Collection #1: What We Can Learn from the Largest-Ever Public Breach

The sheer volume of data leaked in the latest large-scale breach is a major cause for concern.

In the history of megabreaches – like the Equifax data breach in July of 2017, which affected 143 million consumers in the U.S. – there has never been a breach quite like this one.

The breached data collection, known as Collection #1, gathered and leaked 772,904,991 unique email addresses and over 21 million unique passwords. Within the Collection #1 folder, a whopping 12,000 files weighing in at over 87 gigabytes was made public. In a class of its own, the breach was an aggregate data hack – a breach of breaches –  rather than an attack on one database or institution.


Security researcher Troy Hunt, who runs the website Have I Been Pwned and first discovered the breach, confirmed that Collection #1 was posted to a hacking forum.


In an interview with WIRED, Hunt stated:


“It just looks like a completely random collection of sites purely to maximize the number of credentials available to hackers … There’s no obvious patterns, just maximum exposure.”


While megabreaches have been frighteningly common in recent years (like Yahoo’s pair of incidents, which affected close to 4 billion users), a breach of this scale has never been made public.


How Serious Was This Breach?

Although there wasn’t any sensitive information – like Social Security or credit card numbers – exposed by this breach, it is another unnerving episode in the realm of cyber security for several reasons.



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For one, the way in which passwords were saved within Collection #1 is problematic. Usually, even hacked passwords are cryptographically hashed, making them extremely difficult to use. In the case of Collection #1, however, the passwords were saved as plain text passwords, meaning anyone with the ability to scroll and click could’ve gained access to user accounts.


Secondly, the exposed records in Collection #1 appeared on MEGA, one of the most popular cloud storage sites, before they were taken down. After they were on MEGA, Collection #1 ended up on a public hacking site, available for anyone to grab. This makes the breach all the more serious for users worried about protecting their data.


What You Can Do to Augment Personal Safety


From the standpoint of consumers, Collection #1 raises questions about the safety of online accounts. In order to protect against unauthorized access, consumers must bear in mind the necessary precautions to securing their personal information, such as:



Consumers can also test their personal exposure with one of many cyber security resources online. For example, using Hunt’s website, Have I Been Pwned, will reveal whether or not your email or password has been compromised during a recent breach.


If you are concerned about the overall security of your organization’s data, SubRosa Cyber Solutions can provide a thorough monitoring of your systems and expose your vulnerabilities. Being proactive about safeguarding your personal information is the only way to protect against large-scale megabreaches of this kind, and SubRosa is prepared to help. To learn more, contact one of our security experts today.

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