One of the largest data breaches in history has resulted in the leak of eleven million confidential documents - around 2.6TB of data - from financial firm Mossack Fonseca, one of the most secretive companies in the world.
According to the BBC, the leaked documents reveal how "Mossack Fonseca has helped clients launder money, dodge sanctions and evade tax."
The client list features some of the world's richest and most influential people - including 12 current or former heads of state - and their irrepressible greed has now been laid out for all to see. The data shows how thousands of off-shore shell companies have been created in order to hide money from the tax man and also reveals "a suspected billion-dollar money laundering ring involving close associates of Russian President Vladimir Putin."
Gerard Ryle, director of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), said: "I think the leak will prove to be probably the biggest blow the offshore world has ever taken because of the extent of the documents."
A statement from Mossack Fonseca says: "Your allegations that we provide structures supposedly designed to hide the identity of the real owners, are completely unsupported and false. We do not provide beneficiary services to deceive banks. It is difficult, not to say impossible, not to provide banks with the identity of final beneficiaries and the origin of funds."
"If we detect suspicious activity or misconduct, we are quick to report it to the authorities. Similarly, when authorities approach us with evidence of possible misconduct, we always co-operate fully with them."
There probably won't be many times when I'll get to say this, but nice work hackers, a job well done.
UPDATE: According to IBTimes, international football superstar Lionel Messi is among those detailed in the leaks, along with Michel Platini and several other leading officials, placing the world of football under intense scrutiny.
Luke Brown, VP and GM EMEA, India and Latam at Digital Guardian commented: "Putting aside the fact that the leaked emails and documents appear to include information about illicit operations, for the victims, a data breach of this scale could have life altering or, at the very least, distressing effects. Ultimately, the breach may trigger serious legal repercussions against Mossack Fonseca. Data protection should be of the utmost importance in environments like this and yet we have seen a growing number of data breaches in law firms over the last few months.
"This latest case reinforces the need for “data aware” security technologies in the legal sector. If Mossack Fonseca had such technologies in place, it could have prevented its most sensitive emails and files from being copied, moved or deleted without approval or permission.
"Companies must learn from incidents like this and better protect their IT environment, with the ability to apply security at the data-level being of the utmost importance."
Image Credit: Brian A Jackson / Shutterstock