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iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) --   Yahoo announced on Thursday that it believes information associated with at least 500 million user accounts was stolen by a "state-sponsored actor" at the end of 2014.

Cyber security experts believe that this was the largest-known breach of user accounts. Russian hackers are suspected as being behind the breach.

More users were reportedly impacted in this one incident than all of last year, according to the 2016 Internet Security Threat Report produced by security company Symantec.

Since the announcement of the breach, two lawsuits have been filed against the company, both in California, alleging that it was negligent in securing users’ personal information.

 What was taken?


The stolen information could include names, email addresses, dates of birth, telephone numbers, password information and possibly the question-answer combinations for security questions, which are often used to reset passwords, said Yahoo in a statement.

However, Yahoo said that the passwords that were compromised were hashed, a way of encrypting data.

The stolen information did not include unprotected passwords, payment card data or bank account information, according to Yahoo.

"Unfortunately there is information being stolen everyday and this is not a unique event, but it's adding to the long list of compromises that have been out there,” said Jeff Greene, director of government affairs for North America at Symantec.

What are the risks?

Hackers may attempt to log directly into a Yahoo account, but they could also use the information to try to get into someone’s other accounts, according security experts.

“If your primary email address is compromised, so much of you the rest of your digital life flows from that,” said Morgan Reed, executive director of ACT, which represents app and tech companies.

When it comes to stolen passwords, the "good news" is that the passwords were encrypted, said Reed.

The bad news is that the one entity that has the resources to break encryption is a state actor, he added.

Criminals can also come out of the woodwork to use this as an opportunity to take advantage of consumers, said Greene. People may receive bogus emails to reset accounts and click on links.

"It's like after a storm, there will be all these fake requests for money," said Greene.

There is also a future risk. The data may be stored and used for an attack down the road. The hackers themselves may not even know the potential of the information yet.

"There's the short game, the immediate compromise, and there's the long game," he said.

What can you do?


Change your password. Yahoo recommends "that users who haven't changed their passwords since 2014 do so," the company said in its statement. Cyber security experts say this is the necessary first step.

Security experts also recommend signing up for "two-factor authentication," make sure passwords are complex and unique, and make all software is up-to-date and patched.

Use different passwords on different accounts, according to cyber experts that spoke with ABC News.

“Far too many Americans use the same password for different services,” said Reed.

However, a new Consumer Reports report, which compiled 66 expert tips, found that it's better to keep the same password and be "password loyal," unless there is a breach.

Be aware of unusual activity. Look for unusual friend requests, requests to reset a password and anything out of the ordinary.

"If you do all of these things, you are going to stop the vast majority of the attacks,” said Greene.

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ABC News(NEW YORK) --  Listen up, potential "Shark Tank" contestants: The investors have some tips on what it takes to be successful in business.

Chris Sacca, Robert Herjavec, Kevin O'Leary, Lori Greiner, Barbara Corcoran, and Mark Cuban spoke to ABC News about what traits a good entrepreneur must have.

A few common themes? It's important to be persistent and hard-working.

 "You're going to have to spend 110 percent of your time focusing on your business," O'Leary said. "So I tell everybody that comes in here, regardless of whether they've got a big or small business, 'Are you ready to sacrifice? Are you ready to do what it takes? Because if you don't want to do it, there's somebody else who's ready to kick your heinie and run you right over.'"

Cuban, who added, "I work my a-- off," added that preparation is key. To make sure he understands every facet of his businesses, as well as what's around the corner, the investor said that he reads hours every single day.

"I'm competitive," he said. "To me, business is the ultimate sport and I want to stay ahead of everybody else!"

For more tips, watch the video below.

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iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Wall Street closed lower on Friday with stocks dragged down by energy shares.  Stocks did end the week higher though, kept lifted from Wednesday's decision by the Federal Reserve to keep short-term interest rates unchanged.

The Dow dropped 131.01 (-0.71 percent) to finish at 18,261.45.

The Nasdaq lost 33.78 (-0.63 percent) to close at 5,305.75, while the S&P 500 finished at 2,164.69, down 12.49 (-0.57 percent) from its open.

Crude oil fell more than 1 percent with prices hitting almost $45 a barrel.

