5 Biggest Security Breaches and Ways You Can Protect Your Cyber Security


There have been massive security breaches since the dawn of time (the most notable being the Aegean’s horse-centric infiltration of Troy). But the Internet era has opened up a brand new age of security breaches, some of which have compromised the personal data of billions of Internet users.

What are the 5 biggest security breaches in history? And how can you protect your cyber security so your data won’t be compromised in the same way? Let’s reminisce and discuss.

1.     Yahoo

  • Date: 2013-2014
  • Accounts compromised: 3 billion

Yahoo wins the top prize for “Largest Data Breach in History.” In 2016, the company was in negotiations to sell out to Verizon. That’s when Yahoo announced it had been the victim of the largest security breach in history (their nonchalant attitude about it was admirable). The Yahoo data breach had occurred from 2013 to 2014, during which time a whopping 3 billion user accounts had been compromised. The hackers had gained everything from usernames, to passwords, to personal information—from birth dates to credit cards.

The attack was alarming because, according to Yahoo, most of the accounts had been encrypted with a very robust algorithm. The company believed the algorithm was decrypted by a “state-sponsored actor.” Regardless of who did it, Yahoo paid the price. It lost $350 million in valuation following the disclosure of the breach.

2.     Marriott International

  • Date: 2014 to 2018
  • Accounts compromised: 500 million

Marriot International suffered the second largest data breach in history. The breach originally occurred at Starwood hotels, and then continued at Marriott after it acquired Starwood. For some victims, the hackers were able to take only name and contact information. But for other victims, the hackers were able to gain a larger amount if information, although it’s unclear if they were able to decrypt credit card numbers. The attack was attributed to a Chinese intelligence group, which was probably trying to gain personal information on Americans to try and root out spies.

3.     Adult Friend Finder

  • Date: October 2016
  • Accounts compromised: 412.2 million

Oh boy—now here’s an awkward data breach. In 2016, the adult dating/hookup website Adult Friend Finder was hacked, along with its affiliate sites. The breach was attributed to a very weak encryption algorithm that was easily deciphered by hackers. Millions of accounts were compromised, and many user details were released. It’s not quite the most awkward data breach in history. The most awkward breach goes to the hack of Ashley Madison, which was the nightmare breach for millions of adulterous spouses worldwide.

4.     eBay

  • Date: May 2014
  • Accounts compromised: 145 million

In 2014, hackers were able to access the eBay company network using the credentials of three corporate employees, and were able to gain access to the user database. Passwords and usernames were compromised, but no credit card information was stolen. For that reason, eBay wasn’t hurt significantly by the breach. In fact, its second quarter revenue was up 13%.

5.     Equifax

  • Date: July 2017
  • Accounts compromised: 143 million

Equifax, one of America’s largest credit bureaus, announced that a breach had occurred due to a vulnerability in an online application. Social security numbers and drivers’ license numbers were stolen, in addition to names and birth dates.

Ways to Protect Your Cyber Security
So those were pretty bummer scenarios, right? Well you don’t have to worry—there are certain steps you can take to protect your personal data from getting compromised in data breaches. Here are a few tried and true methods to bolster your cyber security (and if you enjoyed that listicle, check out this blog on the world’s biggest injury settlements).

1.      Change Passwords Frequently

You should get in the habit of changing your passwords every 30-180 days. Changing your password will increase the likelihood that, if a data breach were to occur, the hackers might only be able to obtain an outdated password. Frequently changing your password also ensures that, if your password for one account is obtained, the hackers won’t be able to use that password to try and access a different account (assuming you use the same password for multiple logins). On that note, try and diversify the passwords you have, and don’t use the same password for multiple logins (tempting as it is).

2.      Set up a VPN

A VPN, or “virtual private network,” is a private network that conceals your data’s contents and destination as it travels across the web. A VPN is a great way to protect your privacy when you’re browsing the web, but it also prevents your data from travelling through unsecure networks that are more vulnerable to data breaches. There are lots of different free and paid VPN services that you can use (the paid services are usually more secure), and setting one up is easy. If you’re not sure how to do it, read this quick article on how to set up a VPN.

3.      Don’t Login on Public Computers

Some public computers might contain phishing malware that track your keyboard inputs when you’re logging into online accounts. Avoid logging into accounts on public computers unless you absolutely have to, and be sure to use “private browsing” features when they’re available.

So long as you stay on top of those 3 cyber security tips, you’re bound to be much safer in the event of a large data breach.

There was recently a large data breach known as “Collection #1.” Read this article to learn how to find out if your information was compromised.

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