Quora joins the list of big data companies to suffer breach

by Radu Tyrsina
Radu Tyrsina
Radu Tyrsina
CEO & Founder
Radu Tyrsina has been a Windows fan ever since he got his first PC, a Pentium III (a monster at that time). For most of the kids of... read more
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Quora data breach

In what is becoming a regular occurrence, yet another big tech company, this time Quora, has suffered a data breach. This comes close on the heels of Dell being hacked, which I wrote about only less than a week ago. The regularity of this is becoming tiring.

How did the Quora news unfold?

This is what I got yesterday in my email.

Dear Giles Ensor,
We are writing to let you know that we recently discovered that some user data was compromised as a result of unauthorized access to our systems by a malicious third party. We are very sorry for any concern or inconvenience this may cause. We are working rapidly to investigate the situation further and take the appropriate steps to prevent such incidents in the future.

In other words, Quora allowed someone to access to my data, and the data of its other 100,000,000 users. In response, Quora said that it is looking into how it happened, and has employed a “leading digital forensics and security firm to assist [them]”.


What information was accessed?

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This is what was accessed according to Quora:

  • Account and user information, e.g. name, email, IP, user ID, encrypted password, user account settings, personalization data
  • Public actions and content including drafts, e.g. questions, answers, comments, blog posts, upvotes
  • Data imported from linked networks when authorized by you, e.g. contacts, demographic information, interests, access tokens (now invalidated)
  • Non-public actions, e.g. answer requests, downvotes, thanks
  • Non-public content, e.g. direct messages, suggested edits

How may you be affected?

Fortunately, Quora collects only basic information on its users. It does not collect or store information such as credit cards or social security numbers. However, you email address has value. You certainly need to watch out for phishing email scams or other types of spam (although that is always true).

In fairness to Quora, I should point out that not all of its users have been affected. Having said that, even if it is only 10% of users who have had their data stolen, that is still 10,000,000 email addresses that can be used for various nefarious activities.

What can you do next?

Well, that is up to you. I have a feeling that many people are resigned to this type of news, and accept it as part and parcel of life on the internet. I am not one of those people.

It is now much easier to delete your Quora account. All you need to do is go to your Privacy Settings page click the ‘Delete my account” button at the bottom of the page. That’s what I did.

Wrapping it all up

It is time that people start to take more action when data breaches occur. The value of any company like Quora is only in its users, and without its 100,000,000 users, Quora would have no value at all.

Far be it from me to tell you what to do, but by deleting your account and withdrawing your participation, you are taking the one action that Quora, and other websites, will take notice of.


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