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SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- In a letter shared with ABC News, six senators have slammed Wells Fargo bank for its use of forced arbitration clauses in its customer account agreements, which the senators say enabled the company to keep its accounts scandal out of the public eye and the courts for years, and asked embattled CEO John Stumpf to provide information so that they can “better understand the situation at Wells Fargo” and "prevent similar fraudulent practices in the future."

Arbitration, mandated in some if not all basic agreements that customers sign when they open accounts at the bank, "helps hide fraudulent schemes such as the sham accounts at Wells Fargo from the justice system, from the news media, and from the public eye," the senators wrote.

The senators also wrote, “These clauses eliminate consumers’ ability to bring a claim in open court or to band together in a class action, before any dispute has arisen. Forced arbitration clauses deny access to the courts even when consumers are seeking to enforce their rights under fundamental state and federal laws.”

"Arbitration proceedings are kept secret, so that other customers are deprived of the knowledge that their experiences might be part of a more widespread problem," according to the six senators.

The letter was written by Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Al Franken (D-MN), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA).

"It is particularly unacceptable that forced arbitration clauses in contracts for real customer accounts were used to deny customers access to the court system to challenge Wells Fargo’s creation of sham accounts," the group wrote. "We have serious concerns that your forced arbitration policies thrust consumers into a system with little transparency or oversight."

The letter is the latest in a series of headaches for the company, which faces allegations from regulators that employees opened or applied for accounts without customers' knowledge or permission.

On Thursday, a group of senators, some of whom also signed Friday’s letter, asked the Department of Labor to open an investigation into Wells Fargo's employment practices, and on Tuesday, Stumpf appeared before the Senate Banking Committee, facing blistering questions over the accounts scandal.

Separately on Thursday, Stumpf resigned from his position on the Federal Advisory Council, the San Francisco Federal Reserve Bank told ABC News. The council generally meets with the Federal Reserve four times a year to advise it on banking and economic issues.

In a consent decree between the bank and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the bank has not admitted to or denied any wrongdoing.

Arbitration clauses are common in many contracts that consumers sign regularly, attorney David I. Greenberger, an employment law expert at the Bailey Duquette firm in New York City, told ABC News. In many cases, they can benefit consumers by allowing parties to settle disputes more quickly and cheaply than if they go through a sometimes long and drawn-out court battle.

Increasingly, however, concerns have grown that they can be used to keep details out of the public eye, since arbitration proceedings are typically not made public.

"The original purpose, from my view ... was that it would allow for a faster, more efficient and more expedient process for the parties to resolve their dispute,” Greenberger said.

"It has changed over time and I think you can now, in some forms, question whether it’s faster...or [more] expedient," Greenberger told ABC News. "It’s become a way in which disputes can be kept private and kept from being aggregated in the class context."

ABC News has reached out to Wells Fargo for comment, but did not immediately hear back.

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Maltz Auctions(NEW YORK) -- Have you ever used the expression “keeping up with the Joneses” when trying to one-up someone fancy? Well, now you can learn who the real Joneses are thanks to a real estate auction.

The now dilapidated mansion that is believed to be the inspiration for the phrase just sold at auction for $120,000. It was built in the 1850s in Rhinebeck, New York, as a summer getaway for New York City socialite Elizabeth Schermerhorn Jones.

The 7,690-square-foot home, called Wyndclyffe Castle, was so elegant and over the top it prompted neighbors to build even bigger houses in an effort to “keep up with the Joneses.” It boasted nine bedrooms, five bathrooms and four fireplaces.

“When Elizabeth passed away in 1876, Wyndclyffe was sold to a family who maintained the house into the 1920s, but the succession of owners that occupied the mansion through the Great Depression struggled to keep up with the repairs it required,” a press release from Maltz Auctions, the auctioneers who sold the mansion, reads.

“The house remained a private residence until 1936, and was finally abandoned sometime after 1950. By the 1970s, the house had already been abandoned for decades. At this point, the property was purchased and subdivided, which pared down the grounds of the estate from 80 acres to 2.5 acres,” it adds.

Now that the property has been purchased again, the auctioneers hope it is “an opportunity for someone who loves a challenge to bring a historic property back to its former glory.”

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ABC News(ATLANTIC CITY) — Atlantic City may be talked about more on the campaign trail than on reality shows. But, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton have different narratives about Trump’s legacy on the boardwalk.

