Q&A: Ashley Madison hack only latest high-profile breach
The data breach affecting customers of the Ashley Madison website may be salacious, embarrassing or even ruinous for those involved. But it's only the latest, and not the biggest, high-profile breach of customer or employee data reported in recent years.
Hackers say they've posted account information for some 35 million customers of the Ashley Madison service, which promises opportunities for extramarital affairs. That includes names, email addresses, phone numbers and birth dates, and at least partial credit card information, such as the last four digits of account numbers.
HOW OFTEN DOES THIS HAPPEN?
All told, more than 780 data breaches were reported last year by U.S. businesses, government agencies and other organizations that had customer or employee data exposed through hacking or inadvertent leaks, according to the Identity Theft Resource Center.
HOW MANY PEOPLE HAVE BEEN AFFECTED?
An estimated 110 million Americans, or nearly half the U.S. adult population, had some information exposed by data breaches during a 12-month period ending in May 2014, according to a Ponemon Institute study.
WHAT'S THE COST TO THOSE AFFECTED?
About one in three people who are affected by data breaches will suffer some type of identity theft or fraud, according to one study by Javelin Strategy & Research. Separately, Javelin estimates U.S. consumers lost more than $16 billion to identity fraud last year.
Here are some of the biggest breaches in recent years:
— Software-maker Adobe Systems suffered a breach in 2013 that reportedly involved 150 million customer email addresses and encrypted passwords.
— Online retailer eBay had a 2014 breach involving an estimated 145 million customer names, addresses and encrypted passwords.
— Home Depot, the home improvement chain, suffered a 2014 breach that reportedly exposed about 56 million customer payment card accounts, plus email addresses for 53 million more customers.
— Retail chain Target had a breach in 2013 that reportedly affected 40 million payment cards and phone numbers or addresses for another 70 million customers.
— Sony Pictures Entertainment suffered a hack last year in which personal information for nearly 50,000 current and former employees, including salaries and social security numbers, was posted online.
— Earlier this year, the U.S. Office of Personnel Management suffered a hack involving sensitive information including social security numbers and even fingerprint records for up to 25 million current and former federal workers.
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