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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.

In November 2015, federal authorities indicted four men, charging them with the JP Morgan hack plus other financial institutions. Gery Shalon, Joshua Samuel Aaron and Ziv Orenstein faced 23 counts, including unauthorized access of computers, identity theft, securities and wire fraud and money laundering that netted them an estimated $100 million. A fourth hacker who helped them breach the networks was not identified.

Shalon and Orenstein, both Israelis, pleaded not guilty in June 2016. Aaron was arrested at JFK Airport in New York last December.


8. US Office of Personnel Management (OPM) 

Date: 2012-14
Impact: Personal information of 22 million current and former federal employees
Details: Hackers, said to be from China, were inside the OPM system starting in 2012, but were not detected until March 20, 2014. A second hacker, or group, gained access to OPM through a third-party contractor in May 2014, but was not discovered until nearly a year later. The intruders exfiltrated personal data – including in many cases detailed security clearance information and fingerprint data.

Last year, former FBI director James Comey spoke of the information contained in the so-called SF-86 form, used for conducting background checks for employee security clearances. “My SF-86 lists every place I’ve ever lived since I was 18, every foreign travel I’ve ever taken, all of my family, their addresses,” he said. “So it’s not just my identity that’s affected. I’ve got siblings. I’ve got five kids. All of that is in there.”

A report, released last fall by the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform summed up the damage in its title: “The OPM Data Breach: How the Government Jeopardized Our National Security for More than a Generation.” 

Read more about the OPM data breach...


9. Sony's PlayStation Network 

Date: April 20, 2011
Impact: 77 million PlayStation Network accounts hacked; estimated losses of $171 million while the site was down for a month.
Details: This is viewed as the worst gaming community data breach of all-time. Of more than 77 million accounts affected, 12 million had unencrypted credit card numbers. Hackers gained access to full names, passwords, e-mails, home addresses, purchase history, credit card numbers and PSN/Qriocity logins and passwords. "It's enough to make every good security person wonder, 'If this is what it's like at Sony, what's it like at every other multi-national company that's sitting on millions of user data records?'" said eIQnetworks' John Linkous. He says it should remind those in IT security to identify and apply security controls consistently across their organizations. For customers, "Be careful whom you give your data to. It may not be worth the price to get access to online games or other virtual assets."


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