Data theft: Top 5 most expensive data breaches

Data theft is off to a troubling start this year, with two massive breaches occurring in March and April. Hackers' success in grabbing millions of records at Epsilon and Sony are just the latest example of increasingly sophisticated attempts to steal sensitive personal information. Here's a list of the five most expensive data theft cases in the United States:

5. US Veterans Affairs - $25-$30 million

ZUMA Press/Newscom/File
Raul Diaz, licensed psychologist and captain in the US Army Reserve, stands at a US Department of Veterans Affairs facility in Jupiter, Fla., in this Feb. 23, 2011 file photo. After a massive data theft in 2006, the VA has shored up its procedures to secure personal data.

The names, birth dates, and Social Security numbers of 17.5 million military veterans and personnel were stolen in 2006 from a laptop that a Department of Veterans Affairs employee had taken home. The costs to the VA included money for running call centers, sending out mailings, and and paying for a year of a credit-monitoring service for victims. The Ponemon Institute, a research organization in Traverse City, Mich., estimates the breach cost at least $25 million.

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