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2017: Another Record-Breaking Year for Data Breaches

2017: Another Record-Breaking Year for Data Breaches
February 7, 2018

The Winter Olympics are coming up, and athletes from all over the globe are focusing on breaking records and winning gold. While the rest of the world watches the competitive glory unfold, there's another record-breaking event wrapping up, but this one is far from a winner.

The Identity Theft Resource Center and CyberScout analyzed last year's data in their 2017 Annual Data Breach Year-End Review and discovered that it was another year for record-setting numbers of data breaches. The total number of data breaches reached 1,579 separate events, which is an increase of more than 44 percent over the previous year.

The report indicated some interesting data points:

  • The business sector was at the top of the list of victims once again with 870 reported incidents, which accounted for more than half of overall total number of data breaches
  • The medical/healthcare sector reported 374 breaches while the banking/credit/financial sector suffered 134 reported breaches
  • The number of credit card numbers exposed in 2017 totaled 14,207,346, which was up 88 percent since 2016

As to how these events continue to take place, hacking was once again the most common form of initiating a data breach, with 59.5 percent of the breaches occurring as a result. Phishing and ransomware/malware attacks were the top two methods of hacking-related data breaches.

One of the biggest surprises in last year's data was the number of Social Security numbers that were exposed. More importantly, the number of compromised SSNs continued to not only be extremely high, but there was also a marked increase over the previous year. In 2017, eight times as many SSNs were exposed as in the year before.

With record-setting data breaches and the potential harm they mean for consumers, it's important that all stakeholders have a keen sense of what actionable steps they can employ in order to reduce their risk of identity theft and fraud. Along with steps like looking over all account statements for errors and ensuring you use tools like two-factor authentication and strong passwords, it's important to request copies of your credit reports regularly and look for signs of suspicious activity.

One of the largest data breaches in 2017 actually led to a benefit for consumers: the Equifax data breach in July exposed around 145 million consumers' Social Security numbers, and as a result, Equifax is offering free credit monitoring to anyone who signs up. Even if your data was not compromised in that specific event, you can still qualify. Visit equifaxsecurity2017.com before January 31 to register for one year of free monitoring.

Eva Velasquez is CEO of Identity Theft Resource Center, sponsored by CyberScout.

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