Data Breaches of 2021 and What Made Them Silent Killers
Data breaches are one of those hidden enemies that can eat up your business or virtual life from the inside without giving you a sniff of that. And before you realize their presence, it might be too late.
It won’t be erroneous to say that cyber breaches are among the most deadly hazards present around us. People from across the world have been victimized by it. There is no exception.
If you have any online presence or use digital devices, you must be educated on data breaches, their types, and dangers. This post is dedicated to them only. It is going to be an exciting ride. So, stay tuned.
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The Must-Know Data Breaches of 2021: Case Study
Before we delve deep into the details, let’s figure out what data breaches are. By a data breach, we mean an incident of information stolen, accessed, or exposed without the permission of the information owner. The most common information that becomes a data breach victim is email addresses, constant customer data details, trade secrets, or credit card details.
Talking about the origin of recent credit card breaches or other types of breaches, they have been present since the beginning of time. In the digital world, it became prominent in the 1980s and grew immensely in the early 2000s.
In 1986, TRW, a global credit information corporation, was hacked, and around 90 million records were taken away. The same year, Revenue Canada became a victim of an information breach and one security data breach. Speaking of the impact of data breaches, it is of assorted types. For instance, one can lose a massive chunk of money when an individual is victimized.
For an organization, becoming a victim of an information breach means losing reputation and customers’ trust.
Here are some of the statistics related to the loss of data breaches:
These figures show that data breaches are no less than a headache for individuals and cooperate.
How Does a Data Breach Happen?
Now that you have gained a basic understanding of data breaches and know what they mean, it’s time to find out how they happen. But before that, let us tell you what is a data breach.
A “data breach” occurs when a hacker or cybercriminal manipulates the data sources and extracts crucial information from that resource.
It can be done in numerous ways in the case of the latest security breaches. For instance, a hacker can access a computer or network in an unauthorized manner and steal information. Data can also be extracted by bypassing the network security protocols.
Some of the most common tools to make this happen are malware attacks, viruses, phishing, and Denial of Services. However, ways like payment card fraud and insider data leaks are also responsible for many data breaches.
Common Causes for a Data Breach Incident to take Place
A data breach is one major security concern these days and demands utmost attention. Mere ignorance can cost you the hassles of a lifetime. You must have noticed that not even big giants and technically sound enterprises can save their necks from data breaches if you have paid attention.
It’s because cybercriminals and threat actors keep coming up with new ideas and ways to steal data and cause damage. If you want to keep data breaches at bay, then knowing all those ways is crucial. Recently, Verizon researched the ways cybercriminals adopt for a data breach. The zest of that report’s findings is mentioned below:
- Data mishandling by insiders: This is one of the most famed ways to breach data. In this process, a company’s insider or trusted personnel steal customer data, sell it to peers, or use it for personal use. This option is the oldest one and caused damage way before the internet happened.
- Theft or loss of data: It refers to stealing or losing the source of the database. For instance, you have customer data stored in a laptop, and it got misplaced. Any other person got access to the laptop and stole the data. It can happen to paper-based data as well. Not all the time data breach with this process is planned. Sometimes, it happens accidentally.
- Denial of Service or DoS –This type of data breach steals information from networks and systems. It occurs when a threat action overloads an organization’s system and network and prevents authorized personnel from accessing them. Mostly, the targets of this mode of data breach are large enterprises and MNCs. It takes place on a large scale,
- Crimeware includes introducing the assorted type of malware or planning social engineering attacks to steal information. Some of the most famed and commonly used crimeware that cybercriminals use are:
- Ransomware involves taking the file of the targeted system/computer captive until the victim pays what is asked to access them.
- SQL injection is where the hacker introduces arbitrary code to the web form of an online user. If the user fails to handle the form correctly, the code will enter the database and steal information.
- Phishing has become common in recent times and has caused a lot of chaos. It’s a type of social engineering attack and involves proposing the threat actor as a trusted source, contacting them via multiple means, and stealing crucial information. The ultimate goal of phishing is to lure the target either to reveal crucial information, click on the corrupted link, or visit a website where a code will steal the information.
- Data breach via web applications: Access to the majority of web applications demand customary personal information like name, phone number, and emails. Hackers gain access to web applications and steal this information.
- Attacks by Cyber-espionage: This type of data breach involves sending a malicious email to the affiliated actors to drill the system.
