This Week In Techdirt History – September 18th – 24th

Five Years Ago

This week in 2011, the Pirate Party scored another big victory when it took 9% of the vote and a bunch of seats in parliament in Berlin. Their influence was badly needed across Europe, what with Italy proposing a one-strike law to ban people from the internet based on a single accusation of infringement (prompting questions about whether that was even legal in Europe), and the EU Commissioner straight-up asking big entertainment companies to step up their lobbying for more draconian copyright law.

Also this week in 2011: the now-tiresomely-ubiquitous “Keep Calm And Carry On” poster was at the height of its popularity, and the trademark battles were heating up.

Ten Years Ago

This week in 2006, HP was still grappling with the massive spying scandal that hit it last week. First, more details came out that exposed even more elaborate spying and made the company look even worse, although it still wasn’t clear whether or not California law actually made any of the activities illegal. Chairperson Patricia Dunn’s pleas of ignorance began to fall apart when more documents suggested she was closely involved, and by the end of the week she resigned from the company only to be replaced by CEO Mark Hurd. But… additional leaked memos implicated him in the scandal too.

Fifteen Years Ago

This week in 2001, Techdirt (and the world) was still reeling from the events of September 11th. The FBI was already moving to expand its wiretapping abilities, companies with poor taste were already moving to capitalize on the tragedy, scammers with even fewer morals were doing the same in their own way and, of course, the conspiracy theories were already flowing. Publishers of violent video games were delaying their launches, and after every store sold out of American flags it turned out they were pretty hard to find online in 2001.

Seventy Years Ago

The Cannes Film Festival is one of the oldest and most prestigious institutions in the world of film, and generally seen as a bastion of movie artistry and creativity in a Hollywood-dominated world. The first ever festival was supposed to happen in 1939, until a pesky global conflict got in the way — but the dream survived the war, and the long-delayed Cannes Film Festival debuted on September 20th, 1946.

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Hurry Up: We're Taking Down Our Takedown Gear In A Week

WwN3CaE Hurry Up: We're Taking Down Our Takedown Gear In A Week

Support Techdirt and get Takedown gear! Last chance this year! »

Of all the t-shirts and other gear available in our super-early holiday sale, the popular Takedown design has the longest history: it was one of the first t-shirts we produced years ago as part of an early “reason to buy” project, it was later revamped with an improved graphical design for our Insider Shop, and then this year it was revamped once again with a slightly modified look for our sales via Teespring.

And now it’s your last chance to get one in 2016! The current run ends on Monday, October 3rd — and after that we won’t be taking reservations and can’t promise when it will return, but it won’t be until next year at the earliest.

So don’t miss out and order yours today! Plus, consider picking it up now for the holidays and getting an early start on your gift-buying list — the reason we’re holding this sale so early is to give lots and lots of time before Christmas for Teespring’s sometimes-slow fulfillment. And don’t forget to check out the other gear in our super-early holiday sale.

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Arguments Over Internet Governance Transition Get Even More Stupid

So, yesterday, we noted that the Senate at least seemed to come (at least somewhat) to its senses in choosing not to include the ridiculous and dangerous proposal from Ted Cruz (and supported by Donald Trump) to block the transition of the IANA functions of internet governance away from the Commerce Department. I won’t go into (once again) why this is important and not a problem, or even why Cruz’s objections to it are so backwards that his plan will actually make it more likely that the “bad” result he keeps warning about will actually come to pass. You can reread the older articles on that.

However, with Democrats complaining about the Senate’s Continuing Resolution and a vote on it being pushed off, the debate over the possibility of blocking the transition is still going on. Hell, Ted Cruz even pointed to Donald Trump’s support of his plan as a reason to finally endorse Trump:


Internet freedom. Clinton supports Obama’s plan to hand over control of the Internet to an international community of stakeholders, including Russia, China, and Iran. Just this week, Trump came out strongly against that plan, and in support of free speech online.

