The exact number is uncertain because several companies with large user-bases do not publish transparency reports (AOL and eBay – we are looking at you). Nevertheless, based on data tracked by the Identity Theft Resource Center and CNNMoney’s own review of corporate disclosures, a total of 432 million US data beaches have been identified.
The type of information stolen includes name, birthday, bank card details, passwords, security questions, and physical address, so we are taking about information that can do real damage in the hands of criminals.
CNNMoney breaks these beaches into the following rather shocking numbers:
- 70 million Target customers‘ personal information, plus 40 million credit and debit cards
- 33 million Adobe user credentials, plus 3.2 million stolen credit and debit cards
- 4.6 million Snapchat users’ account data
- 3 million payment cards used at Michaels
- 1.1 million cards from Neiman Marcus
- “A significant number” of AOL’s 120 million account holders
- Potentially all of eBay’s 148 million customers’ credentials
The report suggests the reasons for this are twofold, being a combination of how people are spending ever more time on the internet (and therefore banking, shopping, and paying bills online), and because hackers are becoming increasingly sophisticated; capable of performing devastating attacks on companies with military precision.
Unfortunately there is little we as customers can do about big corporate data breaches, although the use of strong passwords, VPN when using public WiFi hotspots, learning to spot fake websites, using good anti-virus software, never opening suspicious email attachments, and never giving out valuable data over an unsecured connection (look for a padlock and https:// in the browser address bar) can at least help prevent hacking attacks targeted at you as an individual.