Infographic: The Biggest Data Security Breaches of All Time

October 15, 2011 | Posted in News

It can happen to anyone. You’re sitting there, minding your own business and idling away with some website surfing, when you get the email: “We’re sorry, but we think your account might have been compromised…”

While it might seem easy to just hit the big “delete” button on a message like that, it would be incorrect to assume that breaches in data security can affect the lives of everyone but you. To hackers and other unsavory individuals looking to score information that they shouldn’t otherwise have access to, you’re just a data point: If your account information, or email address, credit card info, or any other identifying piece of info is within the data trove that they can get their hands on (and post to Pastebin, or what-have-you), that’s it. You’re compromised.

Say “data breach” to a typical consumer – especially a gamer – and you’ll probably summon forth thoughts of Sony’s big PlayStation Network breach from earlier this year. According to research from Rasmussen College’s School of Technology & Design, the collective hacking incidents – and subsequent network outages – affecting Sony’s gaming services ate up an estimated $6 billion in costs and affected more than 100 million user accounts.

And that figure doesn’t even count the latest reported Sony breaches: What appears to be a brute-force hacking attempt that compromised more than 93,000 accounts across a variety of Sony properties, including the Sony Entertainment Network, the PlayStation Network, and Sony Online Entertainment. According to reports, the accounts were allegedly breached sometime between October 7 and October 10.

That said, Sony’s woes aren’t the largest data breach recorded in modern times – either measured by the number of accounts compromised or the estimation of the total costs of the attack. Rasmussen College has laid out the historical perspective in a handy infographic, which we’ve included at the bottom of this story. But here’s a spoiler: A 2008 data breach of Heartland Payment Systems, which processes credit card transactions for more than 250,000 merchants across the country, affected an estimated 130 million credit and debit card accounts to the tune of $7.8 billion in total costs.

But it’s not all just doom and gloom in the world of data security. According to Rasmussen College’s statistics, more than 1,200 individuals were arrested for cybercrime in 2010. And these arrests allegedly prevented approximately $7 billion in total losses.

Security Breaches of All Time By David Murphy

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