- Skimming of payment card: If you use a debit or credit card, then you can be the victim of a data breach as criminals will place a skimming software/tool on the ATM or card reader and capture the card details. Using those details, they will later gain access to your bank account and steal money.
- Introduction of multiple errors: Sometimes, multiple errors like cloud storage misconfiguration and server misbehaving will lead to data leaks.
- Point-of-sale intrusions: This type of data breach means/medium is mostly used in restaurants and controllers and involves information leaks from POS terminals and controllers.
- Various other things: Ways like using a compromised email account and following the bogus directive are rarely used for hacking the databases.
What Troubles Can Cybercriminals Create With Stolen Data?
Well, one’s life can get into a serious mess if the stolen data falls into the wrong hands after a data breach target attack. They can use the information in various wrong ways. Here is a glimpse of the mess that they can create.
They can use the information to steal your money
This is the most common use of stolen data. Cybercriminals can steal your money directly or indirectly. They can:
- Use the credit card and make the payment;
- Directly withdraw money from one’s account and spend or invest it elsewhere;
- Get things like medical treatment, avail of a home loan, or purchase expensive things using your money;
- Use your information to avail the government perks;
- Open an account;
- Steal the rewards offered on the credit cards.
They will sell your information to a third party or expose it on the dark web
Your data has a lot of worth in the outer world. If you wonder where all these loan companies get your personal information, then it’s because a hacker has sold your information to them. Some hackers are so generous that they steal the information and release it on the dark web for free. In either case, the information owner is at a loss.
How Can You Help Protect Your Personal Data?
It may seem hard, but it is not impossible; keeping data safe in the world of cyber vulnerabilities is not impossible. All you need is a smart preventive strategy and continual monitoring.
Here are some of the most viable ways to protect personal data and keep data breaches at bay:
- Organizations can update and review their data governance policies frequently and make changes as per the need of the hour.
- Ensure that data classification and governance are at par with data privacy standards like HIPAA, SOX, and ISO 27001.
- It is essential to do risk assessments frequently and spot the vulnerabilities in their infancy stage.
- If you can afford a full-time data security expert, then it’s good. Else, outsource this service. Don’t ever try your hand in this domain. It is something that demands perfection and expertise.
Organizations can reduce the harm of data breaches by creating a viable disaster recovery plan. When there is an effective recovery, data can be recovered easily.
On a personal level, one can use strategies like keeping devices password-protected, using strong passwords, and updating software regularly. Don’t get carried away with amazing deals and offers from unrecognized senders. They are no less than a trap.
It is suggested not to carry out important transactions on public or free Wi-Fi. Because this way, you welcome hackers.
What Should You Do if Your Personal Data is Exposed?
We know that it is a heart-breaking and shattering thing to know that your personal data has been stolen. Thoughts of getting robbed, blackmailed, or exposed will run through your mind, and it is about to happen. But, you need to maintain your sanity as you are not alone in this. Many leading firms have also faced it.
- Recently, 80 million Microsoft customer records were exposed online.
- Hackers leaked 1,852,595 records of Mashable.com in 2020.
- Every 39 seconds, a cyberattack occurs.
- Reports say that around 192,000 coronavirus-related cyberattacks occurred every week in May 2020.
So, instead of crying about what has happened, one must try to mitigate the risk and prevent it from happening. This is what a prey of data breach must do soon after the attack.
- Figure out what kind of attack has happened. Whether your personal information has been stolen or financial credentials have been compromised.
- Once you figure out what has been stolen, take remedial actions immediately. Change all the passwords and update your account details. In case of financial data theft, contact your bank and report the incident. Ask for an inquiry as well.
- Enable the two-factor authentication on all your accounts for added security. With this, you will be notified when someone is trying to gain unauthorized access to your dataset.
- If you feel that a crucial dataset has been stolen, it is better to hire a security expert to find the root cause and recover the data. This is primarily the case with organizations and businesses. But, individuals with heavy loss can also take up this way.
How Can You Recover If Your Data Is Exposed In a Data Breach: Steps to Take on Your Own
Let’s admit that data breach is inevitable. Eventually, you’re going to be its victim. And when it happens, don’t sulk in. In fact, gear up yourself and take steps to do the damage as little as possible. Here are the steps that you must take to recover from a data breach.
