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Posted on February 16, 2017 by in Data Breach & Technology, Personal

Were there significantly more U.S. data breaches in 2016 than 2015? What do the statistics say?

The two biggest data types that were accessed by hackers in both 2015 and 2016 were social security numbers and a credit/debit card numbers. However, 2016 saw an increase in social security Number related data breaches and a decrease in credit card related data breaches.

According to data breach statistics collected by the Identity Theft Resource Center, in 2016 there were 1,093 confirmed data breaches (mostly from the business sector), quite the increase from 2015’s 780.

But the key word here is “confirmed.” We really don’t know how many data breaches went unreported or if they were simply more vigilant with their reporting in 2016. According to Eva Velasquez, President and CEO of the ITRC, they have ramped up methods of gathering information for reporting data breaches, namely through contacting states’ attorney general offices to offset all the “under-reporting of data breach incidents on the national level.”

One has to wonder just how many incidents have gone unreported, skewing these data breach statistics. Velasquez believes that data breach information should be readily available and easy for consumers to access. We couldn’t agree more.

The good news is that progress is being made. Several states have started to release data breach information on their websites.

Common Causes

How is it that so many data breaches keep occurring, month after month and year after year?

Two leading pathways to breaching data are phishing and skimming – both of which are unbelievably easy for criminals.

  • A phishing scam involves sending potential victims an email that appears to be from a legitimate sender. Instead, that email is designed to trick recipients into giving up passwords, usernames, and other sensitive information.
  • A skimming scam involves rigging ATM and point-of-sale machines with a device that collects your credit card’s information and sends it back to criminals.

The ITRC reports that skimming, phishing and a third pathway, hacking, were up in 2016 compared to 2015.

Human Error

While not as common, sometimes a data breach occurs due to the mishandling of information. Many small-business owners believe that their size makes them immune to data breaches, but if anything, they can be more vulnerable, being that they lack the funds for sophisticated cybersecurity. A simple human error or lack of training can lead to your personal information ending up in the hands of cyber criminals.

What Does It All Mean?

When it comes to data breaches and identity theft, things are not getting better.

Although cybersecurity is increasing and more businesses are requiring security awareness training of their employees, hackers still always seem to be one step ahead. Like a strain of virus that becomes tougher to defeat as new toxins are aimed at it, cybercriminals continue to innovate and find new ways to circumvent security weapons.

This means that, in order to help protect yourself, you must stay vigilant. Part of being vigilant means monitoring your bank and credit card accounts for fraudulent activity, regularly checking your credit report for accounts that you don’t recognize, and enrolling in an identity theft protection solution to help protect yourself and your family.