The 8 largest information security breaches: Heartland Payment Systems, 2008-2009

Information security breaches are becoming ever more common as criminals continue to find new methods of hacking into the systems of big business. This is something that should concern us all because it could be our data that is compromised next.

One of the biggest information security breaches to date is the breach of Heartland Payment Systems.

What happened?

At the beginning of 2009, Heartland Payment Systems – a payment processing company based in Princeton, New Jersey – revealed that it had fallen victim to the biggest ever data breach to target a US-based company.

How many records were accessed?

It is thought that the details of 130 million debit and credit cards were accessed by cybercriminals during this breach.

How did the breach occur?

Cybercriminals were able to access so many files by placing malware on Heartland Payment Systems network of recorded card data, as and when it reached them from the 25,000 companies who used them to process card payments on their behalf. This cost the company millions of dollars in expenses and the loss of several clients.

What’s happened since?

A year on from the shocking information security breach which took place at Heartland, Albert Gonzalez was tried and convicted for masterminding the clever con and given 20 years in prison. This was the longest sentence ever given to a computer criminal in the USA at the time.

Recently, the company also announced a data breach guarantee which will reimburse its clients should another breach occur – something which it thinks is unlikely after improving its security practices significantly.

This breach should serve as a warning that we can never be too careful when it comes to internet security – if a company as big as Heartland can be breached in this way, anyone can.

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