- Find out the type of data hampered. In the US, companies have to inform the end-user about the data breach and the kind of information stolen. If this is not the case where you reside, try to figure out this first to determine how much damage is about to happen.
- Contact your bank or other financial institutes. If your debit or credit card is compromised, block them as soon as you spot a breach.
- Change all the current passwords. Some attacks are visible immediately, while few take time to come to the surface. So, it’s better to change all your passwords once you face a data breach.
Keep an eye on any suspicious activity. If the attack was made by malware, then you might face its impact after some time as well. We will also suggest hiring an expert and getting a thorough check done so that if there is anything hidden, it will come to the surface. As a prevention, you should implement powerful anti-virus software in your system.
It will add an added layer of security. Using a VPN is also a great way to enhance system security and stay safe in the virtual space.
Massive Data Breaches in 2021 to be Aware of (Case by Case)
Cyber breaches happen all the time. But, seeing the number of data breaches, we can say that the latest security breaches in 2021 were severe.
We haven’t reached halfway, yet many high-end cybersecurity breaches have already happened, including the largest data breach.
Here is a quick overview of some of the most talked-about and famous recent data breaches in 2021, out of which some resulted in exp data breach settlement and losses for the organization who were victims:
#1 – Facebook
Despite tons of cybersecurity breaches prevention measures, Facebook has been victimized by data breaches a couple of times. It was reported that nearly 500 million users’ data were stolen and posted on a low-key hacking forum. The contact details like phone numbers and email addresses were revealed. It is as scary as it sounds.
Even the CEO of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, wasn’t able to save its private credentials from online predators. The data was leaked on the dark web for free. The only sigh of relief that those 540 million users have been the assurance that the finance and password-related information was not exposed.
Users from 160 countries fall into the trap of this recent data breach. The US was most affected as 32 million compromised accounts were from the US.
Facebook IDs, full names, locations, birthdates, bios, and – in some cases – email addresses were disclosed. A Facebook official revealed that it happened because of the vulnerability that the company handled in 2019. The data scraping process was adopted to make this happen.
The company claimed that it has resolved the Facebook data breach 2021 related issues and assures its users that the same route of data breaching can’t be taken in the future. The social media giant also decided not to notify the end-user of the data leak.
#2 – Instagram
In May 2019, Instagram became a victim of this silent killer. Around 49 million records exposed online contain crucial information about Instagram influencers and celebrities. Users’ biodata, profile pictures, locations, and other essential details were disclosed. In 2021, it happened once again. But, this time, Instagram wasn’t at fault. It happened because of SocialArks, a Chinese Data-scraping company.
Because of cloud misconfiguration at the hands of SocialArks, around 318 million records were left unprotected in outer space. These records were of Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn.
#3 – LinkedIn
Around 500 million LinkedIn accounts were compromised in April 2021. It was said that a huge sum in 4 digits (bitcoin) was used for negotiation. However, LinkedIn never explained the reasons and even tried to investigate the causes.
Besides, LinkedIn was also a part of the data breach that happened because of mishandling by SocialArks.
#4 – Cancer Treatment Centers of America
Recently, on March 18, 2021, Cancer Treatment Centers of America revealed that around 104,808 patients of its, Midwestern Regional Medical Center were accessed by authorized personnel. Information like names, health insurance information, medical record numbers, and CTCA account numbers was likely to get exposed. Thankfully no financial information was revealed.
#5 – Ubiquiti Inc.
This one is also a recent data breach that was initiated at the end of 2020. It lasted for two months, and the organization was able to take control by the end of January 2021.
The “data breach” impacted a considerable chunk of its customers when an intruder gained unauthorized access to information like names, hashed passwords, salted emails, and addresses. The company did not reveal the number of affected users. The data breach reduced the stock value of the company by 30%.
#6 – Parler
Parler, the one who ripped off Twitter, was a victim of a data breach in Jan 2021 and went offline suddenly. An immense number of information and personal conversations were leaked. Soon after the hack, it was removed from Amazon Web Hosting.
#7 – Mimecast
Around 10% of Mimecast users fall into the trap of data breaches. It happened when a threat actor compromised the company’s certificate used to authenticate a couple of Microsoft Office 365 Exchange Web Services. The company hired a seasoned security expert to look into the issue.
