Digital Detectives

The Panama Papers: The World’s Largest Data Breach

May 23, 201629 min
2.6 terabytes of information spanning over forty years of a Panamanian law firm’s life was leaked to a German newspaper and subsequently, the world. What questions does this raise about a law firm’s responsibility for the loss of client/customer data? What lessons can we learn about security as a result of this firm’s data being compromised? In this episode of the Digital Detectives, hosts Sharon Nelson and John Simek chat with Nuix Chief Technology Officer Stephen Stewart about the Panama Papers, the world’s largest breach of information. Stephen explains that a law firm in Panama named Mossack Fonseca had 2.6 terabytes of information taken from them by an anonymous party, who then gave that information to the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung (SZ). The leaked data contained 11.5 million items that consisted of roughly 5 million emails, 3 million databases, 2 million PDF files, and 1 million images. In an attempt to understand and further investigate the received data, SZ then contacted the International Consortium of Investigative Reporters (ICIJ). Stephen talks about what the ICIJ is (basically an international network that includes 165 investigative journalists over 65 countries) and how Nuix’s software was utilized to aid in the data analysis. The group discusses the authorities’ later raid on the law firm’s office and what evidence the digital forensics experts and financial analysts might be looking for. Stephen closes the interview with an summary of the practices that this breach sheds light on, like who the beneficiaries of offshore funds really are and what significant revelations might come from this particular breach. Stephen Stewart joined Nuix in 2008 and is responsible for leading the evolution of Nuix’s software. He is currently driving the development of Nuix's information governance and big data solutions. Stephen has more than 15 years experience working with both public and private sector organizations, designing and providing solutions for their email, file, document management and archiving systems.

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