In a speech earlier this summer, Clinton used the backdrop of Trump’s failed casino, Trump Plaza, for a speech slamming the GOP nominee for "shameful" mismanagement.

And, in another speech in Detroit, she joked, "How can anybody lose money running a casino?"

After Trump Plaza opened in 1984, Trump eventually filed four business bankruptcies related to his casino holdings in Atlantic City. He filed for bankruptcy on the Taj Mahal in 1991, Trump Castle Associates in 1992, Trump Hotel Casino Resorts in 2004 and Trump Entertainment Resorts in 2009.

But Trump contended in previous debates that he never personally went bankrupt and tweeted, "I made a lot of money in Atlantic City and left 7 years ago, great timing (as all know). Pols made big mistakes, now many bankruptcies."

While the politicians dispute Trump’s impact on Atlantic City, ABC News asked locals and voters who were visiting the area for their views on both candidates.

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Justin Sullivan/Getty Images(BETHESDA, Md.) — Marriott has just closed a deal to acquire Starwood Hotels & Resorts, creating the largest hotel company in the world.

Marriott announced the completion of the merger Friday in a statement that said the Starwood & Marriott loyalty programs would be linked, with the new company operating or franchising “more than 5,700 properties and 1.1 million rooms” across 30 brands in over 110 countries. For now, the Wall Street Journal reports, loyalty members of the two companies — 85 million in all — will be able to transfer points between the two programs, but three Marriott points will only match one Starwood point.

“Marriott will draw upon the very best each program offers and we can’t wait to show the loyal members of these programs the power and benefits of Marriott and Starwood coming together,” Stephanie Linnartz, Marriott Executive Vice President and Global Chief Commercial Officer, said.

The merger more than doubles Marriott’s distribution in Asia, the Middle East and Africa combined, the company said.

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iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Wall Street extended gains for a third day Thursday as the Nasdaq rallied to hit a record high following Wednesday's decision by the Federal Reserve to keep short-term interest rates unchanged.

The Dow gained 98.76 ( 0.54 percent) to finish at 18,392.46.

The Nasdaq jumped 44.34 ( 0.84 percent) to close at 5,339.52, while the S&P 500 finished at 2,177.18, up 14.06 ( 0.65 percent) from its open.

Crude oil climbed nearly 2 percent with prices hitting above $46 a barrel.

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Raymond Boyd/Getty Images(NEW YORK) --  A group of Senate Democrats have asked the U.S. Department of Labor to open an investigation into whether Wells Fargo violated the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).

Wells Fargo and the DOL did not have any immediate comment on the letter, which follows a hearing on Capitol Hill this week that saw bank CEO John Stumpf face blistering questions from senators over a scandal involving allegations from regulators that employees opened accounts without customers' knowledge or permission.

 The FLSA establishes standards for wage, overtime, youth employment and record-keeping for both the private and public sector, according to the DOL's website. Among other stipulations, the FLSA mandates that non-exempt employees receive overtime pay equal to 1.5 times his or her regular rate, if the employee works more than 40 hours per week.

Describing Wells Fargo's opening or attempted opening of the accounts as "fraud," the senators wrote in a letter to Labor Secretary Tom Perez and DOL Administrator David Weil that "the suggestion last week by Chief Executive John Stumpf that '[t]here was no incentive to do bad things' at Wells Fargo -- a company that fired 5,300 employees over five years due to improper selling but made little effort to change its policies -- does not appear to be grounded in reality."

The reason for that, the senators claimed, citing media reports, is that "dozens of former and current Wells Fargo employees have come forward to describe the lengths they went to in order to meet the bank's aggressive sales quotas," and, "When quotas weren't met, employees faced threats of termination; mandated hours of unpaid overtime; harassment; and other forms of retaliation."

On Sept. 13, the bank said that it would end its sales goals program effective Jan. 1, 2017.

In response to the senators' request to the DOL, Wells Fargo spokeswoman Jennifer G. Dunn told ABC News today that "our team members are our greatest asset."

"We strive to make every one of them feel valued, rewarded and recognized and we pride ourselves on creating a positive environment for our team members, including market competitive compensation, career-development opportunities, a broad array of benefits, and a strong offering of work-life programs," Dunn added.

Sens. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, Jack Reed, D-R.I., Robert Menendez, D-N.J., Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., and Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, sent the letter two days after many of them grilled Stumpf for nearly three hours in a Senate Banking Committee hearing on Capitol Hill.