#8 – Pixlr
This famous photo editing website was in the news for bad reasons when a notorious hacker exposed its 1.9 million Pixlr user records for free on an online forum.
He even invited people to use this data for phishing and other malicious activities. However, the company didn’t accept the incident. But BleepingComputer revealed that this is a legitimate breach.
#9 – Bonobos
Bonobos’ data breach affected 12.3 million records in Jan-2021. A cybercriminal backed up its server and stole 7 million shipping addresses, 3.5 million partial credit card records, and 1.8 million account information.
Bonobos confirmed the breach but made it clear that the data was stolen from the backup done on a third-party app.
#10 – VIPGames
Think before using an online gaming platform twice, as you can end up using crucial information. It has already happened with 66,000 users of VIPGames, a leading online gaming platform. Around 23 million data records were stolen and compromised. All of this happened because of a misconfigured server.
Media reports said that all the confidential information of VIPGames.com was easily accessible to the public on the ElasticSearch server. There was no encryption and password protection for the data. Details related to in-game transactions were also available for free.
#11 – Kroger
Kroger is the most recent victim of a third-party software data breach. The company confirmed that some of the present and former employees and customers were targets of this data breach. The attack happened because of a third-party file transfer tool from Accellion. The company claimed that this data breach hampers its IT systems or grocery store system.
The incident happened on January 23, 2021. Gladly, credit or debit information and account passwords were also saved from this attack.
This is not the first time any company is attacked by a data breach because of Accellion FTA. There are many others as well. Experts say that replacing old and tattered software is an excellent option to stay protected from such data breaches.
#12 – T-Mobile
T-Mobile was attacked once again in 2020 when a hacker gained unauthorized access to the customer’s proprietary network information (CNPI) and exposed the call-related information. T-Mobile is the world’s third-largest mobile service provider.
Yet, it can’t keep data breaches at bay. After the T mobile data breach in 2021, the company revealed that the hacker wasn’t successful in accessing sensitive customers’ data and compromised their financial information. This intrusion impacted around 200,000 users.
#13 – CAM4 data breach
The CAM4 data breach was in the news for quite a long time because it affected a huge number of people. Around 10.88 billion records were leaked in March 2021. The credit for this data breach goes to its Elasticsearch server that leaked the information.
Customers’ information, such as names, sexual orientations, email addresses, payment logs, IP addresses, and password hashes, were exposed. The majority of stolen email addresses were linked with the cloud storage services of this leading adult video streaming website. Fears of users getting blackmailed or falling into the nippers of severe phishing attacks were hovering over the head of the users.
#14 – Microsoft Exchange
It seems like 2021 is the year of data breaches. It’s been only a few months, and almost all the leading firms have witnessed data breaches. Microsoft Exchange has joined the league.
Around 250,000 servers were corrupted and gave full unauthorized access to hackers. Information like the use of emails and passwords, saved in the targeted servers, was exposed. Out of those 250,000 servers, 30,000 were in the United States alone.
It was figured out that ransomware of a new family was injected into the servers and infected the datasets, even the encrypted ones.
The event took place in many phases. The first exploit was reported on 5th January 2021, while the first beach was reported the next day, i.e., on 6th January 2021.
In March 2021, the data breach was fully accepted by Microsoft.
#15 – SITA
In February 2021, another data security breach happened, and this time the victim was air transport data giant SITA. The company confirmed in a statement that certain crucial information saved on its US servers had been breached.
Because of this information security breach, many airlines, such as Malaysia Airlines, Air New Zealand, Singapore Airlines, Finnair, Cathay Pacific, Jeju Air, and Lufthansa, were hugely impacted.
#16 – VIPGames
VIPGames, the leading free gaming platform, fell into the trap of a data breach on January 26, 2021. The attack made the platform expose its 23 million user records. Information leaked included details like Facebook, IP addresses, emails, usernames, Google ID, and bets made on the players. The reason behind this mess was a misconfigured cloud storage which resulted in a Google data breach for multiple users as they were using the same passwords for both VIPGames and Google accounts.
#17 – U.S. Cellular
When we talk about the biggest data breaches, US Cellular data breaches should be there. US Cellular is US’s leading wireless carrier and claims to adopt best security practices. Despite that, hackers successfully downloaded the malware on the employees’ software and devices and gained swift access to 4.9 million records. The data was related to 270 customers.