Except, none of that is true. First, the plan does not hand over control to Russia, China and Iran — and keeping IANA under the Commerce Dept. makes it A LOT MORE LIKELY that that coalition of countries is able to grab control of the IANA functions from ICANN and the US. But, uh, even more importantly, claiming that Trump is in favor of “free speech online” is laughable. This is the candidate who has repeatedly talked about “opening up our libel laws” to go after speech he doesn’t like, has threatened to sue many publications for protected speech, and has flat out declared that we should turn off parts of the internet and anyone who responded with “freedom of speech” was “foolish.”

But, that’s still not the craziest argument I’ve heard recently concerning the transition. The award there goes to Theresa Payton, who was a top IT staffer at the White House under George W. Bush and now runs a “cybersecurity” firm. She wrote a bizarre opinion piece in The Hill that, frankly, calls into question whether she understands what ICANN even does. She tries to argue that the transition will somehow make it easier for Russia to hack our election… because [reasons].


Changing who controls the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) so close to our presidential election will jeopardize the results of how you vote on Nov. 8 unless Congress stops this changeover. When the calendar hits Sept. 30, a mere 6 weeks before our election, the United States cannot be assured that if any web site is hacked, the responsible party will be held accountable. We cannot be sure if a web site is a valid. We cannot be sure if one country is being favored over another. These are all the things ICANN is responsible for and has worked perfectly since the Internet was created. Why change it now and so close to the election? Why does that matter to you as a voter?

Take a look at recent cyber activity as it relates to the election. The Democratic National Convention was breached comprising the entire party’s strategy, donor base, and indeed, national convention. Everything the DNC had done to prepare for a moment four years in the making (if not longer) was undermined by a hacker who had been in their system for some time but waited for the optimal moment to spring it on the DNC – opening day of the convention. The FBI and other U.S. agencies, as the headlines blare, suspect Russia is responsible for the hack. Recently, Vladimir Putin went so far as to say, “Does it matter who broke in? Surely what’s important is the content of what was released to the public.”

Except, uh, ICANN has nothing to do with figuring out who hacks who. Nor is it the party that’s figuring out if one country “is being favored over another” or if a “website is valid.” That’s not ICANN’s job, and has nothing to do whatsoever with the IANA transition — which will leave the internet working exactly as it has before. Honestly, this opinion piece does nothing to call the transition into question, but does a tremendous job in calling Theresa Payton’s knowledge of technology and cybersecurity into question.


ICANN does more than just assign and/or approve your website’s domain. ICANN has its own Security and Stability Advisory Committee, which “engages in ongoing threat assessment and risk analysis of the Internet naming and address allocation services to assess where the principal threats to stability and security lie, and advises the ICANN community accordingly.” They are equivalent to your security guard at the bank. Why change the security guard now when voter data is more vulnerable – and prized – than ever?

If ICANN changes hands, so do the security measures taken to protect the rightful owner of your web site. If a site was hijacked today – not an uncommon crime in the cyber world – to reassert yourself as the rightful owner, you would go through law enforcement channels, your domain provider, and yes, ICANN.

First of all, the “transition” in question isn’t about transitioning all of ICANN. Just its IANA functions, which only have a symbolic connection to the US government. Second, Payton seems to not understand what ICANN does, what the ICANN SSAC does, or how internet security works. They are not the equivalent of the “security guard at the bank.” You’d think the CEO and founder of a “cybersecurity” company would know that. And, after the IANA transition takes place, ICANN itself doesn’t “change hands” nor does it change what the SSAC does, which isn’t anything even remotely close to what Payton seems to think it does.

Don’t trust me? How about Stephen Crocker, who heads ICANN’s Board of Directors — and also helped create the damn internet. You know how much of the internet was designed through “RFCs” — “Requests for Comments” — well, Crocker invented the RFC and wrote the very first one. I think he knows what he’s talking about. And he and the head of ICANN’s SSAC, Patrik Fallstrom, have responded to Payton with a nicer version of “you have no idea what you’re talking about.”


The SSAC is not a “security guard” for the Internet. The SSAC has no enforcement power, and the value of its advice is based on the strength of the facts underlying such advice.

The Security and Stability Advisory Committee advises the ICANN community and Board on matters relating to the security and integrity of the Internet’s naming and address allocation systems. Our recent work include advisories on a wide range of topics such as internationalized domain names, protecting domain name owners and operators, best practices for domain name registrars, analysis on the changing nature of IPv4 address semantics, and advice on matters pertaining to the correct and reliable operation of the root name system and other issues (see https://ssac.icann.org/ for more details). The SSAC neither operates as a security guard for the Internet, nor does it aspire to.

