Incidents that exposed millions of people to potential identity theft and other problems as a result of lost data have been on the rise for years, and that trend continued throughout last year.
There were a total of 1,478 major data breaches suffered worldwide last year, and that number was up 35 percent from the total observed in 2011, according to new research from the Online Trust Alliance. Much of the reason for this huge increase in exposed data is that as millions of organizations the world over begin to digitize more critical information on all sorts of things — consumers included — there is a greater risk that it becomes exposed.
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That’s particularly true of organizations that have little or nothing in the way of controls for how employees and other workers handle data on personal devices, the report said. In addition, many don’t have even basic security protocols in place for protecting data they store on non-portable devices, meaning that if someone wants to get to the information, it’s easier to do so. Further, this type of unprotected information is also easier to expose in an accident. About 26 percent of all breaches were the result of either intentional employee misconduct or accidents.
“We’re seeing a lot of issues that are caused by the low-hanging fruit, the simple things that just don’t get done,” said Aaron Weller, managing director of data protection and privacy practice at PricewaterhouseCoopers Inc., one of the sponsors of the OTA’s town hall meetings. “You see people every day using unencrypted USB keys and losing thousands of records. It’s not always the hard stuff that hurts you. Oftentimes, it’s the simple stuff.”
While many organizations say that the problem with implementing even basic security protocols is that there is a considerable cost involved, but research shows that the price tag for remediating the fallout of a data breach can be far more considerable, the report said. Last year, the average cost of such an incident was about $5.5 million.
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Data breaches can be difficult for not only businesses, but also the people victimized by them. These incidents can expose people to all kinds of identity theft and other fraud, depending upon what kind of information was exposed, and how. The average person can spend thousands on their own trying to undo the damage from such an incident.