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Attacks/Breaches

4/11/2018
02:10 PM
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2.6 Billion-Plus Data Records Breached Last Year

Most exposed data records caused by human error.

Every minute, nearly 5,000 data records are lost or stolen somewhere around the globe: that’s more than 7.1 million a day.

New data from security firm Gemalto's annual Breach Level Index calculated more than 2.6 billion data records were compromised in 2017 – either lost, stolen, or left exposed online – an 88% increase from 2016.

The good news is that the number of publicly reported data breaches dropped by 11%, to 1,765 last year. Even so, there were more data records compromised than ever before, many of which (1.9 billion) were the result of human error such as misconfigured databases and negligent handling or disposal of records. Human error-borne incidents rose an eye-popping 580% last year over 2016.

One trend driving the human error problem is the wave of organizations misconfiguring their online server instances, as well as incorrectly assuming the cloud provider handles all of their data security. "They automatically assume since they are going to the cloud, things are secure. Well, they're not," says Jason Hart, vice president and CTO for data protection at Gemalto. "You still need to configure it properly, and see that your data is secured. It's not AWS [Amazon Web Services] that's the custodian of the data."

Gemalto's finding jibes with that of IBM X-Force data from earlier this month, which cited 70% of compromised data records coming at the hands of insider mistakes like networked backup incidents and misconfigured cloud servers. 

Identity theft remained the most common category of data breach, according to Gemalto, accounting for 69% of all data breach incidents and more than 600 million records. That was also 73% higher than in 2016. Outside attackerss were the number one perpetrator in 2017, executing 72% of all breaches, while malicious insider-borne attacks dipped a bit. Meanwhile, the total number of stolen records by insiders increased 117% with 30 million records exposed.

But the total numbers of data breaches and exposed records to come this year and in the near future are likely to be much higher than the ones reported in 2017, mainly due to breach reporting rules in Europe's General Data Protection Regulation, aka GDPR, and the new Australian Privacy Act, which both take effect this year, notes Hart. "The results we've seen seem very low. Once you see these [new regulations] kick in, that's where you're going to see the numbers go through the roof this time next year" in the report, he says.

Healthcare suffered the most breaches of any specific industry sector last year, with 27% of them, followed by financial services (12%), education (11%), and government (11%). Government led with the most data records compromised overall (18%), followed by financial services (9.1%) and technology (16%). Interestingly, the number of incidents hitting healthcare dropped 11.3% last year from the year before, but encompassed more compromised data.

The Gemalto 2017 Breach Level Index Report also highlighted the top five largest data breaches of 2017, including Equifax (147.7 million records); River City Media (1.34 billion email addresses), Deep Root Analytics (198 million records); Alteryx (120 million records); and Center for Election Systems at Kennesaw State University (7.5 million records).

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Kelly Jackson Higgins is the Executive Editor of Dark Reading. She is an award-winning veteran technology and business journalist with more than two decades of experience in reporting and editing for various publications, including Network Computing, Secure Enterprise ... View Full Bio

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