SHARED INTEL: Data breaches across the globe slowed significantly in Q4 2021 versus Q1-Q3

By Vytautas Kaziukonis

After a gloomy start with its first three breach intensive quarters, 2021 has finally ended, and on a positive note.

Related: Cybersecurity experts reflect on 2021

This conclusion is derived from an analysis of data taken from our data breach detection tool, Surfshark Alert, which comprises publicly available breached data sets to inform our users of potential threats.

Our analysis looked into data breaches that occurred from October to December 2021 (Q4) and compared them with the numbers from July through August 2021 (Q3). Breached accounts were analyzed according to the country’s origin, and the actual time the breach was recorded.

All information either stolen or taken from a system without the authorization of the platform’s owner (in other words, proactively hacked or scrapped) is considered a data breach. Data associations to specific breach instances are only stipulated. Full study data is available here.

Our analysis found that 81 percent fewer users were exposed to data leaks and breaches in the last quarter of 2021 compared to the third quarter.

A quick overview of exposed data in 2021:

•Almost one billion emails were exposed last year, affecting nearly 1 out of 5 internet users.

•Q4 has seen an 81 percent drop in exposed accounts (44.2 million) compared to Q3 (235.6 million).

•Q1 saw the highest number of incidents with nearly 500 million affected users out of all quarters.

US still tops

Although the Q4 statistics largely differ from the overall annual results, countries like the US, Russia and Brazil maintained their unfortunate rankings until the end of the year.

The US topped the charts in exposed accounts this quarter with two out of 100 American internet users affected. This could have beencaused by multiple major breaches during the last three months of the year in large companies like Robinhood, Eskenazi, and GoDaddy.

Russia took second place in exposed users with the Moscow driver incident, followed by South Korea in third. The latter may have been influenced by the Reddoorz case. It was the largest data breach in Asia in Q4, affecting 5.9 million Singapore and Southeast Asian hotel customers from across the world.

Even with the numbers high, data breach statistics by country show a positive trend. Most countries showed far fewer exposed users in Q4 than Q3.

The US, France, and Canada had 90 percent fewer breached users quarter-over-quarter. However, some countries that were unscathed earlier this year stood out in the ranking. Ukraine breach and leak cases grew by 94 percent, and a 945 percent jump was recorded in South Korea.

Good start to 2022

And while there were a few unfortunate cases, we hope the general positive trend continues into the New Year.


Even with positive trends in Q4 we can’t remain complacent. New data breaches happen every day and we have to protect ourselves from their consequences.

Apart from using a VPN to prevent companies from collecting data, we invite everyone to try Surfshark Alert. It’s a tool that constantly monitors the internet for leaked and breached information to inform you of possible threats.

It’s very simple – you add your email address or ID to Alert and it will notify you if any of this data appears in breaches. It will also tell you what to do if you find yourself in that situation.

But that’s not all. Recently, we released a website safety detection tool for all of our VPN users to make this information more available. This free feature shows if any of the websites you visit were breached before and comes as a part of our browser extension.

About the essayist: Vytautas Kaziukonis is a founder and the CEO of Surfshark, which he desribes as a privacy protection toolset to enhance users’ online security.

(Editor’s note: Byron Acohido served in 2021 as a Surfshark advisory board member.)

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