This file photo, taken on August 5, 2015, shows a billboard for the technology company Yahoo in Washington, DC. (By AFP)

The US internet giant Yahoo says seemingly state-sponsored hackers stole the information of half a billion of its users back in 2014, in what appears to be the largest publicly disclosed cyber-breach in history.
Yahoo said in a statement on Thursday that “based on the ongoing investigation, Yahoo believes that information associated with at least 500 million user accounts was stolen.”
The internet company added that the attack came from “what it believes is a state-sponsored actor.”
The company said the stolen information probably included names, email addresses, birth dates, passwords and security questions and answers.
The internet giant has assured that looted data did not include unprotected passwords or information associated with payments or bank accounts.
Yahoo officials said they were working closely with law enforcement regarding the issue.
Analysts say the stolen data may also be used to access people’s information on other websites.
This is probably the largest breach of information from a company.
On several occasions, internet companies have complained that the US government tried to force them to give away their users’ information.
Yahoo’s confirmation of the major cyber breach came after a report earlier this year quoting a security researcher saying some 200 million accounts may have been accessed and that hacked data was being offered for sale online.
The users of Yahoo’s online services were urged to review accounts for suspicious activity. They were also asked to change passwords.
“Online intrusions and thefts by state-sponsored actors have become increasingly common across the technology industry,” Yahoo said in the statement, adding, “Yahoo and other companies have launched programs to detect and notify users when a company strongly suspects that a state-sponsored actor has targeted an account.”
The developments come two months after Yahoo sealed a deal to sell its core internet business to telecom giant Verizon for 4.8 billion dollars, ending a two-decade run as an independent company. It was not immediately clear if the data breach could impact the price agreed to by Verizon.