The biggest data breach ever

The latest security gaffe from Telstra has seen a lot of brickbats thrown its way and with the Australian Privacy Commissioner now launching his own investigation into just what transpired the invectives against the telco will only get stronger. One big question, as highlighted by David Glance in his piece today, is whether Telstra could have handled the situation better.

Telstra is by no means the only company to be careless with customer data. Vodafone found itself in hot water earlier this year after it allowed its partners access to its Siebel CRM system putting customers' personal details, billing and call records at risk. Dell Inc exposed Australian customer data when the systems at its European provider, Epsilon, were breached last April, while the well publicised troubles of Sony Computer Entertainment also had serious implications for Australian users.

Companies are quick to initiate damage control once the act has been brought to light, but often it’s too little too late as far as reputational damage is concerned and unfortunately the problem is not going away unless companies figure out a better way to make customer data available to remote users and third parties.

Having said that, the travails of Telstra, Vodafone and even Sony are still nowhere near  the biggest data breach recorded in modern times – either measured by the number of accounts compromised or the estimation of the total costs of the attack.

As this infographic from Rasmussen College's School of Technology & Design, courtesy of PCMag.com highlights, that particular distinction goes to the 2008 data breach of Heartland Payment Systems, which cost the credit card transaction processor up to $US7.8 billion in total costs.