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The 15 biggest data breaches of the 21st century

Taylor Armerding | July 13, 2017
Security practitioners weigh in on the 15 worst data breaches in recent memory.

By January 2014, however, the company upped that estimate, reporting that personally identifiable information (PII) of 70 million of its customers had been compromised. That included full names, addresses, email addresses and telephone numbers. The final estimate is that the breach affected as many as 110 million customers.

Target’s CIO resigned in March 2014, and its CEO resigned in May. The company recently estimated the cost of the breach at $162 million.

The company was credited with making significant security improvements. However, a settlement announced in May 2017 that gave Target 180 days to make specific security improvements was described by Tom Kellermann, CEO of Strategic Cyber Ventures and former CSO of Trend Micro, as a “slap on the wrist.” He also said it, “represents yesterday’s security paradigm,” since the requirements focus on keeping attackers out and not on improving incident response.


6. TJX Companies, Inc.

Date: December 2006
Impact: 94 million credit cards exposed.
Details: There are conflicting accounts about how this happened. One supposes that a group of hackers took advantage of a weak data encryption system and stole credit card data during a wireless transfer between two Marshall's stores in Miami, Fla. The other has them breaking into the TJX network through in-store kiosks that allowed people to apply for jobs electronically.

Albert Gonzalez, hacking legend and ringleader of the Heartland breach, was convicted in 2010 of leading the gang of thieves who stole the credit cards, and sentenced to 20 years in prison, while 11 others were arrested. He had been working as a paid informant for the US Secret Service, at a $75,000 salary at the time of the crimes. The government claimed in its sentencing memo that companies, banks and insurers lost close to $200 million.


7. JP Morgan Chase 

Date: July 2014
Impact: 76 million households and 7 million small businesses
Details: The largest bank in the nation was the victim of a hack during the summer of 2014 that compromised the data of more than half of all US households – 76 million – plus 7 million small businesses. The data included contact information – names, addresses, phone numbers and email addresses – as well as internal information about the users, according to a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission

The bank said no customer money had been stolen and that there was “no evidence that account information for such affected customers – account numbers, passwords, user IDs, dates of birth or Social Security numbers – was compromised during this attack."

Still, the hackers were reportedly able to gain “root" privileges on more than 90 of the bank’s servers, which meant they could take actions including transferring funds and closing accounts. According to the SANS Institute, JP Morgan spends $250 million on security every year. 


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