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The Biggest Data Breaches of the 21st Century
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As technology and the Internet continues to evolve, the threat of data breaches continues to increase. It is vital to have in place assistance from a quality IT support company that can help you to ward off the threat of cyber-attacks and data breaches, and in the worst cases where an attack takes place, help you to understand what needs to be done, fast and effectively, to minimise disruption and protect your digital assets.

Hackers are always looking at ways to exploit weaknesses in cybersecurity. Even small and medium-sized businesses hold information about employees, clients, suppliers, that could be useful to a hacker searching for the perfect data breach opportunity. Healthcare, the legal sector, IT and telecommunications, manufacturing and production, and HR & recruitment, are all industries that are particularly vulnerable and attractive to hackers.

Some of the biggest data breaches of recent times

Below are some of the biggest data breaches of the 21st century. Some of the biggest names with large stores of data that has been breached.

Equifax (2017) – 147.9 million consumers were affected by this data breach in July 2017. Equifax is a credit agency and therefore has access to the handling of consumer credit files, ratings and reports. When it was hit by a cyber-attack it was no surprise that there was a huge loss of financial and personal information. Attackers exploited an outdated server software and Equifax was criticised for being slow to report the breach, leading to regulatory changes.

LinkedIn (2012, 2016 and 2021) – over 165 million accounts were affected by the LinkedIn data breaches. It is a platform that is based around career information and gives users the chance to make business connections and gain industry insight. What this does mean is that it is an ideal target for hackers looking for personal information. In these attacks, personal information and passwords were stolen, with the passwords available for sale on hacker forums. Information linked to a further 700 million users was posted for sale on the Dark Web in 2021 too. 

Yahoo (2013-2014) – 3 billion users affected. That is a lot of people around the world who were impacted by this cyber-attack. Yahoo was also criticised all round for hiding that one breach had even taken place. Yahoo stores the contact information for many people, including contact information, dates of birth, phone numbers and more. It was first announced that 1 billion user accounts had been compromised, but this number was later increased to 3 billion. The lack of transparency and honesty about the breaches cost Yahoo $350 million in its sale price to Verizon.

Aadhaar (2018) – this Indian state-owned utility company was hit in March 2018, when it became knowledge that the personal information of over a billion Indian citizens was available to buy online. The data had been stored in the largest biometric database in the world. Private information of Aadhaar holders was breached, including specific identity numbers, bank details, names, photographs, retina scans, and other identifying information details.

eBay (2014) – a breach of encrypted passwords put the information of 145 million users at risk back in March 2014. All eBay users were asked to reset their passwords because of the data breach after attackers had used a small number of employee credentials to gain access to an absolute treasure trove of information for a hacker. eBay investigated internally for a month before disclosing the attack publicly.

How an IT support company can help you with data breach protection

There are a few different things you can do as a company (alongside support from a professional IT support company) that will help increase protection against and react more effectively to data breaches.

Install the best antivirus software – your IT support company can advise on this, as it could be the difference in protecting large stores of data or minimising the impact of a cyber-attack.

Clear online safety protocols – be clear with your employees about the safety protocols required for working within your company IT system and with online processes. Transactions for customers must also be as secure as possible.

Limit shared information – by limiting the amount of information shared about employees and the business online you are limiting the possibilities for hackers to utilise publicly shared information to gain greater access to data.

Encrypt data – when sharing data or uploading online, always encrypt it first, or use a cloud storage service that has end-to-end encryption in-built to its processes.

Regularly audit and update – a regular audit of your system by an IT support company will highlight any issues that need addressing and allow you to regularly update systems and passwords.

Working with a good IT support company will be of great benefit to your company in preparing for the impact of a data breach, working out the best ways to defend against a breach, and working out the best way to react in the worst-case scenario.

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Avatar of Annabel Johnson

Part time gamer, reviewer and blogger. Full time geek and tech expert!

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