Data Breaches That Shook the World

By: Stephen Midgley | 3/20/2015

We barely go a few weeks without a major data story hitting the headlines. Lost, stolen, ousted or hacked, there’s an increasing trend for valuable personal and business data being compromised. Though going ‘digital’ has made data security more challenging, data breaches have been happening throughout history.

In “Data Events That Shook the World,” an article I wrote for Wired’s Innovation Insights, I explore how data breaches have been impacting the world for centuries. I share an example from 1605 where a leaked letter led to the execution of Guy Fawkes. Then there’s the capture of the German Enigma machine which allowed British code breakers to crack German signal traffic. These data incidents changed the course of our history, and breaches today continue to have major impacts.

The shift to ‘digital’ data started with the floppy disk and has continued evolving with portable devices and the evolution of the Internet. Each new device, new app, and new social media platform comes with both opportunities and risks for organizations, as each becomes a vulnerable portal for data.

In the article, I reflect on how our attitudes toward data have changed dramatically in the past 30 years, in response to the now vast amounts of data and its digitization, and how this has been reflected in data protection regulation. While regulations have certainly made data loss more accountable, they have not helped prevent it, as we've seen with the epic data breaches of this past decade.

With even greater pushes towards digital initiatives such as Care.Data and Digital by Default, organizations need to radically step-up their security to avoid some of the historic security blunders of the past. To read more about my thoughts on the evolution of data breaches and their impact, read the rest of my article on Wired.

To learn how your organization secure the data of today, visit

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