Seems like hardly a day goes by when there isn’t another massive data breach in the news, right? That’s because there is.
In fact, there have been an average of 2 reported data breaches every single day for the past five years. And that’s just the reported ones. If you include all the other data breaches that are discovered and not reported, or simply never discovered at all, we could be looking at ten or even twenty times that number.
And those data breaches combined have exposed more than a billion personal, financial, and medical records just in the U.S.
Some of the breaches have been massive and scary:
- In 2013, a data breach at Target Stores exposed the personal information, including email addresses and credit card numbers, of more than 70 million people. And it was all triggered by just one employee clicking on an email that hid some malware allegedly created by a teenager.
- Data breaches at just two healthcare companies in March of 2015 exposed the Social Security Numbers of one in every two adults in America.
- Between 2003 and 2006, hackers stole more nearly 200 million credit card numbers by hacking into companies like TJ Maxx, Dave and Busters, and Heartland Payment Systems. All they did was cruise by their offices at night looking for networks that had no passwords.
- In December 2016, tech giant Yahoo! Announced yet another massive hack, this one involving more than 1 billion user accounts. A separate hack at Yahoo! in September may have compromised another half a billion accounts.
And according to security firm Gemalto, the primary focus for the majority of deliberate data breaches is not data theft or espionage but identity theft.
So why should you care?
- Each data breach helps hackers join the dots, and create a more complete and financially useful version of your identity.
- Even something like an email address can be of value to criminals, because if they can associate you with a company you already do business with, they can easily trick you into falling for a scam.
- Some reports in recent years from the non-profit Identity Theft Resource Center have found that close to 40% of exposed records have included Social Security Numbers.
- If hackers get a password for one account, they can easily find if you’re using the same password for other accounts.
- Hackers are increasingly targeting healthcare companies and medical clinics in search of medical identities. And medical identity theft can be much harder to fight than other forms of identity theft.