Businesses lost an estimated £20BN from data breaches last year

After news that Uber failed to disclose a massive hack in 2016, VPN (virtual private network) comparison site analysed more than 200 data breaches dating back to 2004, looking at the number of records compromised, the industries most likely to be affected and the value of those breaches.

Late last year Equifax became the victim of one of the most high profile hacks in history, with 143 million records stolen, equating to an estimated $20.1bn (£15bn) worth of data lost*. There have previously been attacks where more records were compromised, such as Yahoo’s 1 billion back in December 2016, but the Equifax breach was notable because the data stolen included social security numbers and personal identification.

IBM revealed in its Cost of a Data Breach Study 2017 that the average cost of a stolen record was $141 (£104.25), or $3.62 million (£2.7 million) per hack.

>See also: Is your business ready to deal with a data breach?

In 2017 HBO was also hacked, with 1.5 terabytes of sensitive information stolen – including the script to a then unreleased episode of Game of Thrones. In May of this year it was revealed that the Lithuania-based medical clinic Grozio Chirurgija was also breached, resulting in the leaking of thousands of naked photographs, including 1,500 Britons. found that 2011 was the year where the most entities were hacked, including Sony Online Entertainment, who lost a predicted $3.4 billion (£2.5 billion) worth of records, and gaming platform Steam, who were the victim of a hack estimated to be worth around $4.9 billion (£3.6 billion).

Healthcare providers were found to be the most likely to be attacked, with this industry seeing 39 data breaches since 2004, with the most recent being Erie County Medical Center in 2017. Financial companies were the next most likely to be hacked, with 33 attacks since 2004 – Equifax being the most notable.

>See also: Don’t play the data breach blame game has collated the research into an interactive site, where the landscape of data breaches can be explored. The Breach the World data is designed to raise awareness around the need for tighter cybersecurity measures in a time when everyone’s private details are available to hackers.

Douglas Crawford, cyber security expert at, said: “Hackers are becoming more sophisticated in their methods, putting millions at risk of data theft and fraud. We’ve seen half of the American population fall victim to this in September with the Equifax breach, and there will be doubtless more to follow.”

“At the end of last year, we had news that Uber failed to disclose a hack that compromised 57 million records back in 2016. This is obviously highly unethical behaviour and the business is quite rightly now under investigation.”

>See also: The questions every company should be asking after the Equifax breach

“So with this research, we wanted to shine a spotlight on just how much of an impact data breaches have on us, and to visualise the scope of this problem. We’re seeing these massive entities like Sony and Verizon getting hit by cybercriminals – conglomerates who have access to our passwords, names, addresses and more. It’s absolutely vital that, going into 2018, businesses are making cyber security a key focus to ensure consumers are kept safe.”

Most common methods used to compromise records

Hacking – 60%

Lost/stolen media – 13%

Lost/ stolen computer – 7%

Inside job – 7%

Accidentally published – 7%

Poor security – 6%

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Nick Ismail

Nick Ismail is a former editor for Information Age (from 2018 to 2022) before moving on to become Global Head of Brand Journalism at HCLTech. He has a particular interest in smart technologies, AI and...