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Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- In a statement released on Thursday, Yahoo confirmed that some user account information was stolen in late 2014.

The company says that information potentially including names, email addresses, telephone numbers, dates of birth, hashed passwords, and in some cases either encrypted or unencrypted security questions could have been stolen. Yahoo says the breach likely affected at least 500 million user accounts.

The company suspects that a state-sponsored actor was responsible for the hack. It says it will notify those users it believes were affected, and ask them to change their passwords and adopt different methods of account verification.

Yahoo also invalidated unencrypted security questions and answers to prevent their use for accessing accounts.

The company says it is working with law enforcement officials in response to the breach, and will recommend that users also change passwords and security questions and answers for any accounts that share the same or similar information with their Yahoo account.

"An increasingly connected world has come with increasingly sophisticated threats," Yahoo's statement says. "Industry, government and users are constantly in the crosshairs of adversaries. Through strategic proactive detection initiatives and active response to unauthorized access of accounts, Yahoo will continue to strive to stay ahead of these ever-evolving online threats and to keep our users and our platforms secure."

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Photo by Ari Perilstein/Getty Images for Stella & Dot(NEW YORK) -- Georgetown Cupcake founders and sisters Sophie Kallinis LaMontagne and Katherine Kallinis Berman opened their first brick-and-mortar bakery during the recession in 2008, when bank loans were near impossible to come by and maxing out credit cards and life savings was the only way to get their dream off the ground.

“When we started it was 2008, no banks were lending at all,” LaMontagne tells ABC News' Rebecca Jarvis. “They say that sometimes the best business ideas die in bank parking lots because if you don’t have the money, people keep telling you no, so we had to find a way to get to yes.”

Leaving their stable careers in finance and fashion behind to pursue their dreams of owning a bakery, the duo rolled up their sleeves and took on every expense they could, from painting the store walls to sleeping on couches for a year. Starting out with little capital and zero experience made the success story of Georgetown Cupcakes even more remarkable, and the sisters' story caught the nation’s attention when TLC aired their reality show, DC Cupcakes, from 2010 to 2013.

Now, there are six Georgetown Cupcake locations around the country and a TLC “cupcake cam” with 24/7 live feeds of their flagship DC bakery location. The sisters also are best-selling authors of The Cupcake Diaries and Sweet Celebrations.

When the sisters sat down with Rebecca Jarvis for an episode of Real Biz with Rebecca Jarvis, they shared one of their secret ingredients to success: family.

“Being sisters has actually helped us, we don’t sort of tip-toe around each other,” said Berman. “If Sophie doesn’t like something she tells me to my face, she doesn’t sugar coat it. I think we’re able to make the best decisions for our company by just hashing it out.”

With only a year-and-a-half age difference between them, the Kallinis sisters were always close. They spent their afternoons baking with their Greek grandmother, who lived down the street from their Toronto house and taught them traditional Greek recipes from scratch. That family tradition has now carried on with their mother, who has stayed on as an employee since the store opened.

“It was just the two of us, and our mom came to help us for the weekend and she ended up never leaving,” Berman said.

Having their grandmother’s recipes and their mother’s support, combined with Sophie’s business background and Katherine’s creative background from fashion, made a company expansion possible. Their brand has also grown thanks to social media, and the bakery boasts over half a million Instagram and Twitter followers (who can reap benefits like snagging free cupcakes).

“I think that it’s important when you choose a business partner to make sure that your relationship can withstand it, and family businesses can go either way,” LaMontagne said. “There are going to be highs and lows in a business – nothing goes straight to heaven. It’s going to be a roller coaster.”

For more business insights from successful entrepreneurs, watch Real Biz with Rebecca Jarvis and follow Rebecca Jarvis on Facebook.com/rebeccajarvis for live interviews like this one.

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iStock/Thinkstock(LOS ANGELES) — A homeowner in Los Angeles, dubbed the "Wet Prince of Bel Air" for reportedly using 11.8 million gallons of water last year during California's drought, remains unidentified by authorities, but the Center of Investigative Reporting has narrowed the list of possible perpetrators to seven.

Senior News Applications Developer Michael Corey and Senior Reporter Lance Williams for the Center of Investigative Reporting released new details on the possible water-wasting culprits based on satellite images, an algorithm developed to track drought and deforestation, and equations used in landscape planning.

