The number of U.S. citizens who have experienced a data breach has increased, according to Pew Research. In fact, 18% of adults have had information stolen via the Internet between 2013 and 2014. Such information could be a Social Security number, credit card or bank account data. In 2013, that number was only 11%. The total percentage of adults who have had their email or social networking account hacked was 21%, or more than one out of five adults.
Cybersecurity isn’t as safe as some may have thought. Companies as large as Target and Neiman Marcus have experienced major data breaches that resulted in the compromise of millions of customers’ credit and debit card information. Additionally, the Heartbleed Bug in Internet security protocols used by a large portion of the Web was recently exposed, raising awareness of major holes in the protection that keeps user information secure.
In addition to basic security breaches, many are also becoming concerned about the amount of personal information that is available to hackers online through social networking sites. Half of those surveyed reported this concern in 2014, while only 33% were worried about this issue in 2009.
The Latest Data Breach
A data breach that possibly compromised up to 200 million Social Security numbers is currently under investigation by several state Attorneys General. In 2012, a man used a false identity to purchase Social Security numbers from a database called Court Ventures. Experian then purchased Court Ventures, and it is unclear when either company became aware of the serious data breach.
The culprit was identified last month as Vietnamese national Hieu Minh Ngo, according to NBC news. Ngo ran an underground website that offered Social Security numbers he had acquired from Experian and Court Ventures. It is unclear how many Social Security numbers have been compromised through this data breach, but the total pool of information from which Ngo could have pulled numbers amounted to about 200 million.
The companies involved say they are unable to determine which records Ngo had accessed, and cannot notify the victims. The data breach has resulted in a multi-state investigation.
[Editor's note: If you're concerned about whether your data is being used to commit financial fraud, it's important to monitor your credit reports -- you can start by pulling your free annual credit reports -- for signs of fraud. It's also important to monitor your credit scores for any unexpected drops -- and you can access your credit scores for free through Credit.com.]
More on Identity Theft:
- Identity Theft: What You Need to Know
- How Can You Tell If Your Identity Has Been Stolen?
- What Should I Do If I’m a Victim of Identity Theft?