Data breaches are more common than you think. With millions of online users impacted by these cyber attacks each year, it’s important to keep up with the latest cybersecurity news. Each day, companies all over the world are being affected by data breaches.
While it’s scary knowing that your data could be stolen and sold, this isn’t something that should be ignored. Data breaches and cyber attacks are becoming more sophisticated and targeted.
To protect our data, we need to arm ourselves with knowledge about these cyberattacks.
We’ll be going over the biggest data breach horror stories here, including some recent data breaches. It might surprise you, but even the most powerful and secure companies in the world have had their data stolen. We’ll delve deeply into these major attacks and see what lessons can be learned.
The Rising Danger of Data Breaches
Big corporations along with ordinary people rely on data-storing technology to manage their lives and businesses. In fact, some of our most important information is being kept secure in digital spaces. This includes financial records, medical records, business documents, and other crucial personal data.
While there are many advantages that come along with this convenient tech, there are some serious downsides that need to be considered. In particular, the safety and security of our online data are in danger.
Major data breaches are becoming more frequent and widespread. And, the scale of these cyber attacks has become massive. Over 294 million people were affected by data breaches last year alone. In addition, the number of data breaches hit an all-time high in 2021. There was a 68 percent increase in data breaches in 2021. Along with this over 22 billion records were exposed in cyber attacks last year.
In short, as we store more information online experts agree that we are putting ourselves at a major risk for even bigger data breaches. In 2022 already, data breaches and cyber attacks have been on the rise.
Biggest Data Breach Horror Stories of the 21st Century
We have compiled a list of recent data breaches below. These are some of the most prominent data breach horror stories of the past century. What’s terrifying is that you probably know most of the companies included in this list.
1. Facebook Data Breach
In 2019, Facebook revealed that two datasets from their Facebook app had been compromised. Over 533 million Facebook users were affected by this prominent data breach. The leaked data included phone numbers, emails, Facebook IDs, locations, and full names.
No direct attack was made on Facebook servers. Instead, data leakers exploited a vulnerability in the platform and found Facebook databases that were unencrypted and had no passwords. They gained access to this data and released it into the dark web. This allowed hackers to attempt to identify fraud and other scams online.
While Facebook did respond right away to this data breach, they didn’t inform users of the data leak till months later. It just goes to show that even the most secure social media platforms can make mistakes. Since the incident, Facebook has fixed the flaw in its security system. They have also vowed to take a stronger approach to protect the personal information of their users.
2. Yahoo Data Breach
Yahoo has had multiple cyber attacks over the years. However, their biggest data breach happened in 2013. This massive breach affected a whopping 3 billion Yahoo users. Yahoo took responsibility right away and announced the attack. At the time, they estimated that 1 billion accounts had been compromised. But, after more analysis, it was found that 3 billion accounts had actually been affected.
The data stolen included security questions, passwords, full names, emails, phone numbers, birth dates, and other account information. Banking and financial information were kept safe, but this breach started a major investigation into Yahoo. Users were urged to change their passwords and security was beefed up at Yahoo.
But, to this day, the perpetrator and cause of the 2013 hack have not been found. Yahoo was later sold to Verizon in a merger deal, but the company lost hundreds of millions of dollars in the process because of its data breach.
3. Target Data Breach
In 2013, Target had one of the worst data breaches in history. The number of people affected by this breach was smaller in comparison to some of the other cyber attacks listed. But, the fallout of this data breach was costly.
Over 40 million credit and debit card records were stolen during the Target data breach. Names, phone numbers, credit card numbers, and other sensitive data were left exposed. As a result, the company had to pay close to 18.5 million dollars in settlement money.
Many other data breaches were happening during 2013, and Target’s breach made people even wearier to use credit and debit cards online and in stores. Target itself was not attacked, but the third-party vendor they used to process payments was.
Keeping this in mind, it’s important for companies to remember that any vendors or third-party systems you use need to be just as secure as your company. Otherwise, you will put yourself at risk.
4. LinkedIn Data Breach
LinkedIn is a professional job networking site that hosts over 800 million active users. In 2021, the company suffered another major data breach. Their latest cyber attack affected 700 million users. This was a big increase from their 2012 data breach which impacted 165 million LinkedIn users and cost the company 1.25 million dollars.
A single hacker pulled off the breach, he was able to get information on 92% of the user base of LinkedIn. He used a data scraping technique to gather all the publicly available information on LinkedIn users. Then he listed the data on a hacking forum. Sensitive personal information was not revealed.