The IANA transition has no practical effect on the work and activities of the SSAC. Nor does the transition have any effect on the security and stability of website owners worldwide. The risk of compromise of a website owner does not increase as a result of the IANA transition, since ICANN and IANA do not control either the ownership of websites or the content on websites. Leading technical experts, industry associations, and civil society groups agree that allowing the IANA contract to expire is the best possible way to protect and promote the continued integrity of the Internet.

There is simply no relationship between ICANN and the current U.S. election process. Assertions of this sort are misleading and irresponsible. On the other hand, attempt to connect ICANN to the U.S. political process play directly into the hands of the enemies of an open Internet who would like to see ICANN and other Internet bodies put under the control of the United Nations or, worse yet, broken up into separate, government-controlled networks that do not interoperate smoothly around the world.

So, yeah. It seems that as we get closer to the transition, and since this issue has become “political,” we’re seeing stupider and ever more clueless attacks — but they seem to only serve to make the people behind them look worse and worse. This shouldn’t be a partisan issue. It shouldn’t be a political issue. It shouldn’t be an issue. Severing the minor link connection between IANA and the Commerce Department changes nothing practical in how the internet is governed, but takes a big weapon away from Russia and China in their quest to take control over those functions.

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Video shows moments before Keith Lamont Scott's shooting – CNN

Story highlights

  • Scott’s family says people should wait for all the facts to come out before making a judgment
  • Police source says loaded gun was recovered from scene with Scott’s fingerprints, DNA
The video is the first publicly released footage related to the shooting, which spurred days of protests in Charlotte.
“Don’t shoot him. He has no weapon,” Rakeyia Scott can be heard saying. The first portions of the shaky video appear to show a number of police officers surround a vehicle in a parking lot.
A man repeatedly yells for someone — apparently Keith Scott — to “drop the gun.”
“He doesn’t have a gun. He has a TBI (traumatic brain injury),” Rakeyia Scott says. “He’s not going to do anything to you guys. He just took his medicine.”
She goes on to say: “Keith, don’t let them break the windows; come on out the car. Keith! Don’t do it. Keith, get out the car. Keith! Keith, don’t you do it. Don’t you do it. Keith! Keith! Keith!”
The video shakes, and for a moment, a man in bright blue pants is seen near the surrounded vehicle. Gunshots are heard as Rakeyia Scott says again, “Don’t you do it.”
She then yells: “Did you shoot him? Did you shoot him? He better not be (expletive) dead.” Two people kneel over the figure with blue pants, apparently Keith Scott, now lying on the ground.
Smashed windows to handshakes: 24 hours in Charlotte
Police said an officer shot Scott on Tuesday after he failed to heed commands to drop a gun. His family has said he didn’t have a gun.
The gun police say they recovered from the scene of Scott’s shooting was loaded, a source close to the investigation told CNN. The source said investigators recovered from the weapon fingerprints, blood and DNA that matched with Scott. The source said the blood most likely got on the gun after the shooting.

Attorney: Released because police footage withheld

Curry told CNN that the tape was released because officials would not furnish the police footage to the public.
“We want the public to take a look at this tape and see what was in the video before he was shot, and what was there afterward, and ask how it got there,” family attorney Eduardo Curry said.
By TBI, Rakeyia Scott meant traumatic brain injury, Curry said. Scott’s family has said that he was in a near-death motorcycle crash last year, and that it left him disabled.
“My understanding (is) that he had had an accident last year that was pretty traumatic, and as a result, made him at least disabled in some particular instances (and was) taking medication for it,” Curry said.
The Scott family said it released the video in the “name of truth and transparency,” according to a statement released by attorney Charles G. Monnett. “We encourage everyone to reserve judgment until all the facts are known. This is simply one step in our quest to find the truth for this family.”
The status of other videos — held by authorities — has been a point of contention between police and the family.
Police allowed the family to see the police-held footage on Thursday, but the public has yet to see it.
On Friday, Charlotte-Mecklenberg police Chief Kerr Putney said he expected police videos of the shooting — from dashboard and officer body cameras — to be released eventually, when investigators decide that it can be released as part of a package with other information, so that the videos aren’t released without context.
That differed from his message a day earlier, when the chief said the public shouldn’t expect the videos’ release.
Curry said he believes police have a copy of Rakeyia Scott’s video. He said that he doesn’t expect her to speak publicly soon.
“Give the family a chance to mourn and grieve,” Curry said. “At some point we’ll revisit (whether she’ll speak).”

