Some 1.5 billion sensitive online files, from pay stubs to medical scans to patent applications, are visible on the open internet, security researchers said yesterday.
Researchers from the cybersecurity firm Digital Shadows said a scanning tool used in the first three months of 2018 found mountains of private data online from people and companies across the world.
The unprotected data amounted to some 12 petabytes, or four thousand times larger than the "Panama Papers" document trove which exposed potential corruption in dozens of countries.
"These are files that are freely available" to anyone with minimal technical knowledge, said Rick Holland, a vice president at Digital Shadows.
The availability of open data makes it easier for hackers, nation-states or rival companies to steal sensitive information, Holland said.
A significant amount of the data left open was from payroll and tax return files, which accounted for 700,000 and 60,000 files respectively, Digital Shadows said.
It noted medical files and lists were also weakly protected, with some 2.2 million body scans open to inspection.
Many corporate secrets were also out in the open including designs, patent summaries and details of yet-to-be-released products.