The report estimates were not precise enough to pinpoint one particular Los Angeles home, but narrowed down the extreme water users within the Bel Air neighborhood that included some of the wealthiest people living in some of the city's most expensive homes.

Corey and Williams said they were essentially looking for "the greenest and wettest yard."

One possible home in question, owned by a retired broadcast CEO with a six-acre yard, showed usage from April 2013 to April 2015 equivalent to flushing a toilet repeatedly day and night for an entire year.

"This much waste has got to be mostly landscaping," Corey told ABC News.

Other possible top offenders that made the list included homes of a retail heiress and a soap opera producer, both of whom gave no comment to ABC News.

A well-known hotelier, a telecoms mogul and a one-time studio boss all told ABC News they have cut back on water and taken steps to dramatically reduce usage since the issue was brought to their attention.

The investigative duo reached out to one of the homeowners and Williams said, "He didn't water his yard so much," after they contacted him.

"His yard started getting brown," Corey added.

Due to California state law, over-hydration is not a crime as long as payment is made for the water being used.


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iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — Jobless claims slumped last week, decreasing by 8,000, according to the latest figures released Thursday by the Labor Department.

For the week ending Sept. 18, the number of people filing for benefits fell from an unrevised level of 260,000 the previous week to 252,000, marking the 81st consecutive week initial jobless claims came in below 300,000. It’s the longest streak since 1970, the Labor Department says.

The Labor Department said there were no "special factors" impacting that week's figures.

The four-week moving average decreased by 2,250 to 258,500.

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ABC News(NEW YORK) --  Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen defended the independence of the U.S. central bank Wednesday, saying it does not play politics in response to charges from Donald Trump that she is manipulating financial markets to benefit President Obama.

Trump earlier this month said that the Yellen-led Fed is keeping interest rates low in order to give a boost to the stock market in an effort to make Obama’s economic record look good.

"Well, it's [the interest rate] staying at zero because she's obviously political and she's doing what Obama wants her to do," Trump said in a Sept. 13 interview with CNBC. He added that Yellen should be "ashamed of herself."

In response to questions about Trump’s comments, Yellen was careful not to mention the GOP presidential campaign by name while making clear she was strongly dismissing his accusations.

 "In order to insulate monetary policy from short-term political pressures and I can say, emphatically that partisan politics plays no role in our decisions about the appropriate stance of monetary policy," Yellen said at a news conference following a gathering of the Fed committee that determines interest rates. "We are trying to decide what the best policy is to foster price stability and maximum employment and to manage the variety of risks that we see is affecting the outlook. We do not discuss politics at our meetings and we do not take politics into account in our decisions."

The Fed announced Wednesday it will keep interest rates near zero, but suggested a rate hike will happen before the end of the year. Fed officials say they are keeping rates low to aid the economy, which they argue continues to need support, by making loans, such as mortgages, cheaper.

The Fed has been under attack from conservatives, including some in Congress, in recent years because they argue its easy money policies will eventually lead to inflation, hurting the economy. Former Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, made criticism of the Fed a central theme of his 2008 and 2012 presidential runs.

Fed Chair Janet Yellen tells @RebeccaJarvis: "The Federal Reserve is not politically compromised" https://t.co/Rozj4rsgd1 pic.twitter.com/wpJgnEP2OF

— ABC News Politics (@ABCPolitics) September 21, 2016

But Trump’s suggestion that Yellen is purposefully keeping rates low as a political favor to Obama goes well beyond that criticism.

The Fed releases transcripts of its rate setting meetings five years after they take place. Yellen said she’s confident when that day arrives Trump’s charge that politics were at play will be disproved.

"I will assure you that you will not find any signs of political motivation when the transcripts are released in five years," she said. "It is important that we maintain the confidence of the public, and I do believe that we deserve it."

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iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Wall Street closed higher Wednesday after Federal Reserve policymakers decided to keep short-term interest rates unchanged.

The Dow jumped 163.70 ( 0.90 percent) to finish at 18,293.70.

The Nasdaq gained 53.83 ( 1.03 percent) to close at 5,295.18, while the S&P 500 finished at 2,163.12, up 23.36 ( 1.09 percent) from its open.

Crude oil climbed over 3 percent with prices hitting above $45 a barrel.

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