The shooting

Hundreds of people protested the shooting in Charlotte over the past three days. Though Thursday night was relatively peaceful, violence rocked the first two nights, with businesses vandalized and one protester shot dead in front of a hotel by what police say was another civilian.
Central to the protests are the differing accounts between police and Scott’s family over what led to his death. Authorities said a black police officer fatally shot Scott, a black man and a father of seven, in an apartment complex parking lot as officers looked for another man named in a warrant they were trying to serve.
Police said Scott had a gun as he exited his vehicle, and that Officer Brentley Vinson shot him after Scott did not comply with officers’ commands to drop the weapon.
Scott’s family has said he was reading a book and waiting for his son to come home from school when the shooting happened. But police said Scott was armed and no book was found at the scene.

What the police videos are said to show

Officials are discussing whether and when to release the police dashboard and body camera videos, Mayor Jennifer Roberts said. One factor affecting the timing, she said, is that investigators want to record witness’ accounts, and that they don’t want witnesses’ recollections altered by what they see on the videos. Vinson was not carrying a body camera, police said.
Scott’s family said the police videos showed him acting calmly and nonaggressively. Scott didn’t own a gun or habitually carry a gun, family attorney Justin Bamberg said.
“When he was shot and killed, Mr. Scott’s hands were by his side, and he was slowly walking backward,” he said.
Roberts told CNN’s Anderson Cooper that the videos did not provide “a very clear picture.”
“The gun in question is a small gun, and it was not easy to see with the way the motion was happening,” she said.
The family wants police to release the videos immediately to the public, Bamberg said.
Putney has said the video does not provide “definitive visual evidence” that Scott pointed a gun at officers. The investigation has been turned over to the State Bureau of Investigation.
Gov. Pat McCrory said Friday that the SBI has been looking for several days into the deadly encounter between Scott and Charlotte police. Most of the critical witnesses in the shooting have been interviewed by state investigators, the governor said.
Meanwhile, a photo obtained by CNN affiliate WSOC shows the immediate aftermath of the shooting of Scott, a source close to the investigation told CNN.
A black object near the bottom of the photo is a gun found by police at the scene, the source said.
wAAACH5BAEAAAIALAAAAAAQAAkAAAIKlI+py+0Po5yUFQA7 Video shows moments before Keith Lamont Scott's shooting - CNN

160922194340-wsoc-scene-photo-charlotte-keith-lamont-scott-shooting-large-169-1 Video shows moments before Keith Lamont Scott's shooting - CNN

North Carolina recently passed a law that blocks the release of police recordings from body or dashboard cameras with limited exceptions. That law is set to take effect in October.
Roberts said an attorney for the city told her that the law will not affect decisions about whether to release the videos in Scott’s killing, because the law was not in effect when the shooting happened.

CNN’s Ed Lavandera, Nick Valencia, Holly Yan, AnneClaire Stapleton, MaryLynn Ryan, Eliott C. McLaughlin, Madison Park, Carma Hassan and Rich Phillips contributed to this report.

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Cruz reverses himself, endorses Trump – Washington Post

GOP_2016_Debate-0d90d-4033 Cruz reverses himself, endorses Trump - Washington Post
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, reacts as Republican presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas,rebukes a comment made by Trump during the Republican presidential debate sponsored by CNN, Salem Media Group and the Washington Times at the University of Miami, Thursday, March 10, 2016, in Coral Gables, Fla. (Pedro Portal/The Miami Herald via AP)

Sen. Ted Cruz endorsed Donald Trump’s presidential campaign on Friday, the latest chapter in a rocky relationship between the two men that has ricocheted from fawning support to searing personal insults to, now, a kind of detente.

