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5 noteworthy data breach in history

On the 3rd October 2021, 11.9 million documents (2.9 terabytes of data) were leaked by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ). This leak of highly confidential information is now known as the Pandora papers. Whether the leakage of data is justifiable or not, the necessity for Information security and data protection is once again put forward.

Leakage of information is not new and has been present in human history for centuries. The difference is the form of the leakage, the speed of diffusion and the volume of data.

The first written trace of leakage of information goes back to the 6th century B.C. In his military essay know as the Art Of War, the general Sun Tzu mention the use of spy to gather information on his enemies. Basically, it was collecting highly confidential information for military actions.

Nowadays, the technology of information and communication differ drastically from the time of Sun Tzu. The methods of gathering information are different and the goals of collecting information are different.

Here below are 5 noteworthy breach of data in our modern history.

1: Yahoo, August 2013

In August 2013, Yahoo was the victim of a major data breach that exposed 3 billion accounts. It was the first time that data leaked rose above the 1billion mark and is up-to-date one of the biggest leak of data in terms of volume. It is also considered as one of the most impactful leak of information as it happened when yahoo was in the process of being acquired by another company named Verizon. According to reports, Yahoo suffered a financial loss of $350M due to the breach of data.

2: Ashley Madison: January 2015

This case of data breach is surely one of the most impactful in history. Ashley Madison is an adult dating website. Following a hack of the system, 39 millions accounts were exposed and the social consequences were dramatic in some cases. This incident involved politicians, celebrities and even pastor. According to reports, several persons cited the leak of data as the reason of their suicide, some people were victim of extortion, and many couple divorced. Reports suggest that Ashley Madison paid $11.2M as compensation for the data breach. The Ashley Madison leak is considered as the most dramatic leakage of information.

3: DSW Shoe Warehouse; March 2005

Despite not being the first leak of information nor the biggest volume of data in our digital era, the leak of information of DSW Shoe Warehouse In March 2005 marks a milestone in the history of data leaks. According to our source, it was the first time that more than 1 million files were compromised. The year 2005 is also considered as the big boom of data breach.

4: Marriott International, 2014-2018

The case of Marriott International happened from 2014 to 2018 (4 years!). According to various sources, between 300M and 500M accounts have been compromised in a breach of information which was undetected during those 4 years. The group was eventually fined (€20M) by the EU (Oct 2020) for non compliance with the GDPR (Insufficient technical and organisational measures to ensure information security).

5: Offshore Leaks: April 2013

The Offshore Leaks is the first of a series of data leaks around tax optimization. It was the first time that the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) published information on 130,000 offshore accounts. Following the first leakage of information, 10 more followed revealing the highly sensitive information on high profile persons. The latest of the series is the Pandora Papers.

If you want to read more about Pandora papers, click here on the link below:

If you think that your information security management system needs a review, Ascentrix Consulting can help you secure your information and comply with the data protection regulations. Do not hesitate to contact us.


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