If you’re like most Americans, you spend a huge part of your life online. You probably use your phone or your laptop to socialize, shop, and even make medical appointments. That means website and databases are storing a lot of your personal information, so it's important for you to protect yourself from data breaches that could leave you exposed to hackers.
What’s a data breach? It’s the name for a massive online theft of personal information. Hackers can target corporations or even branches of the government, breaking in and stealing all the information stored on their sites. Major data breaches can affect millions or even billions of people.
Curious about what a big data breach looks like? This article describes some of the biggest data breaches in recent history. You’ll also learn how to protect yourself the next time there’s a breach.
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The Facebook Breach
In 2019, about 540 million Facebook users had their personal information suddenly exposed. This time, it didn’t even happen because of hackers. Instead, it turned out that Facebook was simply failing to protect many of its databases in any significant way. Passwords or any form of encryption did not protect the databases, meaning that just about anyone could Google around and find other people’s data.
Since Facebook stores a vast amount of private data, this should set off alarm bells for many people. If hackers steal your Facebook password, they will immediately start testing to see whether you use that same password for other sites.
One way around that problem is to use TeamPassword to generate new passwords for every site you visit. This way, you’ll never have to worry about hackers accessing your private financial and medical data just because they broke into your social media page.
The eBay Breach
In May 2014, eBay announced it had been the victim of a major cyberattack. The online auction house had 145 million users, and all of their data became exposed during the attack. That meant users' names, addresses, dates of birth, and passwords were all visible to the hackers who broke into eBay.
The customers’ financial information was not exposed, since it was stored separately. However, this kind of data breach was (and is) massively dangerous. That’s because many people re-use the same password from one website to another.
In other words, there was a good chance that eBay customers were using the same passwords for their eBay accounts as for, say, their online bank accounts. If a hacker stole their eBay passwords, that hacker might get access to their other accounts.
The Capital One Breach
In 2019, a hacker gained access to private data belonging to about 100 million Capital One customers. That data included the customers’ accounts and their credit card applications. The company said that customers’ credit card numbers were not exposed, and neither were their bank account numbers.
This wasn’t the first time that hackers targeted Capital One. In July 2013, cybercriminals attacked the financial corporation, exposing personal information belonging to about 106 million people. Here, customers’ credit card information was exposed. So were their social security numbers and their bank account numbers.
The Equifax Breach
In June 2017, Equifax announced that there had been a major data breach, exposing an estimated 147.9 million of the credit bureau’s customers. This time, hackers gained access to customers’ dates of birth, social security numbers, and addresses. In some cases, the cybercriminals also gained access to customers’ credit history information.
Not only was private information stolen, but the hackers got enough data to make an educated guess about the Equifax customers’ other passwords. After all, many people use their dates of birth, or even part of their social security numbers, to create passwords. By getting access to that information, the cybercriminals may have gained access to valuable other passwords.
The Heartland Payment Systems Breach
In March 2008, hackers broke into the Heartland Payment systems database, exposing information from 134 million people. Eventually, authorities caught the team behind the cyberattack. But customers’ credit card information, along with other personal data, had already been exposed.
When hackers steal data, one of their first moves is to try to discover customers’ passwords to other lucrative sites – like their bank accounts. If you’ve been using the same password for all your sign-ins, know that a data breach could seriously expose you. However, if you’ve been using TeamPassword to generate random, hacker-defying passwords, you should be safe!
Read more: The Biggest Data Breaches of 2020
The Adobe Breach
In 2013, Adobe reported that records belonging to about 153 million people had been exposed in a cyberattack. It’s worth noting that Adobe tried hard to downplay the attack. The company first claimed that only 3 million of its customers were impacted. Later, they admitted that the number was at least 150 million.
Why does that matter? Customers may not have even been aware that their data was compromised when Adobe first announced the breach. Unless they were paying close attention, customers may not have known to take action until well after the attack took place.
The LinkedIn Breach
There have been at least two major breaches at LinkedIn in the past decade. The first happened in 2012, and the second happened in 2016.
Why is the social networking site such a popular target for hackers? In part, it may be that it’s such a data-rich website. LinkedIn users store all kinds of personal data on the site, from their dates of birth and address to their employment history and lists of contacts.
Besides that, hackers target LinkedIn for the passwords. Cybercriminals appear to have targeted LinkedIn for lists of emails and passwords belonging to millions of users.
The MyFitnessPal Breach
In February 2018, data belonging to 150 million people became exposed when MyFitnessPal was the victim of a major cyberattack. Hackers stole customers’ usernames, email address, and passwords in the breach and put them up for sale.
Why did cybercriminals want those passwords? Undoubtedly, so they could try to use them to break into people’s other accounts. Customers who re-use passwords from one account to the next can easily become victims and have their medical or financial data stolen as soon as one of their passwords is exposed. That’s why it’s always a good idea to take precautions.
The Yahoo Breach
Back in 2014, hackers forced their way into the Yahoo network and stole information belonging to an estimated 500 million users. The cybercriminals stole names, email addresses, and dates of birth.
What’s so frightening about this attack? Besides the massive scale, it’s the fact that the attack went unreported for years. Yahoo did not announce the data breach until 2016 – two years after the attack. Yahoo has, similarly, waited for years before announcing a data breach from 2013 that also exposed the data of hundreds of millions of users.
The Cam4 Breach
In March 2020, adult video streaming site Cam4 revealed that cybercriminals had attacked its server. The massive data breach left more than 10 million personal records exposed.
Because of the nature of Cam4’s business, the data stolen was particularly sensitive. Customers stored information on the site that included customers' actual names, email addresses, sexual orientation, and records of their chats on the site.
Some people expressed concerns that Cam4 customers could become exposed to blackmail because of the information hackers had accessed.
The Danger of Password Theft
Data breaches are dangerous and damaging. They can cost businesses millions of dollars, and they can leave customers vulnerable to having their private information exposed online.
One way that breaches are so damaging involves password theft. Once hackers steal your password from one site, they will input it into all of your other accounts, hoping you use the same password on other sites.
If they find out you use the same password, they can get into your bank account and transfer your funds to their own account. They can steal your credit cards or even your social security number and sell it on the dark web. Or, they can access private information from other sites and use it to blackmail you. There’s no limit to what cybercriminals can do once they access your data.
Protecting Yourself and Your Passwords
All too often, people reuse passwords because they can’t keep track of the passwords they use for all the websites they visit. After all, every time you shop for clothes, you need one password – then you might order groceries, and use a different password – and then you might make an appointment with your doctor, and need still another password.
It gets difficult to remember all these passwords. It’s natural to want to simplify things by using one password for all your websites. But that can leave you exposed to a very serious attack whenever hackers gain access to any of the sites you visit.
How TeamPassword Helps
TeamPassword is the all-in-one password management solution for teams like yours. With features like 2-step verification, easy password sharing, and a secure unique password generator, you can protect yourself from data breaches like the ones on this list.
Sign up today to get a free trial and find out how TeamPassword keeps you safe even with a data breach.