The largest data breaches in history

Kristina Petrosyan
October 30, 2023
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A data breach is an incident where confidential, protected, or sensitive information is accessed or disclosed without authorisation. It can expose personal data, intellectual property, or financial information, which can lead to serious consequences for both individuals and organisations. Data breaches are a growing problem, with incidents becoming larger and more frequent. In recent years, there have been a number of massive data breaches that have exposed the personal information of millions of people.

Here are some of the biggest data breaches in history:

  • Yahoo (2013-2014): This breach is considered to be the biggest data breach in history, with an estimated 3 billion user accounts affected. The breach occurred over a period of several years, and the hackers were able to steal a wide range of personal information, including names, email addresses, passwords, and phone numbers. The Yahoo incident was a major wake-up call for many people. It showed how vulnerable our personal information can be, even when we think it is safe. The incident also led to a number of changes in the way that companies handle personal information.
  • Equifax (2017): This breach affected 145.5 million US consumers and 400,000 UK consumers. The hackers were able to steal a wide range of personal information, including Social Security numbers, birth dates, and credit card numbers
  • Marriott International (2018): This breach affected 500 million guests of Marriott hotels and resorts. The hackers were able to steal a wide range of personal information, including names, addresses, passport numbers, and credit card numbers.
  • Ashley Madison (2015): This breach affected 37 million users of the Ashley Madison website, which is a dating website for people who are married or in relationships. The hackers were able to steal a wide range of personal information, including names, email addresses, and credit card numbers.
  • Target (2013): This breach affected 40 million customers of Target stores. The hackers were able to steal a wide range of personal information, including names, addresses, credit card numbers, and email addresses.

These are just a few of the biggest data breaches in history. These breaches have had a significant impact on the individuals whose personal information was stolen. In some cases, the victims have had to deal with identity theft and fraud.

Data breaches can have a profound impact on both individuals and organisations. For individuals, the consequences can be severe, including identity theft, credit card fraud, financial loss, and emotional distress. On the other hand, organisations can suffer damage to their reputation, loss of customers, legal liabilities, and financial losses. It is crucial for both individuals and organisations to understand the potential impact of data breaches and take proactive measures to protect themselves.

How to Protect Yourself from Data Breaches

To protect yourself from data breaches, there are several important steps you can take. First, make sure to use strong passwords and change them regularly. To do this, you can use passwords managers like 1Password to allow all your employees to manage and store their passwords. Additionally, be cautious about what information you share online and be aware of phishing emails. A cloud email security solution like Cloudflare’s Email Security are the best way to protect your whole organisation against phishing and other malware campaigns. It's also crucial to regularly back up your data and use an endpoint protection solution with antivirus and anti-malware protection. Finally, stay informed about the latest security threats to stay one step ahead. By following these measures, you can significantly reduce your risk of falling victim to a data breach.

Data breaches are a serious problem, and they are only going to become more common in the future. It is important to be aware of the risks and to take steps to protect your personal information. Our talented cybersecurity experts at Forefront are always available to help with all questions or problems your organisation is facing. Reach out to us today and one of our analysts will get back to you right away!

Additional Resources

  • The Identity Theft Resource Center:
  • The Federal Trade Commission:
  • The National Institute of Standards and Technology:
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Kristina Petrosyan

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