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Healthcare and government now the targets instead of online credit card scams

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February 23, 2016

According to the latest report of the Gemalto Breach Level Index, healthcare and government have been the real targets of data security breaches and online attacks instead of credit card scams.

In all, a total of 1,673 data security breaches led to no less than 707 million data records being compromised globally during 2015.

However, not all security breaches were equally as serious and the number of records disclosed is only one metric.

Gemalto’s study attempts to recognise this by assigning a severity score to each security breach based on factors including the type of data and the number of records compromised, the source of the breach, and whether or not the data was encrypted.

The methodology aims to distinguish nuisances from high impact mega breaches. More than 3.6 billion data records have been exposed since 2013, when Gemalto began benchmarking publicly disclosed data breaches.

Last year, malicious outsiders and hackers were the leading source of these security breaches, accounting for 964, or 58 percent of all breaches and 38 percent of compromised records.

Accidental loss or exposure of data records accounted for 36 percent of all records. The number of state-sponsored attacks accounted for about two percent of data breach incidents, but the number of records compromised as a result of those attacks made up 15 percent of all records exposed.

The disproportionate impact of a small number of breaches is partly explained by the high impact breach at the United States Office of Personnel Management (OPM), which exposed the personal details of multiple government employees and leaked all manner of sensitive information from background checks and related documents.

Malicious insiders accounted for 14 percent of all data breaches and just seven percent of compromised records.

In terms of geographic regions, 59 percent of all reported security breach incidents happened in the United States. Europe accounted for 12 percent of overall breach incidents, followed by the Asia Pacific region at eight percent.

Overall, identity theft remained the primary type of security breach on most days, accounting for about 53.2 percent of all breaches and 40 percent of all compromised records.

The government sector accounted for 43 percent of compromised data records, a five-fold increase over 2014 due to several very large data breaches in the United States and Turkey, and 16 percent of all data breaches.

The healthcare sector accounted for 19 percent of total records compromised and 23 percent of all data breaches.

By contrast, the retail sector witnessed the number of stolen data records dropping 93 percent year-on-year, so that it accounted for about six percent of stolen records and 10 percent per cent of the total number of breaches last year.

This is in large part because the year 2014 was a particularly bad year for data breaches in the retail sector, with problems at Home Depot, Target and others skewing numbers towards the very top of the list.

The financial services sector also saw close to a 99 percent drop, representing just 0.1 percent of compromised data records and 15 percent of the total number of data security breaches.

Criminal hackers over the last year or so have shifted their focus away from traditional credit card fraud and towards stealing personal information in furtherance of identity theft.

This change is ugly news for both consumers and businesses alike, according to Gemalto. "In 2014, consumers may have been concerned about having their credit card numbers stolen, but there are built-in protections to limit the financial risks," said Jason Hart, Vice President and chief technology officer for data protection at Gemalto.

"But in 2015, cybercriminals shifted to attacks on personal information and identity theft, which are much harder to remediate once they are stolen,” Hart added.

“As companies and devices collect ever-increasing amounts of customer information and as consumers' online digital activities become more diverse and prolific, more data about what they do, who they are and what they like is at risk to be stolen from the companies that store their data,” Hart said.

"If consumers' entire personal data and identities are being co-opted again and again by cyber criminals, trust will increasingly become the centrepiece in the calculus of which companies they do business with,” he added.

Source: Gemalto Internet Security.

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