Almost 1 Billion Data Records Stolen in 2014

16 April 2015

According to a recently released study from Dutch digital security firm Gemalto, data breaches increased by 49 percent in 2014 compared to 2013, with almost 1 billion records stolen by cyber criminals worldwide. It also seems that criminals are shifting away from credit card fraud and toward identity theft in their priorities, with 54 percent of all data breaches involving the theft of personal, not financial, data.

For the purposes of the study, data records were defined as any personally identifying information, such as names, social insurance numbers, email addresses and passwords. The retail industry suffered more than most in the past year, with 55 percent of all data breaches taking place in retail contexts and a spike in attacks on point-of-sale systems.

Most of the data breaches occurred because of companies’ failure to properly encrypt their customers’ information. Less than 4 percent of all data breaches last year involved encrypted data, meaning that there is a wealth of unencrypted data in financial and retail institutions’ systems for hackers to target. Health insurers and government agencies were also targeted, with the public sector experiencing 17 percent of attacks.

Jason Hart, a vice president at the company that performed the study, said in a statement, “We’re clearly seeing a shift in the tactics of cybercriminals, with long-term identity theft becoming more of a goal than the immediacy of stealing a credit card number.”

Identity theft is much harder to recover from than credit card fraud, since identities are often sold among criminals and it’s impossible to know whether yours is still on the black market. Whether you’ve been a victim of identity theft or not, you may want to invest in a credit monitoring service that will alert you to certain activities on your credit file.