In a Facebook message posted Friday, Cruz said he has had “areas of significant disagreement” with Trump, but cannot allow  Hillary Clinton to become president.

“After many months of careful consideration, of prayer and searching my own conscience, I have decided that on Election Day, I will vote for the Republican nominee, Donald Trump,” Cruz said, noting he is honoring a commitment he made to endorse the Republican nominee — something he stepped back from earlier this year.

The decision marks a politically risky move for Cruz, who pointedly refused to endorse Trump during a prime-time speech at the Republican National Convention in July. Cruz exhorted Republicans to “vote your conscience” and said he was standing on truth and principle — ideologically pure stances Cruz espoused during his campaign and that could be imperiled with his endorsement of Trump.

Cruz was booed off the stage and his wife was filmed leaving early to avoid angry delegates. At a tense breakfast with the Texas delegation the following morning, Cruz said he wasn’t going to “act like a servile puppy dog” and back Trump.

“No, this is not politics,” Cruz said at the time. “I will tell the truth.”

Ted Cruz was being loudly cheered by many of the delegates at the Republican National Convention on July 20 – until he urged voters to “vote their conscience.” Photo by Michael Robinson-Chavez/The Washington Post (Peter Stevenson,Sarah Parnass,Jorge Ribas,Alice Li,Dalton Bennett/The Washington Post)

The truth, Cruz said then, was that Trump had personally attacked his wife, Heidi, and father, Rafael. Citing an unfounded conspiracy theory, Trump repeatedly accused Rafael Cruz, who was born and raised in Cuba, of associating with Lee Harvey Oswald around the time of John F. Kennedy’s assassination. Trump also retweeted an unflattering photo of Heidi Cruz contrasted with a photo of his wife, Melania, a retired model.

“I am not in the habit of supporting people who attack my wife and attack my father,” Ted Cruz said in July. Previously, he said Trump was a “sniveling coward” who should “leave Heidi the hell alone.”

In July, some delegates questioned how Cruz could turn back on a pledge he and other candidates made to support the Republican nominee.

“The day that was abrogated was the day this became personal,” he said, adding he would never vote for Clinton.

[Will Ted Cruz’s gamble pay off?]

Trump said after the convention he would not accept Cruz’s endorsement if it were offered. In a statement Friday, Trump also reversed himself.

“I am greatly honored by the endorsement of Senator Cruz,” the statement said. “We have fought the battle and he was a tough and brilliant opponent. I look forward to working with him for many years to come in order to make America great again.”

Even after making his impassioned pleas in Cleveland, Cruz’s aides didn’t rule out the possibility of an endorsement at a later date. Cruz had been facing growing pressure from donors to back Trump after staying on the sidelines since July. Cruz is facing a reelection fight in 2018, and talk had been mounting about a Republican primary challenge to Cruz — chatter that may simmer down now that Cruz has endorsed Trump.

Over the past few days, the Texas Republican and his aides increasingly signaled that they were coming around to Trump. On Wednesday, Cruz thanked Trump on Twitter for backing his top legislative priority, a crusade on Internet domain names. Trump this week also said he would consider naming Sen. Mike Lee, one of Cruz’s closest allies in the Senate, to the Supreme Court. Cruz’s campaign manager, Jeff Roe, said at a Bloomberg Politics breakfast on Tuesday that Cruz’s unwillingness to back a third-party candidate were limiting his options and that watching Trump run a “better campaign” has been “helpful.”

[A lot of people just don’t like Ted Cruz. How come that’s okay with him?]

The relationship between the two first turned vicious after Trump said Cruz’s Canadian birthplace was a “very precarious” issue for the Republican Party and questioned his eligibility to run for president. Cruz has long said that he qualifies as a natural-born citizen because his mother was born in Delaware.

The two men spent months lobbing pointed insults at one another. Cruz called Trump a “pathological liar” who is “utterly amoral,” a “serial philanderer,” a “bully” and a “narcissist at a level I don’t think this country has ever seen.” Trump yoked Cruz with the nickname, “Lyin’ Ted,” and called him a “nasty guy,” an “anchor baby,” “unstable” and “sick.”

