Target of the Next Big Breach

With Big Data Comes Big Responsibility: How to Avoid Becoming a Target of the Next Big Breach

Avoid Becoming a Target of the Next Big Breach

Practically every industry relies on Big Data, from education, government, and healthcare to banking, manufacturing, and retail. With the rise of Big Data over the last ten years and the significant increase in cyber security threats over the last two, the opportunities for both business and cyber criminals are growing exponentially. This means that information security is more important than ever. Businesses need to stay one step ahead if they want to avoid becoming the next target of a big breach.

According to an article published by the Master of Science in Cyber Security Department at the University of San Diego, “Just as big data has opened up new possibilities for cyber security teams, it has also given cyber criminals the opportunity to access mass quantities of sensitive and personal information through the use of advanced technologies.

Data breaches increased by 40% between 2015 and 2016 and the trend continues in 2017. This is for bad for consumers and bad for business. Identity theft costs the average victim $1,343 in stolen assets and expenses like legal fees, which can be a lot for the average consumer. According to a new report and timeline just released, these are the worst data breaches over the last ten years, how they happened, and what businesses can do to avoid the same fate.

The Biggest Data Breach (most records)

  • Who: River City Media, an email marketing company known for sending spam emails
  • When: January–March 2017
  • How: It was an accident. Backup databases were not configured correctly and were left available online for anyone to see
  • Number of records: 1.37 billion!
  • Type of records: Email accounts, full names, IP addresses, and physical addresses
  • Business Consequences: They were dropped from Amobee’s affiliate service, which was one of the largest marketing firms working with them

Most Serious Data Breach (most sensitive information exposed)

  • Who: Equifax, one of 3 major credit reporting agencies in the US
  • When: 2017, mid-May through July
  • How: A security patch needed to fix a flaw in their Apache Struts tool was not updated promptly, which left their system vulnerable and allowed hackers to gain access
  • Number of records: 143 million! Nearly half of the US population
  • Type of records exposed: Birth dates, names, Social Security numbers, driver’s license numbers, addresses, and credit card numbers. Ouch
  • Business Consequences: The chief information officer and chief security officer were forced out; they are facing a federal investigation, and their shares have dropped at least 35% since the breach was announced. They will most likely face a lawsuit involving millions of angry customers

Most Financially Damaging Data Breach (biggest financial loss)

  • Who: American Business Hack. This data breach affected multiple companies from different sectors, including Nasdaq, Visa, JCPenney, Dow Jones, JetBlue and 7-Eleven.
  • When: 2005 to 2012. A large portion of the records were stolen during the economic downturn between 2008 and 2009
  • How: A sophisticated hacking ring targeted banks, payment processors, and chain stores over eight years using malware to gain access to accounts, withdraw money, and steal and sell information. They disabled antivirus software and used anonymous web-hosting services to hide their activities
  • Number of records: 160 million credit and debit card numbers stolen and 800,000 bank accounts breached
  • Type of records: Credit and debit card numbers
  • Business Consequences: At least $300 million in losses

Cyber Security Threats:

  • Evolving ransomware
  • Malware and social engineering like phishing scams
  • Expired SSL Certificates
  • RoT (Ransomware of Things)
  • Legacy IT systems obtained through acquisition of other companies
  • Below Average IP Reputation scores

How to Avoid Becoming a Target:

  • Keep your software up to date, make sure any open source software being used is secure, and install security patches promptly
  • Use encryption on all your company devices to protect against a breach in the event it gets stolen
  • Improve overall network and application security and keep them up-to-date
  • Implement cloud-based continuous monitoring systems that assess vulnerabilities in real time
  • Create a vendor management program to monitor third party vendors and catch threats before they can take control of the system
  • Train staff to identify malicious attacks so they don’t accidentally share information with scammers
  • Classify your data so you know where all the sensitive information is stored and have proper controls in place to protect it from falling into the wrong hands

Advice for Consumers:

  • Make sure your devices are password protected.
  • Invest in credit monitoring and identity theft protection to protect yourself in the event of a data breach
  • Create strong passwords—keep your information close, and only give it out when absolutely necessary

Other considerations:


According to Anatoliy Okhotnikov, Head of Engineering for Softjourn, “in the world of IoT, our most sensitive data is now everywhere, and we have another channel to leak our personal information. Attackers will target consumer devices from your connected fridge to game console. And do not forget that everything is mobile today, so mobile security is one of the main areas to consider as well.”

Financial Services

According to John Farley, Cyber Risk Practice Leader for HUB International, “New York has traditionally led the way in regulating the financial services sector’” and with the new cybersecurity requirements that went into effect in March of this year, approximately 3,000 financial institutions, including banks, insurance companies, and other institutions will be required to:

  • Establish a cybersecurity program;
  • Adopt a written cybersecurity policy;
  • Designate a Chief Information Security Officer, or similar individual, responsible for implementing, overseeing and enforcing its new program and policy;
  • Create a vendor management program to ensure the security of their information systems;
  • Establish an incident response plan to respond to and recover from a cybersecurity event;
  • Implement a variety of additional controls, including annual penetration testing, multi-factor authentication procedures, encryption standards, data access limitations, formal log audit programs and data destruction.

It is likely that other states will follow suit.


Overall, Big Data provides numerous opportunities for businesses to grow and thrive, including the ability to increase cybersecurity protections. At the same time, this provides more opportunities for cybercriminals to identify and take advantage of vulnerabilities across systems. With Big Data comes big responsibility. As a company or institution using it, you have to be willing to accept the risks involved and ensure your company is doing everything possible to implement the highest level of security from your security protocols, network systems, and connected devices to hardware, software and applications.

By Krystal Rogers-Nelson


Established in 2009, CloudTweaks is recognized as one of the leading authorities in cloud connected technology information and consultancy services.

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