Why Data Breaches Often Are Worse Than They First Sound

What's Hot

5 Reasons to Shop for a Home in DecemberFamily

Shoppers Boycott Businesses Selling Trump-Branded ProductsBusiness

15 Things You Should Always Buy at a Dollar StoreMore

Giving Thanks: Why Foreigners Find America AmazingAround The House

New Email Phishing Scam Targets Amazon ShoppersMore

50 Best Gifts Under $25 for Everyone on Your ListFamily

Why Washing Your Turkey Can Make You IllFamily

Pay $2 and Get Unlimited Wendy’s Frosty Treats in 2017Family

The 7 Worst Things to Buy at a Dollar StoreMore

What the Richest 1 Percent Earns in Every StateFamily

10 Ways to Retire Earlier Than Friends on the Same SalaryGrow

The 10 Best Ways to Blow Your MoneyCredit & Debt

The 50 Hottest Toys of the Past 50 YearsFamily

30 Awesome Things to Do in RetirementCollege

Data breaches usually end up being more widespread than first suspected. Find out why.

If history repeats itself, the high-profile Experian data breach announced two weeks ago today will affect a lot more than the initial estimate of about 15 million T-Mobile customers.

Quartz’s recent comparison of data-breach announcements from recent years shows that initial estimates of how many people or records were compromised usually end up dwarfed by post-investigation numbers.

For example, the publication cites numbers from announcements by the following entities:

  • U.S. Office of Personnel Management: “Approximately 4 million” in June became “21.5 million” in July.
  • Target Corp.: “Approximately 40 million” in December 2013 became “up to 70 million” in January 2014.
  • Adobe: “2.9 million” in October 2013 reportedly became at least 38 million and then more than 150 million later that month after hackers posted stolen data online.

One reason numbers change is because initial estimates are made before investigations start or as they get underway. The language that companies use in initial announcements often hints at this. For example, Adobe’s first announcement said, “Our investigation currently indicates …”

Salvatore J. Stolfo, a computer science professor and part of the Intrusion Detection Systems Group at Columbia University, tells Quartz that another reason numbers change is because companies are forced to revise their estimates after hackers post stolen data online.

Discoveries by outside law enforcement agencies also can turn up greater numbers than companies’ internal investigations.

Do you take any steps to protect yourself against data breaches? Let us know how below or on Facebook.

Stacy Johnson

It's not the usual blah, blah, blah

I know... every site you visit wants you to subscribe to their newsletter. But our news and advice is actually worth reading! For 25 years, I've been making people richer without making their eyes glaze over. You'll be glad you did. I guarantee it!


Read Next: 10 Types of People Who Fall for Scams, Schemes and Cons

Check Out Our Hottest Deals!

We're always adding new deals and coupons that'll save you big bucks. See the deals to the right and hundreds more in our Deals section.

Click here to explore 1,731 more deals!