It wasn’t always this way.

At the beginning of the presidential race, the two men enjoyed a relationship that was unusually cozy for two ostensible rivals for the Republican presidential nomination — a political buddy comedy movie of sorts. Cruz repeatedly lauded Trump as “terrific” and said he was happy the real estate mogul was in the presidential race. Cruz spent an afternoon at Trump Tower in Manhattan, and the two men headlined a Capitol Hill rally against the Iranian nuclear deal — something virtually unheard of for two candidates running against one another.

[How Ted Cruz wooed and won Donald Trump]

In December, Cruz promised that nothing would come between him and Trump.

The Establishment’s only hope: Trump & me in a cage match.

Sorry to disappoint — @realDonaldTrump is terrific. #DealWithIt

— Ted Cruz (@tedcruz) December 11, 2015

But it did, and now many conservatives and those in Cruz’s orbit are dismayed that the candidate they saw taking a principled stance against Trump is now backing the businessman. Cruz is now back in the Senate, a body where he earned the enmity of his colleagues and wore it as a badge of honor. It was proof, Cruz said, of his outsider status, something that could be endangered with his endorsement of Trump.

“Another promising, talented politician is gonna learn the lesson of misspent political capital the hard way. Come quickly, Lord Jesus,” Steve Deace, a prominent Iowa evangelical and Cruz supporter, wrote on Twitter.

Even some people who worked on Cruz’s campaign rebuked their former boss.

Never, ever Trump. Sorry boss.

— scott edward smith (@Ssmith06) September 23, 2016

Others are thrilled that Cruz is finally backing the nominee.

“I am pleased that he has done the right thing and it shows that he’s really willing to help unite party,” said Mica Mosbacher, who donated to Cruz and is now backing Trump.

Kellyanne Conway, who ran a constellation of super PACs backing Cruz and is now Trump’s campaign manager, expressed her pleasure with Cruz’s decision on Twitter.

Hell froze over today, and it is feels like heaven. #thankyou #NeverHillary https://t.co/BzvDZ0FIAx

— Kellyanne Conway (@KellyannePolls) September 23, 2016

A policy wonk who never shied from getting into the weeds of issues, Cruz laid out in detail six reasons why he believes Clinton cannot be president: the Supreme Court, Obamacare, energy, immigration, national security and Internet freedom. Cruz wrote that Trump’s campaign has been “focusing more and more on freedom” over the past few weeks by emphasizing school choice and economic growth for Hispanic and African-Americans.

“Our country is in crisis. Hillary Clinton is manifestly unfit to be president, and her policies would harm millions of Americans. And Donald Trump is the only thing standing in her way,” Cruz wrote.

Mike DeBonis, Paul Kane, Sean Sullivan and David Weigel contributed reporting. 

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Yahoo could pay for breach negligence in lower-priced Verizon deal – USA TODAY

SAN FRANCISCO — Yahoo’s trouble over its massive data breach is far from over.

The first of what is expected to be multiple lawsuits linked to the breach was brought in U.S. District Court in San Jose, Calif. Friday by customer Robert Schwartz, who accused Yahoo of failing to adequately protect his personal information from data breaches and identity theft. The suit seeks class action status.

Security and management experts are also questioning the timetable and disclosure process followed by Yahoo and its CEO Marissa Mayer in the two years since the breach happened and two months after bidding rounds led to a deal to sell Yahoo’s core assets to Verizon Communications.

The hack could give buyer Verizon leeway to lower the $4.8 billion agreed in July — and perhaps even derail the deal.

“They (Verizon) are going to get a price discount,” said Robert Cattanach, a lawyer who specializes in cybersecurity and data breaches at Washington, D.C. firm Dorsey & Whitney. “I would expect that there will be a fairly sophisticated effort to quantify the materiality of the impact of this breach and there would be some sort and price adjustment.”

Shares of Yahoo (YHOO) fell 3% to $42.80. Verizon (VZ) ended up 0.4%. Representatives of both firms declined to comment.

Yahoo on Thursday said that it had been the victim of a breach in 2014 in which at least 500 million Yahoo accounts were stolen from the company in what it thought was a hack by a state-sponsored actor. The breach, which may have included names, email addresses, telephone numbers, dates of birth, and in some cases, encrypted or unencrypted security questions and answers, is one of the largest such thefts of its kind.

