Data maintained by Privacy Rights Clearinghouse shows that federal and state government agencies publicly disclosed a total of 203 data breaches over the past five years.
In all, the breaches resulted in nearly 47 million records being stolen, exposed or otherwise compromised. The number of breached records does not include the numerous cases where agencies either did not disclose the scope of their data breach or the actual number of records that might have been involved.
It also does not include data from incidents like Edward Snowden’s theft of classified documents from the National Security Agency (NSA) or the recently disclosed theft of 50 TB of government data by another former contractor for the NSA and other federal agencies.
In terms of raw numbers, federal and state government agencies suffereda lot fewer breaches and exposed fewer data records than private companies. PRC numbers show that between 2012 and 2016 for instance, financial and insurance companies, retailers, and other businesses disclosed some 950 breaches involving 244.5 million records.
What makes the government breaches more significant though is the kind of information involved. In a majority of cases, government breaches involved personally identifying data, such as names, Social Security numbers, and birthdates, the loss of which have substantially greater consequences for victims than breaches involving loss of credit card data or email account information. In a few cases, the breaches involved loss of top secret and highly confidential data of national security value.
Here, ranked in ascending order of severity, are seven of the most significant government data breaches of the past three years.