9 of the World’s Largest Data Breaches of All Time

It’s seems as if news of big data breaches shows up on the news almost weekly these days. There is no doubt that hackers are working diligently to gain access to computer systems of businesses and individuals alike as they search for information they can profit from in some way.

It would be understandable if the general public has begun to believe that big corporations do not care about the security of their personal information. After all, many of these big companies make billions of dollars and still do not appear to invest enough in data security to keep the information they store away from prying eyes. It’s nearly impossible these days to keep your personal information like social security numbers and bank account numbers from being gathered up and stored by big corporations of one kind or another. It seems as if nearly all of us are at risk from big data breaches like the following.

1. Sony

This one may be the mother of all data breaches (so far) not because of the quantity of consumer information obtained by hackers, but more for its ties to possible international intrigue and the release of information that was embarrassing to come company officials, such as the salary and personal information of well-known Hollywood actors and a slew of e-mail messages that were exchanged by top company executives. The massive hack was reportedly carried out to prevent Sony from releasing a movie that was considered by government officials in North Korea to be disrespectful to their leader.

2. eBay

During December of 2013, online auction giant eBay discovered that hackers had penetrated their systems during February and March of the same year. This breach involved hackers using crucial information they managed to get from a “small number” of eBay employees. The hackers were able to access the database that held information in eBay users and they were able to copy a “large part” of that database for their own purposes. Up to 145 million records were believed to have been copied.

3. Adobe

Adobe is a software company that makes many popular applications such as Flash and Photoshop. While they may be experts when it comes to creating software, it appears as if their computer security team could use a little help. In September of 2013 hackers were successful at penetrating Adobe’s systems and were able to access customer data that included names, passwords and credit or debit card information. As many as 152 million records were accessed and as many as 30 million Adobe customers may have been affected.

4. Target

This data breach got plenty of publicity when it was revealed, thanks to the feeling that it hit so close to home for many consumers who have Target stores in their neighborhoods. The hackers behind this caper were particularly crafty, and actually managed to install devices in some of the store check-out areas that could copy personal information from customers making purchases. The data breach was discovered in December of 2013 and was initially thought to have affected 40 million customers. That number was later raised to 80 million, and then again to 110 million as more details of the breach were uncovered.


5. Michael’s Stores

This popular chain of craft stores was attacked by hackers in 2014 who were reportedly using malware that had never been seen previously. As many as 3 million customer credit and debit card numbers were obtained by the criminal hackers. If the hackers were at all interested in the statistics regarding how many people knit, crochet, or sew their own clothes in the United States, they certainly picked the right place to hack!

6. Neiman Marcus

Given the financial resources available to many customers of this luxury store chain, it may have been more highly valued by hackers than data from more typical consumers like those that shop at Target. Malware was used by hackers in this instance as well, and as many as 1.1 million credit and debit card records were accessed. As more details were revealed about the extent of the breach, Neiman Marcus lowered the number of credit and debit card records that were likely accessed to around 350,000. Although it’s not common in these cases, the retailer also revealed that as many as 9,200 of those records were actually used fraudulently.

7. Home Depot

Anyone who has ever visited a home depot knows how huge their cavernous warehouse-style stores can be. Perhaps it’s fitting then, that the data breach experienced by the retailing giant was also pretty huge. As many as 56 million credit and debit card records were swiped by sneaky hackers who somehow managed to get their information-vacuuming malware installed on store cash register systems.

8. JP Morgan Chase

Now if any big corporation would be capable of keeping data secure and out of the hands of hackers, you might think it would be a bank. Not in this case. Although we all know that banks demonstrate an enormous amount of effort when it comes to protecting their money, the same may not be true for their customers’ personal information. As many as 76 million consumers and 7 million small business customers were likely affected by a data beach at JP Morgan Chase and the details of the breach are still under investigation.

9. U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

This government agency that is responsible for weather forecasting and other scientific endeavors reportedly had its systems penetrated by Chinese hackers who were probably hoping to gain access to classified information. As one might expect, hacks that involve government agencies are likely to be shrouded in as much mystery as the agency can muster. In this case, some systems were reportedly shut down and were explained away as “routine maintenance” by the agency, but other sources claim the systems were taking offline as a result of the breach.

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