The business world is abuzz with discussions of the big data revolution; businesses are accumulating more data than ever before, and with the right tools and the right skills, this data can be an immensely valuable and powerful resource.

But despite the increasing focus on making the most of the vast amounts of data that course through the veins of the modern digital economy, we continue to see major organisations managing to lose some of the most valuable and sensitive data they hold.

There is a palpable sense of public paranoia about how personal data is used, and what measures organisations take to keep it safe. Judging by these 5 shocking data loss disasters, there may be some justification for this general atmosphere of distrust…

Heartland Payment Systems Get Hacked

Heartland Payment Systems is the 6th largest credit card processor in the USA. They handle card transactions for millions of merchants and customers, so understandably, they have a pretty big incentive to keep their servers secure.

Unfortunately though, a hacker by the name of Albert Gonzalez and his team of computer experts managed to compromise Heartland’s secure servers via some code inserted into an SQL database.

The resulting scripts were able to collect and transmit the credit card data and personal information of a whopping 130 million unfortunate customers, making this one of the biggest (and scariest) data loss incidents ever.

US Government Loses Military Data

Even the biggest businesses can be careless sometimes, but governments are surely even more vigilant. They’re experts at keeping secrets, so they probably know a thing or two about security, right?

Rather embarrassingly, the National Archive and Records Administration (NARA), who keep records for the US military, managed to dispel any such illusions of impenetrability.

When one of their hard drives failed, they sent it to a data recovery specialist, as anyone might. Worryingly, that hard drive contained the personal information of over 75 million government employees, including army personnel and secret service operatives!

You’ll be happy to know that the data wasn’t lost or stolen, but it’s a close call never the less!

Bank Of America Misplace A Tape

You’ve probably heard of the Bank of America – they’re one of the biggest financial companies in the world.

A bank this size has a lot of sensitive data, so you’ll be happy to know that they keep it all secure and backed up in case the worst happens. Unfortunately, they don’t keep their back up data quite as secure as you might expect.

In fact, they once ‘misplaced’ a backup tape that contained over a million government employees’ personal information – including that of a Senator. No one knows where the tape ended up, but we can only hope it didn’t fall into the wrong hands.

Royal Navy Lose Applicant Data

Regular criminals can sometimes stumble upon highly sensitive data, as the British Royal Navy discovered to their detriment.

Imagine keeping application information from over ten years’ worth of Royal Navy applicants on a laptop; you might not think that’s such a big deal…

But when you give that laptop to a Navy Officer, who leaves it in his car, and then his car gets stolen, the situation starts looking a little more serious!

British Prisoner Data Escapes

Prisons are meant to be the most secure places of all. They are designed purely to keep people in and accounted for. But perhaps data handling isn’t their speciality.

The British Home Office lost all of its data on over 80 thousand prisoners when one employee transferred all of that data from a secure server onto a USB stick…and then lost the USB stick.

Ironically, he was given the go ahead to transfer the data but was warned not to lose it, which, in hindsight, was probably good advice.

Are you doing enough to protect the data your business holds? Make sure you learn the lessons from these tales of woe, and find out more about beefing up your protection.