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Learning from the Past: Key Takeaways from Major Cybersecurity Breaches

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Sophie Dodson

A tech-savvy author, seamlessly integrating computer science and computer graphic design expertise for a precision-focused approach in her writing, currently specializing in cybersecurity topics.

In recent years, the cybersecurity landscape has been marred by significant breaches, impacting organizations across various industries. Each breach serves as a lesson, offering insights into vulnerabilities, attack vectors, and the importance of robust security measures. This blog delves into key takeaways from major cybersecurity breaches, providing actionable steps to fortify your organization’s defenses.

The Equifax Data Breach – Importance of Patch Management

In 2017, Equifax, one of the largest credit reporting agencies, suffered a massive data breach that exposed the personal information of approximately 147 million people. The breach was traced back to a vulnerability in the Apache Struts web application framework, which had a known security patch available.

Key Takeaways:

  • Patch Management: Ensure timely application of security patches. Establish a robust patch management process to address vulnerabilities as soon as patches are released.
  • Regular Audits: Conduct regular security audits to identify and address unpatched systems.

The SolarWinds Attack – Supply Chain Security

The SolarWinds attack, discovered in December 2020, was a sophisticated supply chain attack that compromised the software build process of the Orion IT monitoring platform. The attackers inserted malicious code, which was distributed to thousands of SolarWinds customers, including several U.S. government agencies.

Key Takeaways:

  • Supply Chain Security: Vet third-party vendors and ensure they adhere to stringent security practices. Implement security measures to monitor and protect against supply chain vulnerabilities.
  • Network Segmentation: Use network segmentation to limit the spread of attacks. Isolate critical systems from the rest of the network to contain potential breaches.

The Colonial Pipeline Ransomware Attack – Incident Response Planning

In May 2021, Colonial Pipeline, a major fuel pipeline operator in the U.S., was hit by a ransomware attack that disrupted fuel supply across the East Coast. The attackers gained access through a compromised VPN account.

Key Takeaways:

  • Incident Response Planning: Develop and regularly update an incident response plan. Conduct simulations and drills to ensure preparedness for various attack scenarios.
  • Access Controls: Strengthen access controls, including the use of multi-factor authentication (MFA) for all remote access points.

The Marriott Data Breach – Data Encryption

Marriott International experienced a data breach in 2018 that exposed the personal information of approximately 500 million guests. The breach was traced back to Starwood Hotels, which Marriott had acquired in 2016. The attackers had been accessing the Starwood network since 2014.

Key Takeaways:

  • Data Encryption: Encrypt sensitive data both in transit and at rest to protect it from unauthorized access.
  • Due Diligence: Perform thorough security assessments during mergers and acquisitions to identify and mitigate inherited risks.

The Twitter Hack – Insider Threats

In July 2020, Twitter experienced a high-profile hack where attackers gained control of several high-profile accounts through social engineering. The attackers targeted Twitter employees, gaining access to internal tools.

Key Takeaways:

  • Insider Threat Management: Implement comprehensive insider threat programs to detect and prevent malicious insider activities. This includes monitoring employee activities and providing regular security training.
  • Social Engineering Defense: Educate employees about social engineering tactics and implement strong verification processes for access requests.


Learning from past cybersecurity breaches is crucial for building a resilient security posture. By understanding the causes and responses to these incidents, organizations can implement stronger defenses and reduce the risk of future breaches. Emphasizing the importance of patch management, supply chain security, incident response planning, data encryption, and insider threat management will go a long way in protecting your organization.

At Admin By Request, we offer a comprehensive Privileged Access Management (PAM) solution that aligns with these lessons, helping you manage and monitor privileged access to minimize the risk of breaches. Take proactive steps today to secure your organization against tomorrow’s threats. Learn more about our PAM solution and request a demo to see how we can help enhance your cybersecurity defenses.

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