Security breaches and sensitive data losses are seemingly regular occurrences nowadays and every internet user finds themselves being more aware of the imminent threat of cyber-attacks. On top of this it’s not just our computers that need protecting – there are now dozens of security applications out there designed to keep our smartphones and tablets safe too.
However, despite the ubiquity of cyber-attacks and hacking, the magnitude of cyber-crimes is, quite frankly, astonishing. “Hold Security”, a company based in Milwaukee, have discovered evidence of some 1.2 billion username and password combinations – the largest known collection of stolen login credentials to-date.
Moreover, the records also reveal over 500 million email addresses and all of this information is thought to have originated from approximately 420,000 different websites, including some well-known household names.
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Not the first time
It’s not the first time that “Hold Security” have uncovered evidence of large-scale hacks either. Last year, they highlighted the theft of tens of millions of records from Adobe Systems.
The New York Times first broke this story and, to double-check its authenticity, asked an independent security expert to verify Hold Security’s claims. The result – the discovery was confirmed authentic.
More worryingly, a different security expert said that some big companies were aware that their information was among the stolen records. Incidents of cyber-attacks such as this have got the internet security community increasingly worried that they are losing the battle against the hackers.
Even the largest firms aren’t safe
Eastern European hackers were blamed for a huge theft towards the end of last year, in which some 40 million credit card numbers and 70 million addresses were stolen. This data breach affected US retail giant “Target” who even acknowledged that their security systems had warned them about a possible attack but they chose to ignore the threat!
Unfortunately, revelations like this do nothing to bolster company-client relationships and massively damage consumer trust. Companies should be doing everything in their power to safeguard the information of their customers. Mimecast email security is a great option for firms looking to benefit from the most comprehensive, cloud-based email security available today.
However, Hold Security’s discovery dwarfs any previous data thefts and surprisingly showed that Russian websites were among those affected. This would suggest that the hackers were not working for the Russian government and, perhaps more worryingly, implies that no websites are out of bounds.
Data used for spamming, not sold
It appears that the stolen information has not been sold but instead been used to send spam on social networks like Twitter. The hackers collect fees from the spam originators for their work. This is actually quite a strange reality as selling the information on the black market would be far more lucrative.
Of course, the problem for individuals is that while credit cards can be easily cancelled, more personal information can be used for identity theft. Furthermore, the email addresses and passwords they use for one site are often the same for other sites, so the hackers stand a good chance of gleaning more information with just a little more work.