The 5 biggest data breaches of 2014 (so far)

July 11, 2014

Martyn Williams

In the battle to keep your personal information private, it’s not just hackers you have to worry about but lax security and stupidity.

A survey of data breaches in the first six months of this year shows an increasing number of incidents in which data, including names and addresses, credit card and Social Security numbers, and medical records was lost to criminals or exposed.

In many of the cases, the breaches were put down to poor data security practices or simple errors: like St. Vincent Breast Center in Indianapolis sending 63,000 letters containing information on upcoming appointments to the wrong people, or Stanford Federal Credit Union accidentally attaching a file with information on 18,000 customers to an email, or the thousands of paper medical records dumped at a public incineration site in York, Pennsylvania.

In other cases, laptops or thumb drives containing information were stolen—in some cases with apparently nothing more than the login password to protect the data.

One of the biggest such cases involving laptop theft occurred at the Torrance, California, office of Sutherland Healthcare Solutions, which lost eight laptops in a February break-in. The laptops contained medical information on almost 400,000 people in California, and their theft has sparked lawsuits.

Data breaches on the rise

According to the Identity Theft Resource Center, there have already been 395 data breaches in the U.S. this year that have been reported to regulators or covered by media outlets, a 21 percent increase over the same period last year.

Here are the top five data breaches of the first half of 2014, with an extra entry for eBay. That breach appears to be one of the largest yet, but the exact extent of the problem has not yet been divulged by the company, so it’s difficult to quantify how big it actually was.

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