#18 – California DMV
Be it private or public, no firm is safe from data breaches, and the attack that happened on The California Department of Motor Vehicles is the biggest example of this.
On February 18, 2021, the department declared that its Automatic Funds Transfer Services software was attacked by ransomware. The attack exposed driver records for the past 20 months. Details like VINs, names, and license plate numbers were leaked.
#19 – MultiCare
The Healthcare industry is one of the many favorites of hackers. Recently, in March 2021, MultiCare, a leading healthcare firm, faced the wrath of a data breach. Data like bank account numbers, policy numbers, personal information, and the DOB of 200,000 patients were leaked.
#20 – Hobby Lobby
Hobby Lobby, despite taking appropriate, has lost crucial information of over 300,000 customers due to a massive data breach. Any hacker did not do it as the company declared that its cloud storage suffered misconfiguration.
#21 – ClubHouse
On April 10, 2021, ClubHouse became the victim of a data breach. As a result, more than 1.3 million scrapped user records were revealed. The data was posted on a famous hacker platform and was available for free. Speaking of the type of leaked data, it featured details related to photo, URLs, Instagram accounts, IDs, number of followers, and many more.
#22 – GEICO
The auto insurance giant, GEICO, had to deal with a huge data breach in 2021.
The company announced that unauthorized access to its driver’s license database was spotted. The company failed to provide the exact number of users who suffered. But, speculations are that they are in millions.
#23 – Experian
Experian had to face a data breach on April 26, 2021. It was caused due to a compromised API used for researching student loan providers. Other than Experian, many other companies were also using this API. When it was corrupted, it granted access to the secret credit score of more than 10 million Americans. Random people can see the DoB, mailing address, and other personal details.
#24 – Volkswagen & Audi
These two automobile giants have also faced data breaches and serious after-effects. In 2021, more than 3 million records of Volkswagen and Audi subsidiaries were released to the public by a 3rd party marketing company. The exposed data featured details like name, email address, and phone number. Information related to leased vehicles was also exposed.
#25 – SeniorAdvisor
It was not in the notice of SeniorAdvisor that its database was not password protected.
Some cybersecurity researchers figured that out. Because of no protection, hackers had no trouble accessing the 3 million records. Hackers steal information related to DoB, phone numbers, and email.
#26 – GetHealth, FitBit, and Apple
People swear by the security practices that Apple adopts. But, it has also fallen into the trap of data breaches. The recent one happened in 2021 and involved GetHealth and FitBit.
Actually, the breach targeted GetHealth, a leading wellness app. But, as it was keeping the user records of Apple and Fitbit, over 61 million user records were exposed. It was indeed a huge data breach of 2021. Data related to trackers and wearables were affected.
#27 – UNM Health
2021 was the year of data breaches in the healthcare industry, and UNM Health was among the victims. Unidentified access to the database of UNM Health was spotted, and it’s believed that nearly 630,000 personal and medical records were exposed.
#28 – OneMoreLead
OneMoreLeadis, a marketing company reported a data breach on August 4, 2021. The data breach was huge as over 126 million records were exposed and posted on an online forum. It was a major setback for the company and tarnished its professional image. The attack exposed information like work address, name, email, phone number, and IP address. As no sensitive and financial information was revealed, no serious damage was reported.
#29 – Guess
In the mid of 2021, Guess, a giant in the fashion industry – became the target of a data breach. The incident was announced by the company itself. Though the company prefers not to disclose the total number of affected data, it announced that the ransomware only attacked information like driver’s license number and passport number. But, few internal sources commented that it was more severe, and sensitive information like financial account numbers and social security numbers were also revealed.
#30 – Wegmans
Wegmans is a very famous US supermarket chain and is likely to adopt the industry’s best security practices. Yet, it was a victim of a data breach in 2021. The data breach happened due to cloud storage misconfiguration. The technical error guided the servers to make the database accessible to all. Assorted details such as user name, phone number, addresses, shopper number, hashed password, and many more were exposed.
The Bottom Line
Data breaches are common and are likely to target all of us. However, one can save its neck by being a little extra vigilant. It is wise not to entertain any email, post, or message with unknown or unauthorized information. Keeping devices and software updated is also very crucial. Doing regular security audits can save tons of hassles. So, stay aware and informed.
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