Project: Visualization

Major Data Breaches

The history of data breaches began before companies started storing their data digitally. Back then, a data breach might consist of physical file theft or unauthorized personnel exposure. However, computers and the Age of Information Technology led to a higher frequency of data breaches in the 1980s. This has resulted in a rise of public awareness between the 1990s and early 2000s.

Since 2004, there have been 336 major data breaches- defined as a security event with a record loss of 30,000 records or more. Between these 336 data breaches alone, 27,837,914,908 records have been lost.

My visualization project aims to analyze these major data breaches by modeling a global data set sourced from Information is Beautiful. The questions the models are designed to answer are:

When have the largest data breaches occurred?
What sectors have been affected the most?
Which companies have lost the most records?
How has this data loss occurred?

What I discovered from this project is that the data is skewed towards two major security events. The first security event happened in 2013 with the hacking of Yahoo. Three years after the breach, Yahoo disclosed that one billion users accounts had been affected. Once acquired by Verizon Communications, it was announced that the number of records was triple that at three billion.

The second security event involved data aggregating and analytics-service Apollo in 2018. After conducting an investigation, they reported that a third-party sales intelligence company had compromised a large set of aggregate data from various websites and their own customers. The number of records involved in this breach totaled 9,000,000,000 records.

My findings from the research in the link below raise the question: how do these data breaches fit into the context of cybersecurity in the last two decades?


Juliana, Groot. “The History of Data Breaches.” Text. Digital Guardian, November 12, 2018.

Newman, Lily. “The Apollo Breach Included Billions of Data Points.” WIRED. Accessed April 30, 2020.

Perlroth, Nicole. “All 3 Billion Yahoo Accounts Were Affected by 2013 Attack.” The New York Times, October 3, 2017, sec. Technology.

Information is Beautiful. “World’s Biggest Data Breaches & Hacks.” Accessed April 29, 2020.

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