But users’ email addresses, job information, phone numbers, locations, gender, and other account information were leaked. All of this data could be used to create socially engineered cyber-attacks. LinkedIn servers weren’t attacked, but we can all learn something from this data breach.
You want to protect yourself and be mindful of what you post online. Hackers can see what you include on your profiles and use this information against you to engineer attacks. So, always be careful and change your passwords if you see any suspicious behavior on your online accounts.
5. Adobe Data Breach
Adobe was another major company hit by a data breach in 2013. Over 152 million Adobe usernames were exposed in the hack. While 38 million users had more sensitive information leaked. This included passwords along with debit and credit card information.
Because of this data breach, Adobe had to pay 1.2 million dollars in legal fees for a negligent security lawsuit. Then they had to pay 1 million dollars to affected customers when they settled in court. The main issue with Adobe’s security at the time was their poor password encryption system which made it easy to steal data. Adobe’s security team used the same encryption key for all their passwords.
To fix this they created a new encryption system and started using multiple encryption keys to boost their cyber security. This specific Adobe breach shows us just how important it is to create more secure and complex encryption methods.
6. Equifax Data Breach
We’ve talked about a lot of horrible data breaches, but this next breach is one of the worst on this data breach list. In 2017, Equifax had not fixed a well-known vulnerability in its customer complaint portal and hadn’t renewed its password encryption certifications.
Hackers used this gap in their security to exploit Equifax and gain access to the private personal data of over 148 million users. Social security numbers, credit card information, full names, birth dates, driver’s license numbers, and other highly sensitive information were released and sold. Due to this, hackers were able to take out loans, steal people’s identities, get mortgages, and engage in other illegal activities.
Equifax was lax in its security updates and management and waited a month to announce the attack. This resulted in a hefty lawsuit against the company. In total, Equifax had to pay close to 700 million dollars in damages to users who had their data exposed.
This just goes to show how crucial it is for companies to be well organized. You need to keep on top of your company’s cyber security in order to patch up any flaws and keep your data protection robust.
7. Sina Weibo Data Breach
This next data breach affected over half a billion people in China. Sina Weibo is the Chinese equivalent of Facebook. It is used by 600 million people and is the biggest social media platform in China. Back in 2019, Weibo came under attack from a data breach.
Nearly all of its users were affected by the breach. 538 million users had their personal data leaked. Their phone numbers, full names, locations, user names, and other account information were sold on the dark web.
It’s hard to know exactly what was done to mitigate future attacks and protect this Chinese site. China has strict censorship laws and actively suppresses news within the country. But China’s Minister of Information Technology has urged Weibo to improve its security practices and Weibo has vowed to better protect the personal information of its users by boosting its cyber security efforts.
8. Marriott International Data Breach
The final breach we’ll be discussing is the Marriott International data breach. This cyber attack occurred in 2018 and exposed nearly half a billion guests’ sensitive personal data. A range of information was stolen during the attack. Guests’ names, phone numbers, travel information, credit card information, addresses, emails, and even passport numbers were leaked and sold online.
Marriott International was alerted about the security threat but it was too late. There had been unauthorized access to their Starwood security network since 2014. Because of this security breach, Marriot had to pay 18.4 million Euros and revamped its cyber security system. It was later discovered that Chinese intelligence agents had been behind the attack.
While it might seem like there was nothing that could be done about this breach, Marriot could have taken steps to prevent this massive data leak or at least lessened the impact. For over four years, no one knew there was a data breach. The company hadn’t paid attention to the cyber security culture in their company and brought a security system that didn’t have the best reputation.
Starwood systems were already having issues with its employees and security practices. But Marriot went ahead and purchased it anyway knowing the risks. Again, if you are using other third-party systems to secure your business, you need to make sure they are reliable and properly managed. Otherwise, you risk exposing your information and your client’s information.
Final Thoughts on Data Breaches and Cyber Attacks
The threat of cyber-attacks and data breaches should be a concern for everyone. Many of us have stored our personal information online through the companies we mentioned above. And, in the future, large online platforms will continue to come under attack. This is why we need to be prepared.
At the moment, most small and medium-sized businesses aren’t equipped to deal with cyber-attacks and data breaches. Larger corporations have started to see the importance of cyber security, but it can still be difficult to prevent these digital attacks, as hackers and other cybercriminals are finding new ways to steal data.
Reading through this post, you might think there is no hope. But, as we learn more about data breaches and people become more aware of cyber attacks, we can all start to take steps toward securing ourselves online and protecting our data.