Posted by : Amanda Stein Monday, January 27, 2014

secure computer
We live in a digital age — at some point, almost everyone in the world has uploaded some kind of sensitive information to the Internet. This could include social security numbers, credit card information, or full names and addresses. Although we want to believe that our information is safe and secure, this is not always the case. Today, we are going to look at the top five worst data breaches of all time.


5. VeriSign

The Verisign data breach happened throughout 2010, but VeriSign told no one. It was not until a new Securities and Exchange Commission-mandated filing, that VeriSign went public with it in 2011. So why is this huge breach not higher on the list? No one knows for sure what kind of information was stolen or how many people were affected, not even VeriSign. All VeriSign could tell the public was that the hackers gained access to “privileged systems and information.” One thing is for sure, VeriSign will forever be haunted by the fact that it waited until it was legally obligated to tell consumers.


4. Sony's PlayStation Network

On April 26, 2011, Sony announced that its PlayStation Network was hacked. As a result, more than 77-million users had their information stolen. The information that was obtained included users' names, addresses, emails, passwords, security answers, PSN online IDs and credit card information. Users only had their credit card information stolen if they had made a purchase on the PlayStation Network using their cards. People that paid with prepaid cards that they purchased from stores were completely safe. All of this was due to a weakness in the PSN security infrastructure.


3. TJX Companies

TJX Companies is one of the largest international clothing and home fashion department chains. Two stores that are run under the TJX Companies umbrella are T.J Maxx and Marshalls. On Jan. 17, 2007, TJX Companies announced that its computer system had been hacked and customer information had been stolen. The company confirmed that more than 94-million people had their credit and debit card information stolen. Authorities later found out that famous computer hacker Albert Gonzalez was the ringleader behind this attack.


2. Target

Target was hit by a massive data breach that involved millions of customers, just this past year. The breach affected people that visited physical Target stores in the United States between November 27 and December 15 and used their credit or debit cards to make a purchase. When this breach was first announced, it was believed that 40-million people were affected. However, figures now show that it is much closer to 100-million people affected. The hackers stole credit card numbers, customers' names and the three-digit security codes on the back of customers’ cards. This breach was particularly terrible because it started on Black Friday, which is one of the busiest times for shopping in the United States and it likely sent an army of professionals trained in IT scrambling to identify and close gaps in Target’s security to prevent further damage.


1. Heartland Payment Systems

According to the Wall Street Journal, Heartland Payment Systems is one of the nation's largest payment processors and leading provider of merchant business solutions. On Jan. 20, 2009, the company announced that it was hacked in late 2008. As a result, the hackers gained access to more than 130 million credit-card records. The hackers stole all of the information that is encoded on the magnetic strips on the back of credit cards and debit cards. The hackers then used this information to make counterfeit cards by imprinting the information that they stole. In the end, Heartland Payment Systems had to pay nearly $60 million to a fund that was set up for people whose funds were taken. Police discovered that Albert Gonzalez was responsible, at which time they also found that he was responsible for hacking TJX Companies. He was tried for both and sentenced to 20 years in federal prison on March 25, 2010
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Byline: Amy Thomson writes about technology, career success, and education. When she’s not writing she is skydiving over the Rocky Mountains.

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