The three worst data leaks in the financial sector


Banks, fintechs and other financial institutions have a unique responsibility to maintain the highest level of data security. Billions of people trust them with highly sensitive personal information, ranging from credit scores to home addresses, dates of birth and social security numbers.

However, this data means that banks are very attractive targets for cybercriminals, who could hit the jackpot if they manage to break through their defenses. When hackers obtain the information stored by financial institutions, they can profit from it by selling data to other criminals on the dark web who can use this information to steal victims’ identities and destroy their credit ratings, or just escape with all their hard-earned money. .

Due to the high stakes of protecting people’s money and sensitive personal information, banks take security very seriously. But today, cybersecurity professionals often adopt a “presumptive breach” mindset in which they accept that an attack is unavoidable. Which indicates that even the strictest security will be tested at some point – and possibly compromised.

Hacks can be extremely costly, which means banks need to be prepared. So to help them better understand the threat, here are in reverse order the three costliest data breaches in the history of the bank.

3) JPMorgan Chase

Year 2014

Cost: $100 million

Number of customers affected: 83 million

Many data leaks and breaches are the result of negligence or even malicious insiders. However, the JP Morgan Chase hack was done by some really daring criminals.

In 2014, as part of an extensive stock manipulation scheme, thieves used the “heartbleed” vulnerability to steal employee credentials and gain access to JP Morgan systems.

After penetrating the network, malware was installed to allow persistent access and data exfiltration.

From July to August 2014, hackers stole employee data, personal customer data, and communications between senior JP Morgan officials. The stolen data has been used in several scams.

2) Heartland Payment Systems

Year: 2008

Cost: $140 million

Number of customers affected: 130 million

Heartland Payment Systems was the sixth largest payroll processor in the United States at the time of this breach.

Using a hacking technique called an SQL injection attack, Albert Gonzalez was able to modify code on a web script, giving him access to the login page.

The attack went undetected for months, earning Gonzalez numerous credit cards, gift cards, and rewards that were then used to fund his party lifestyle.

Gonzalez dubbed the hack “Operation Get Rich or Die Tryin'”, which may have referred to the name of an album by rapper 50 Cent.

Dealing with the breach cost $140 million, according to ComputerWorld. Of that money, $60 million was spent settling with Visa, $42 million was earmarked for future settlements, $3.5 million was used to settle with American Express, and legal fees amounted to at least $26 million.

SQL injection attacks are widespread, accounting for nearly two-thirds (65.1%) of all web application attacks in 2019.

1) Equifax Inc.

Year: 2017

Cost: $300 million

Number of customers affected: 143 million

US credit bureau Equifax has been hit by a breach involving names, social security numbers, dates of birth, phone numbers and email addresses. Additionally, the hackers stole the credit card numbers of more than 209,000 consumers.

The data breach was caused by a third-party vulnerability in Apache Struts. A patch was available to close this vulnerability, but Equifax had not applied it to its servers.

As a result of the breach, the CEO, CSO and CIO all resigned. A $300 million settlement has been reached in a class action lawsuit and Equifax has agreed to lifetime credit monitoring for everyone involved.

Cyber ​​attackers are looking for the easiest way to gain unauthorized access to misconfigured attached storage devices, open databases or cloud ecosystems to steal the most valuable information held by an organization. When a vulnerability or data leak hits a hacker’s radar, it can become a costly breach, in more ways than one, as discussed above.

It is therefore necessary for any organization, but particularly for finance, to adopt a proactive approach to cybersecurity. The priority should be to detect and resolve security issues before they are exploited and become a major flaw.


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