The 5 Scariest Data Breaches in Government
Let’s face it – data breaches are everywhere. It seems like every week a new story emerges about a big name corporation falling victim to yet another online hack.
Here’s how it goes:
The hackers steal our private data, the corporation issues an apology and…..repeat.
While the Facebooks and Marriotts of the world continue to shine a light on online security issues, there’s another group that’s falling prey to the deep dark world of data breaches – the government.That’s right:
Governments around the world have had their fair share of scandalous hacks. Whether they were widely known scandals or swept under the rug, the following cybersecurity fails don’t inspire much confidence in our world leaders.
Yes, government ineptitude knows no bounds and these data breaches prove just that. Read on to learn more about some seriously scary data breaches we wish had been avoided.
The Office of Personnel Management
No one likes background checks. They take an inordinate amount of time, they cost excessive amounts of money, and they’ve foiled the gainful employment of countless people.
That all pales in comparison to the colossal breach that hit the Office of Personnel Management back in 2015.
Here’s what happened:
A hack of government computer systems exposed the personal information of over 21 million people. The hackers stole health and financial history, personal addresses and plenty of other personal information in the process.
Unfortunately, the hack targeted pretty much anyone who had conducted a government background check within the last 15 years. Even worse, their spouses and family members were also targeted in the attack.
Naturally, the government blamed China for the attack…rather than take responsibility for their massive failure.
Notably, this data breach came on the heels of a separate breach that impacted over 4 million federal employees just one month earlier. You can’t make this stuff up.
National Archives and Records Administration
Always destroy the evidence. This classic bit of wisdom has helped everyone from corrupt politicians to shady stockbrokers roam free and continue their villainous antics.
Apparently, the NARA didn’t get the memo.
The NARA (or National Archive and Records Administration) left the data of over 76 million servicemen exposed in late 2009. Basically, one of their hard drives malfunctioned so they sent it back to their IT contractor for repairs.
The only problem? They forgot to wipe it clean beforehand. As a result, the data of millions of veterans were put at risk. The data included the Social Security numbers of veterans and military members dating all the way back to 1972.
And to think: it could have all been avoided had they wiped the hard drive clean. Or, you know, included even basic encryption software. Yikes.
Hey, look, a data breach not involving the U.S. government. Progress!
Aadhaar is a confidential 12-digit number assigned to Indian citizens for their government database. Think of it like a Social Security number. Indians can use Aadhaar for things like voting, opening a bank account…even ordering an Uber. Seriously.
You’d think that such an important piece of information would be protected by the Indian government right? Wrong.
In early 2018, a data breach exposed the Aadhar numbers of over 166,000 federal workers in the Indian state of Jharkhand. Even worse, it was soon revealed that the system was left without a password dating back to 2014.
For four years, anyone could steal the private information of Indian residents without ever being detected. And you thought our government was careless!
Swedish Transportation Agency
It seems odd that a wonderful place like Sweden would appear on this list, but no one is immune to the ravages of vicious online hacks.
Back in 2017, the Swedish government outsourced the management of its vehicle registration database to IBM. The Eastern European IBM contractors seemed trustworthy enough…until a massive data breach revealed the driver’s license records of Swedish citizens.
You may be wondering:
What’s so bad about driver’s license records? Well, the hackers got more than just that.
The breach also affected confidential military data and the identities of undercover security agents. After the dust had settled, two top-ranking government officials resigned in disgrace. This scandal was almost as bad as…
The U.S. Voter Database
Politics is a nasty business. Party affiliation can lead to intense Facebook arguments, vicious Youtube comment threads, and uncomfortable family dinners. Trust me.
Yes, our political affiliation is best kept hidden – especially in the era of Cambridge Analytica and Russian bots. That’s what makes this data breach so scary.
In 2015, over 190 million voters had their data exposed, including their names, addresses, contact information and party affiliation. Only the data wasn’t stolen by a malicious group of Russian hackers.
Ironically, it was discovered by a tech support specialist researching exposed data. It turns out the voter database was incorrectly configured and plastered up on the Internet for anyone to find.
The breach wasn’t so much an inside job as it was a result of general incompetence and human error. Still, you can imagine the sort of damage that could be done with that kind of information.
It was the largest government data breach to date…until the next one inevitably pops up. Words of wisdom? Be prepared.
CHRIS PARKER is the founder of WhatIsMyIPAddress.com, the premier website for helping people throughout the world find, check or get details on a specific IP Address. Today, it attracts more than six million visitors monthly thanks to its IP address-related tools and easy-to-read, informative articles.