What are the Worst Government Data Breaches?

August 7, 2019 1:29 PM , Updated August 20, 2019 7:27 AM
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Red padlock pictured on a grey background with the words 'data breach' above it - cybersecurity

A new report from the website Comparitech.com lists the top 10 data breaches in federal agencies from the past five years. Comparitech describes itself as “a pro-consumer website providing information, tools, and comparisons to help consumers in the US, UK and further afield to research and compare tech services.”

The report notes that the federal government has had 443 data breaches since 2014, and 2018 was the worst year so far in that five year period.

So which agencies had the worst breaches? This is the list:

  • U.S. Postal Service (DC) – 60,000,000 records – 2018
  • Office of Personnel Management (DC) – 21,500,000 records – 2015
  • California Secretary of State (CA) – 19,200,000 records – 2017
  • Government Payment Service, Inc. (IN) – 14,000,000 records – 2018
  • Georgia Secretary of State (GA) – 6,000,000 records – 2015
  • Office of Child Support Enforcement (WA) – 5,000,000 records – 2016
  • Office of Personnel Management (DC) – 4,200,000 records – 2015
  • U.S. Postal Service (DC) – 3,650,000 records – 2014
  • Los Angeles County 211 (CA) – 3,200,000 records – 2018
  • Washington Department of Fishing and Wildlife (WA) – 2,435,452 – 2016

The data breaches that hit OPM perhaps had some of the most notoriety given how bad they were. With over 20 million current and former federal employees’ personal data left vulnerable, some of which was particularly sensitive and included information such as fingerprints, it gained national attention.

The report also notes that the Department of Veterans Affairs and Department of Health have had data breaches more frequently than other agencies, something the report says “might be due to poor security, more attack vectors, higher value data, or larger volume of data.”

The report also includes a detailed breakout of data breaches by state and the number of records impacted in each state.

The findings from the Comparitech report echo what was published in a recent Senate report that found numerous vulnerabilities in federal agencies’ IT systems and networks are leaving Americans’ personal data at risk. Given the findings from the Senate investigation, it is not a big surprise that the federal government has experienced so many data breaches in such a short amount of time.

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About the Author

Ian Smith is one of the co-founders of FedSmith.com. He enjoys writing about current topics that affect the federal workforce.