Equifax named the most Googled data breach of all time

2014's Heartbleed takes the top spot for cyber threat searches

man reading computer code

The infamous 2017 Equifax data breach that affected 148 million individuals, including more than 600,000 UK citizens, is the most searched for data breach of all time, according to cybersecurity firm Redscan.

The company scoured Google's annual Year in Search report to find out which data protection incidents had attracted the most attention from people using the search engine over the past year.

The Collection #1 data breach was 2019's most searched-for data protection incident. In previous years, Marriott (2018), Equifax (2017), Yahoo (2016) and Anthem (2015) have had the dubious honour of being the most searched-for data breaches on Google.

The Redscan researchers said Equifax's behaviour following the breach, including late disclosure and communicating details poorly, as well as three of its executives selling millions of dollars worth of stock before announcing the incident, could have spiked search interest.

Although the world of business has seen some fairly significant cyber security threats in recent years, such as Mirai, NotPetya and Bluekeep, the threat that eclipsed them all in terms of Google searches was 2014's Heartbleed.

The bug found in the OpenSSL cryptographic software library used to secure online connections and underpin the security of servers and VPNs, was discovered in 2014 but was believed to be around for two years prior.

The likes of Mumsnet, Gloucester City Council and the Canada Revenue Agency were hit and data was stolen as a result, including social insurance numbers and other sensitive information.

Heartbleed received more than twice as many search hits than WannaCry, famous for crippling the NHS, and almost four times as many as Meltdown which affected widely deployed Intel and ARM processors.

"The disruption and damage breaches can cause means that swiftly detecting and responding to them has never been so important," said Redscan in the report.

"Businesses need to learn from the mistakes of organisations such as Equifax and ensure that if they suffer a breach, they have appropriate procedures in place to report it to regulators as well as communicate the risks to all individuals affected."

It's not all doom and gloom however the report also shone a light on the most searched for cyber security celebrites on Google.

Canadian investor and cyber security personality Robert Herjavec was the most searched industry figure in 2019, raking a similar number of searches as Holly Hunter, best known for voicing Elastigirl in the hit movie series The Incredibles.

Herjavec, founded internet security software company BRAK Systems which he sold in 2000 to AT&T for $30 million (24,136,500)  but is perhaps best known for his TV appearances on Dragon's Den and Shark Tank.

John McAffee came in second place, the controversial cyber security pioneer equalled the number of searches as David Bradley, the actor famous for roles in the Harry Potter series and Game of Thrones. Kevin Mitnick, Bruce Schneier and Troy Hunt comprised the rest of the top five.

Although the need for passwords hasn't lessened in recent years, that fact isn't represented in the number of people researching the topic. Searches for 'passwords' have declined dramatically around a 90% reduction searches has been observed since 2004.

"It's a bit concerning that searches for passwords are in such a steep decline," said Redscan. "Good password hygiene is essential, and people are often really bad at setting unique passwords."

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