That it took so long for Yahoo to realize the hack had happened “seems to fall on the side of carelessness or negligence,” said Rahul Telang, a professor of information systems at the Heinz College at Carnegie Mellon University.

Potentially more damning is the possibility Yahoo senior management knew about the intrusion but didn’t disclose it to users, investors or bidders.

The Wall Street Journal, citing an unnamed source, said late Friday that Yahoo executives had detected hackers in Yahoo systems in the fall 2014, believed linked to Russia. It wasn’t clear if that breach of 30-40 accounts was linked to the larger theft of information disclosed Thursday.

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Could make Yahoo ‘worthless’

The cascade of revelations about the massive theft threatens to delay the merger, expected to close in the first quarter of next year.

Verizon, which beat out multiple bidders for Yahoo assets that include Yahoo Finance, Yahoo Sports, Tumblr and Flickr, said it only learned about the breach two days before Yahoo’s public disclosure.

“I would [ask for a pause] if I was the buyer,” said Chris Bulger, founder of Boston tech advisory bank Bulger Partners. “I would consider this a materially adverse change (a factor that could allow a party to back out of a sale) until my lawyer said don’t worry about it.”

Bulger estimates that Yahoo will likely have to pay at least $10 per user in reparations. That could amount to $5 billion — more than Verizon’s $4.8 billion paying price — making Yahoo “worthless,” he said.

The breach also highlights how cybersecurity is becoming a bigger risk for business deals. Even a frequent acquirer like Verizon may have not done enough homework examining Yahoo’s vulnerabilities.

“While it’s common to perform IT diligence to consider the value or extensibility of assets, organizations can overlook how a security incident could change the value,” said D.J. Vogel, a partner in the security and compliance practice of Sikich, a professional services firm in Naperville, Ill.

636060915927360806-yahoo Yahoo could pay for breach negligence in lower-priced Verizon deal - USA TODAY

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500 million Yahoo accounts breached

The reparations, or payouts to affected customers for credit monitoring and other services, may be the sticking point.

In many cases, the cost of reparations for a breach  — $158 per record, according to security research center The Ponemon Institute —  “surpasses the value of the deal,” agreed Steven Grossman, VP of strategy and enablement at Bay Dynamics, a computer security company.

Ironically, such reparations would bring Yahoo right back to where it was several months ago when its 15% stake in Alibaba accounted for nearly all of its market cap value of $33 billion. That reality led Mayer and the Yahoo board, under pressure from activist investors, to pursue a sale of the core business to extract value for shareholders.

Verizon could even call off the deal based on the findings of the subsequent investigation. “There are many shades of grey, depending on when Yahoo became certain of the breach,” Grossman said. “If they were certain of it in July, depending on the terms on timing of disclosures, it could become a deal breaker.”

Among those seeking answers are federal regulators, investors and, of course, Yahoo users, says Scott Kessler, an industry and equity research analyst with S&P Global Market Intelligence. “There are a lot of questions to be answered,” he said. “Yahoo is going to be in a position to have to address some of those especially before the Verizon deal closes.”

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Yahoo may be the biggest data breach

Even if the deal continues to go through, the breach will slow the expected gains that Verizon hoped for upon Yahoo’s assimilation. “With IT systems to be integrated between both parties, this breach will add a considerable delay to convergence efforts between both parties’ infrastructures and ultimately affect operational capability,” said Stephen Coty, chief security evangelist at Alert Logic, a security firm.

Perhaps the breach was very sophisticated, Telang says, or maybe with Yahoo facing concerns about costs and, over the past year, the process of selling its core Net business “this is something that was a little bit on the back burner.”

Mayer came to Yahoo more than four years ago from Google with the burden of turning around a troubled company outpaced in digital advertising by Google and Facebook.

If it is revealed that Yahoo scrimped on security while Mayer annually made $42.1 million (2014) and $36 million (2015), that would add to criticism of her time at the helm.

Follow Mike Snider and Elizabeth Weise on Twitter: @MikeSnider & @eweise 

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