Major Websites, Major Security Issues: A Brief History

With a slew of recent data breaches on prominent online platforms, users may now be doubting the safety of their favorite sites. Some are opting to limit or eliminate their web presences altogether to avoid the inherent security risks that come along with an online footprint. Others choose to proceed with increased caution.

Sharaf Maksumov /

As more information comes to surface about the way personal data is protected (or not), many are realizing they are not aware of the security history of many of their sites. With the pace of contemporary news, breaches or other risks which may threaten user information can get buried in the endless cycle.

To refresh your memory about the way data and information has been handled by major sites, we’ve recapped some of the major breaches and other security issues faced by some of the most popular websites in the past few years.


You are more than likely aware of Facebook’s biggest data misuse scandal to date: Cambridge Analytica. The news of this particular situation broke in March of this year. In summary, Facebook improperly exposed the information of 87 million users to the political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica, which worked with the 2016 Donald Trump campaign. The revelation has sparked renewed and greater interest in the ways social media platforms collect and use information and the ways in which greater regulation is needed to protect user interests.

[Since Cambridge Analytica, a number of other Facebook issues have become known. Check out our articles.]

Prior to Cambridge Analytica, Facebook also had a security issue back in 2013, when a bug exposed contact details of about 6 million users that were not meant to be shared. The issue was connected to the Facebook feature that allows you to download your information — unshared email addresses and phone numbers of friends were made available to certain users who accessed the feature.


Twitter had its most recent security scare in May, when it advised users to change their passwords after they were accidentally exposed in plain text. This was not technically a breach as the site does not believe the passwords were accessed, but it was a major security lapse that threatened user information.

Prior to this recent issue, Twitter dealt with a similar incident back in 2016, when login information for more than 30 million users was compromised. However, this data was accessed through malware on user browsers. Twitter servers were never breached themselves.

In 2013, the site faced an actual hacking from apparent experts, and information from about 250,000 users was breached before the intrusion was contained.


Google faced a high profile security issue in 2014, when 5 million Gmail passwords and logins were released on a Russian online forum. Google notified users affected by the leak at the time.

Outside the realm of personal data collection, Google also had a publicized breach on a national security level when Chinese hackers obtained information about U.S. surveillance operations. While the actual incident occurred earlier, news of that situation broke in 2013.


Yahoo was the target of two major breaches that were made public in 2016 — one that occured in 2013, and another from 2014. The breach in 2013 was particularly notable due to its sheer magnitude: it exposed the information of all 3 billion Yahoo users. Accessed information included user names, passwords and emails.

The 2014 breach is reported to have affected 500 million Yahoo users. Names, contact information, birthdays and and certain account security questions were accessed.

[Yahoo’s breach is one of the largest known breaches in the modern era. Here’s more info on that incident…and five other massive breaches.]


In 2017, Netflix usernames and passwords were found among other website login credentials in a huge file of breached information circulating the dark web.

While it did not directly affect user information, Netflix has also had security issues in the more recently emerging area of data ransom. In this instance, hackers accessed unaired episodes of Netflix series “Orange Is the New Black” and threatened to release them if not paid.

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