Resource: Articles

The data breaches that made businesses pay attention to security

Data integrity is a massive issue, one that is only getting bigger as monolithic businesses use increasing amounts of user data. Here is when people woke up.

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Data breaches that made businesses pay attention to security

Since the establishment of the concept of “big data” as a vital aspect of many modern businesses, data hosting services have needed to be bigger, faster and more robust to keep up with demand and ensure the safety and integrity of user data.

As recent breaches such as the 560m people affected by the hack of Ticketmaster attests, data breaches are so huge, significant and potentially costly to those affected that any business that does not have a robust data protection system in place is either already breaking the law or risking the safety and security of their users.

Without a data integrity plan, backup hosts and contingencies for contingencies, there is a risk of a Library of Alexandria situation where a single spark can engulf a company in flames and leave it with nothing but cinders to rebuild from.

This was not always appreciated, of course, particularly in the early days of the World Wide Web where online society was treated more like a global village or something that was not quite real.

It took some significant data breaches to show just how important it was to keep digital personal data as secure as hard copies of the same information.

The AOL Inside Job

America Online has always been a controversial company and was in the 1990s one of the biggest harbingers of change when it came to the development and perception of the internet from a small village to a sprawling megalopolis.

It is impossible to go through all of AOL’s controversies, from endless disks to class-action lawsuits concerning child labor, but two major data issues made people start to pay attention to just how much information was held about them and why it mattered.

The first was the theft of 92m usernames and email addresses from the AOL Instant Messenger in what was later found to be an inside job, sold for just $28,000 to a known spammer intended to advertise an off-shore gambling website.

Less than three years later, AOL themselves released a text file containing the search keywords used by 650,000 users in early 2006, and whilst this information did not include names or email addresses, the metadata was used to expose the identities of several people.

It became the greatest proof yet that whatever is put on the internet will stay on the internet, so prevention is far more effective and cheaper than cure.

These constant data controversies would, alongside poor business practices, eventually damage the former internet monolith, which now exists as a brand owned by Yahoo, themselves part of the biggest data breach in history.

Sidekick Data Loss

The development of smartphones led to a rise in the reliance on cloud data, especially since a lot of early smartphones did not have huge capacities for onboard storage.

The T-Mobile Sidekick sorted this, much like Apple and Blackberry had, with cloud data storage, but the 2009 data outage caused by server failures in transitioning cloud data to Microsoft Azure services effectively derailed the takeup of cloud hosting for nearly a decade.

The class-action lawsuit alleged that they failed in their duty of providing even the most basic data protection and the consequences hurt the entire concept of cloud computing for a very long time.

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