8 Most Devastating Data Breaches of 2014

By Markets Fool.com

Data breaches had a ton of media attention in 2014, and with good reason: 43 percent of companies have experienced a data breach in the last year. That number is up 10 percent from the year before and it's only expected to rise, according to a report from the Ponemon Institute.

Companies are attacked an average of 16,856 times a year and most incidences aren't even a blip on our radars. But the big ones are big -- huge -- and they get a ton of news coverage. So which ones were the biggest of 2014? Here's a list of the worst of the worst -- and the year isn't even over yet.

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1. Michaels
In January 2014, the craft-store chain confirmed a data breach, but didn't offer details on how the breach occurred or how many people were affected. A few months later, the company confirmed that 3 million customers' credit and debit information was stolen through a breach in its payment system.

The store's subsidiary, Aaron Brothers art framing, was also affected: An additional 400,000 customer payment records were compromised. The two independent security firms hired by Michaels to investigate the attack (the company's second data breach in three years) said they had never encountered the highly sophisticated malware technology used to hack into the payment system.

2. LivingSocial
In April 2014, hackers targeted the site and stole the names, emails, birthdays and encrypted passwords of more than 50 million customers. What made the hack particularly threatening wasn't the volume of customers affected, but that the culprits made off with passwords, which are frequently reused on other accounts. One saving grace was that merchant and customer financial data wasn't compromised.

3. eBay
In May of 2014, eBay informed the public that hackers had stolen customer usernames, encrypted email addresses and passwords from its databases. The company asked its 145 million consumers to change their passwords as a precautionary measure but it's unclear just how many users' data was stolen.

Even though hackers didn't access any sensitive financial information, consumers were still left vulnerable. Raj Samani, the vice president and CTO of McAfee EMEA, told The Washington Post, "The reality is that this data that was stolen is going to be sold."

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4. American Express
In June 2014, American Express notified nearly 76,000 California residents that their information, including names, accounts numbers, expiration dates and four-digit CVS codes, might have been breached. The company first discovered the breach in March, when the authorities notified it that large files containing customer information had been posted online.

The individuals who claimed responsibility for the attack were believed to be associated with the online "hacktivist" network Anonymous. It is unclear why American Express was targeted, but the company has placed additional fraud monitoring on its accounts and customers were not liable for any fraudulent charges.

5. P.F. Chang's
In August 2014, restaurant chain P.F. Chang's issued a statement saying 33 of its 211 locations were affected by a security breach. In June, the Secret Service alerted the company to the security compromise involving stolen credit and debit card data. It is believed that criminals used malware to steal card numbers, expiration dates and names of customers who dined at the restaurant during an eight-month time frame, but the exact number of those affected is unknown.

6. Snapchat
In October 2014, almost 98,000 stolen files from Snapchat users were posted to The Pirate Bay. Snapchat blamed third-party apps for the breach, but didn't name a culprit. An unnamed spokesperson for Snapsaved, a third-party site that allows users to save Snapchat images, posted on Facebook, "I would like to inform the public that snapsaved.com was hacked" due to a mistake in the setup of its web server. Many stolen photos containing inappropriate and pornographic images popped up on sites 4chan and Reddit, but since about half of all Snapchat users are between the ages of 13 and 17, the images were quickly deleted by the sites' moderators.

7. The Home Depot
In September 2014, Home Depot said its payment system was hacked, and about 56 million card records were stolen. This attack is said to revolve around malware that was installed on payment systems. The data breach didn't seem to impact business, as it has with Target, with the company reporting a 20 percent increase in profit during its third fiscal quarter.

8. JP Morgan Chase
In October 2014, JPMorgan reported that 76 million households and 8 million small businesseswere exposed in a data breach. The bank reported that hackers only made off with names, phone numbers and addresses, and that social security numbers, banking information and other data remained safe. JPMorgan believed hackers found root access to many of its servers, which is startling because the bank was considered to have the most exemplary security controls in place. More details will emerge as the investigation continues, but the event is shaping up to be among the biggest data breaches in history.

This article originally appeared on Go Banking Rates.

The article 8 Most Devastating Data Breaches of 2014 originally appeared on Fool.com.

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