Data Breaches: Year in Review
December 2011 - Privacy Rights Clearinghouse - There are hundreds of ways that a consumer's personal information may be lost, stolen or exposed. An employee may lose a laptop, hackers may download credit card numbers or sensitive personal data may be accidentally exposed online.
Privacy Rights Clearinghouse has been tracking breaches since 2005 and publishes a Chronology of Data Breaches. The Chronology counts the number of records leaked that contain information useful to identity thieves, such as Social Security numbers, financial account numbers, driver's license numbers – and in some states, medical information.
2011 was a significant year for data security, with some of the biggest data breaches in our history reported. So far in 2011, we’ve tracked 535 breaches involving 30.4 million sensitive records. This brings the total reported records breached in the U.S. since 2005 to the alarming number of 543 million.
"This is a conservative number," says Director Beth Givens, "We generally learn about breaches that garner media attention. Unfortunately, many do not. And, because many states do not require companies to report data breaches to a central clearinghouse, data breaches occur that we never hear about. Our Chronology is only a sampling."
Data breaches of sensitive information, especially Social Security and credit card numbers, make consumers vulnerable to identity theft. According to a 2009 report by Javelin Research & Strategy, individuals are four times more likely to be the victim of identity theft in the year after receiving a data breach notification letter. But even breaches that contain data as seemingly innocuous as names and email addresses can be used by fraudsters to trick consumers into revealing information that can lead to identity theft.
Unfortunately, it is virtually impossible for individuals to protect themselves from a data breach. It is up to organizations that collect data on consumers to take the steps to ensure the privacy and security of the data they collect and maintain.
Click here for a PDF of the complete article.