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Attacks/Breaches

9/20/2016
11:50 AM
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2016 On Track To See Over 1 Billion Records Breached

New report shows first half breach statistics put organizations on pace to beat last year's breach numbers by a wide margin.

In spite of the fact that there have been no mega breaches on the scale of last year's Office of Personnel Management (OPM) debacle, 2016 is on pace to outstrip last year's numbers by as much as 56%, according to findings released today by Breach Level Index (BLI).

This compiler of breach data, sponsored by Gemalto, shows that the meter just keeps on spinning with new breach statistics as organizations of all sizes continue to expose personally identifiable information. In the first half of this year, 554,454,942 records were breached in 974 publicly reported incidents. That's essentially a loss of over 3 million records per day by public and private organizations. It puts the record books on track for potentially seeing a 1 billion-plus record loss year for 2016.

The catch is that these numbers could be far worse than the tabulated value: BLI reports that among the breach incidents recorded, over half of affected organizations did not know exactly how many records were compromised.

Compared to the 707,509,815 records breached in all of 2015, according to BLI, it is clear that the rate of exposures intensified during the first half of this year. Interestingly, the bulk of this year's breaches came in the second half. Whether that trend will be replicated in 2016 or the first half numbers just reflect an overall ramping up since the second half of 2015 remains to be seen. The number of overall incidents increased by about 15% from second half of 2015 to first half of 2016, according to BLI.

This year is also different in that there have been no mega breaches involving tens or hundreds of millions of data. Instead, it is a constant flow of fairly large breaches that keeps the numbers ticking up. BLI reported 29 different breaches with over 1 million records affected. 

"While 2016 might not have had as many headline-grabbing data breaches as of yet this year, it certainly has seen a continuation of large-scale assaults," the report said. "And what makes the large-scale data breaches somewhat disconcerting is that they came despite the fact that so many enterprises are supposedly bolstering their defenses in response to previous high-profile breaches." 

Additionally, this year shows clearly the shift that started in 2015 away from breaches focused primarily on simply stealing credit-card numbers to those looking deeper into victims' PII for relevant identifiers and login information necessary for carrying out more thorough identity theft. From second half of 2015 to first half of 2016, there has been a 38% increase in identity theft attacks, compared to financial access attacks which decreased by 54% in the same time period.

While it is a matter of speculation as to whether that's a product of more thorough payment card industry-protection measures, it does point to the fact that attackers are getting creative in how they monetize their efforts.

"Over the past twelve months hackers have continued to go after both low-hanging fruit and unprotected sensitive personal data that can be used to steal identities," says Jason Hart, vice president and chief technology officer for data protection at Gemalto. "The theft of user names and account affiliation may be irritating for consumers, but the failure of organizations to protect sensitive personal information and identities is a growing problem that will have implications for consumer confidence in the digital services and companies they entrust with their personal data."

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Ericka Chickowski specializes in coverage of information technology and business innovation. She has focused on information security for the better part of a decade and regularly writes about the security industry as a contributor to Dark Reading.  View Full Bio

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