• David Remington

Top 5 Most Impactful Data Breaches of 2018

The end of the year presents the joyous opportunity to look back and see what’s gone wrong. So I decided it was worth looking into something that’s likely to become increasingly prominent in our lives: data breaches.

First of all, let’s define what a data breach is. It’s a security incident where sensitive information can be accessed without authorisation. This information is then spread online or sold to the highest bidder.

Here’s what I believe were the most impactful data of 2018 (so far, at least).

5. Google+ (52.5 million records breached)

The social media platform that was never one. Google+ never reached the traction it was hoping to reach, but Google kept it alive nonetheless. In March this year, the Wall Street Journal found out that Google had accidentally exposed the personal data of 500,000 Google+ users. It was enough for Google to finally pull the plug and shut down the platform.

But the story wasn’t quite done yet. Only a few days ago, Google came out with the news that the profile information of a staggering 52.5 million users had been affected in a second data breach. Enough to bring any social media platform down. Or is it?

4. Facebook (87 million records breached)

This is what I consider the highest-profile data breach on the list. In 2015, a personality prediction app on Facebook was able to gather data on not just the people who’d installed the app, but also on all the friends of those people. This was because of Facebook’s data sharing policies at the time.

Then Cambridge Analytica was given access to that data, which they used to help Donald Trump win the 2016 general election. Facebook said 87 million records in total were affected, and the company has been under intense scrutiny since it came out with the news (rightfully so).

3. Exactis (340 million records breached)

Imagine you’re roaming around the dark trenches of the Internet, and you come across a publicly accessible server. You take a look. On the server, you find detailed information on nearly all US citizens, from phone numbers to addresses to even their hobbies. That’s what happened to security expert Vinny Troia.

It turned out that marketing and data aggregation firm Exactis had exposed a database with 340 million records, or close to 2 terabytes of information. It’s unclear whether hackers have accessed that information or done anything with it, but the info was out in the open for everyone to see.

2. Marriott Starwood (500 million records breached)

Ever stayed in a Marriott or Starwood hotel? If so, there’s a big chance your data has been compromised. Hackers successfully targeted Starwood’s reservation database, and gained access to personal information of around 500 million of its customers.

This includes phone numbers, email addresses, passport numbers, at which hotel you stayed when, and more. If you think you’ve been affected, the company advises you to change your password as soon as possible.

1. Aadhaar (1.1 billion records breached)

This is by far the biggest data breach. Aadhar is India’s government ID database, with private information on every Indian resident. Hackers gained access to the database, and could see the names and ID numbers of 1.1 billion Indians.

Basically, the whole nation of India was hacked. If that’s not impactful, then I don’t know what is. In fact, a hack this size is moving into the realms of cyber warfare, particularly if it would’ve been explicitly authorised by the government of another nation.


I hope this opened your eyes to the importance of cyber security. Businesses too, are at risk daily of hacks and data breaches. If you want to know how you can secure yourself against such risks, feel free to send me a message!

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