resets his or her password. We believe spammers have used this contact information to send spoofed emails that appeared to come from roughly 2% of our email accounts.
Importantly, at this point, we have no indication that the encryption on the passwords or the answers to security questions was broken. Likewise, there is no indication that this incident resulted in disclosure of users' financial information, including debit and credit cards, which is also fully encrypted.
Nevertheless, as a precautionary measure, we strongly encourage you to reset your password used for any AOL service and, when you do so, you should take the time to change your account security question and answer. You may reset your password and account security question at account.aol.com.
In addition, there are steps you can take to protect yourself from cyber risks. They include:
We place a premium on the security of our systems and our users' information. We are implementing additional measures to address this incident, and we are working with law enforcement to pursue the matter.
If you have any further questions, additional information and an extensive Q&A can be found at faq.aol.com. We apologize for any inconvenience, and we are addressing the situation as quickly and forcefully as we can.
"AOL Mail is immediately changing its policy to help mail providers reject email messages that are sent using forged AOL Mail addresses. By initiating this change, AOL Mail, along with other major email providers will reject these spoofed email messages, rather than deliver them to the recipient's inboxes."
- Analyze AOL's audience: who is the typical user (other than my 86-year-old father)?
- How well does AOL describe the technical problem to this audience? What else about the email is tailored to this audience?
- What, if anything, could be improved about the email?
- What's your assessment of AOL's blog post about working with other email providers?