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Townsend Security Data Privacy Blog

Notable Data Security Breaches of 2014

Posted by Michelle Larson on Jan 8, 2015 10:40:00 AM

Make 2015 your year for increased data security with Encryption & Key Management

During the 2014 holiday season, the Sony data breach made the headlines even though the numbers affected weren’t in the millions like their 102 million PlayStation Network records that were breached back in 2011. This time, beyond all the damage done to their systems, Sony Pictures Entertainment became one of the most publicly blackmailed corporate breaches to date. The group that took over their company network had a list of demands that went along with the financial data and legal information being leaked on to file-sharing sites and sent directly to rival Hollywood studios.   

While the end results of the Sony breach may take time to be fully realized, there were a number of other large scale data breaches this year. Some of these you may be familiar with, more may yet be reported, and others might surprise you: 


  • eBay - online retailer
    The breach is thought to have affected the majority of the 145 million global members when a database containing customer names, encrypted passwords, email addresses, physical address, phone numbers, and dates of birth was compromised.
  • JPMorgan Chase
    76 million people were affected by the loss of PII including names, addresses, phone numbers, and email addresses.
  • Google
    5 million people had their account information compromised with the theft of usernames and passwords.
  • Home Depot
    In a large nationwide malware attack, 56 million card records were stolen through point-of-sale systems. In a second attack in Atlanta, 20,000 employees personal information was stolen and used to open fraudulent credit cards by 3 human resource employees.

Those are some pretty significant numbers, and most likely everyone that reads this blog has been affected in some way by at least one of these events, or by one of the 600+ breaches reported so far this year. What we all need to remember is that cyber crime isn’t limited to “Black Hat” hackers that only go after the big piles of data. Sometimes it is a disgruntled employee that destroys or releases sensitive data. Sometimes it is an unintentional employee error, or loss of an employee’s laptop/thumbdrive that thieves go after. Often it is the smaller company or mid-sized Enterprise that hasn’t yet implemented security steps, like encryption and authentication, to protect their sensitive information. For example, the unintentional loss of data on unencrypted backup tapes would be considered a reportable data breach event.

A new study from researchers at Gartner indicates that it is markedly less expensive for companies to invest in new security and encryption technologies than it is for them to respond to a data breach. According to the analyst firm, businesses pay roughly $6 per year per user for encryption tools, or $16 per user per year for intrusion prevention software licenses, versus paying out an average of $90 per user to address problems after a breach has occurred.

Five steps you can take to make sure this doesn’t happen to you:

  1. Have a defense-in-depth strategy that meets your level of risk tolerance.

  2. Make sure you know where all of your sensitive data is stored, and who has access to it.

  3. Use standardized encryption algorithms to make that data unreadable.

  4. Use an encryption key management solution to protect keys away from the data.

  5. Use two-factor authentication whenever possible, because passwords are no longer enough.

To help open up the conversation around your conference table, download this eBook on “Turning a Blind Eye to Data Security” and find out more about the tools & resources to begin discussions about data security in your company!

Turning a Blind Eye to Data Security eBook

Topics: Data Security, Encryption, Encryption Key Management, Data Breach, Video

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