Here’s a look back at some of the biggest data breaches of all time
Over the decade, we have witnessed some of the most infamous privacy breaches, where hundreds of millions of internet users experienced their data either stolen or exposed.
It’s intriguing how such speedy technological advancements have led to some pressing concerns that affect individuals as well as organizations on a day-to-day basis.
When we talk about data privacy concerns, we mean how the data is shared with third parties, how information is legally collected or stored, and the regulatory restrictions that should be complied with it.
Learn why data privacy is important for people of all ages.
Over the years, there have been some substantial controversial data breach scandals that involved Yahoo, First American Financial Corp, Marriot International, and dozens of others. But, let’s take a look at the scandals that took place over the past two years and have left a significant impact on our virtual and physical lives:
The Facebook Scandal – 2018
March 2018, the Guardian and New York Times broke the news of how the British political consulting firm, Cambridge Analytica, harvested the data of over 87 million Facebook users without their knowledge after obtaining it from people who participated in a quiz app.
Cambridge Analytica then sold this data to the Donald Trump campaign. The information was then used to target election messages at Facebook users in the presidential election campaign 2016.
The biggest problem with this scandal was not that the data was shared with a third-party, but the fact that 87 million users never accessed the quiz app, where only several hundred thousand did.
But the loophole in the Facebook API allowed Cambridge Analytica to take not only the data of the quiz users but also their friends who never even considered the quiz or had ever interacted with the application in any way.
After many lawsuits and legal complaints, Cambridge Analytica claims to have deleted all the information that was obtained, but any number of copies could have been made. How can we ever be assured now that our data is still not being used?
Learn more about Cambridge Analytica.
Fitness App, Polar – 2018
The big scandal of 2018 was the personal information of US military and security personnel being leaked. Polar is a fitness app that is heavily used by many in the military and the NSA and Secret Services as well.
This was evident when researchers were quickly able to track lax data security of the app’s military and security services users as they exercised around their bases. Not just that, but one of the data protection features in the app also allowed virtually to see the military and security officials’ names, heart rate, and everywhere they lived.
By the time the researchers went public with these findings, they were able to procure the personal information of more than 6,460 personnel, which also included those that were stationed internationally, such as Guantanamo Bay Naval Base and Camp Lemonier in Djibouti, which is the main base of operations for US Africa Command in the Horn of Africa.
Marriott International – 2019
Kick-started with the Marriott Hotels scandal in January with a record-setting breach of over 383 million guests. They started investigating speculation about the breach in September 2018, which further over time revealed unauthorized access to the guest reservation database dating back to 2014.
The damage caused was personal data being stolen that included credit card details, passport numbers, and the dates of birth of up to 500 million people. That further caused other data being exposed as well, such as names, mailing addresses, phone numbers, email addresses, etc.
They claim to have encrypted the credit card information, but there is a possibility that the encryption keys were stolen too.
American Medical Collection Association – 2019
June 2019, about 20 million patients had their data exposed when their bill collector, American Medical Collection Association, got hacked.
The damage caused was multiple class-action lawsuits filed against AMCA and its contracting clients over the breach of patient’s payment data, social security numbers, medical information, birth dates, phone numbers, addresses, and more.
As a result, the medical debt collectors were in so much debt that they filed for bankruptcy.
Protip: These events shed light on the importance of data privacy and why everyone should take their online privacy and security seriously. It only takes split negligence to expose your digital existence to cybercriminals.