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Hackers stole 447M private records in 2018, up 126%

Computer with code on the screen. (Pixabay/Relesaed)
February 07, 2019

More than 400 million consumer records were hacked in 2018, breaking a record over 2017.

The 2018 End-of-Year Data Breach Report from the Identity Theft Resource Center revealed that the figures indicate an increase of 126 percent from the previous year, setting a single-year record high for the number of hacked files, NBC News reported.

The report stated, “Data breaches are now a normal, everyday occurrence.”

Eva Casey-Velasquez, ITRC’s president and CEO said, “While the number of U.S. data breaches dropped 23 percent from last year’s high (1,244 vs. 1,632), that’s nothing to cheer about. If breaches are down, but more records are stolen, that’s a serious problem.”

She added, “This is telling us that we are creating a system and processes that make it easier for the thieves to compromise.  We’re collecting and storing more and more data in single places, so that the criminals only have to commit one hack or one breach of that institution to get all of those records.”

The report warned that using Facebook to log in to other platforms is very dangerous and allows hackers to access tokens that support automatic logins, which supports data breaches.

Adam Levin, founder and chairman of CyberScout, said, “The crooks are continuing to get better. Businesses are also getting better but, unfortunately, we’re in an arms race and the bad guys keep advancing faster than the good guys.”

Cyber security expert Lorrie Faith Cranor, director of Cylab at Carnegie Mellon University, said, “We’ve always been sloppy when it comes to data security and the hackers are finding creative new ways to exploit that. We are definitely seeing attacks that focus on the human element, both at the individual level — new forms of phishing attacks — but also at the enterprise level — humans making mistakes that allow for a large-scale breach.”

The report likens a consumer’s identity to a puzzle; “the more accurate pieces a thief has about someone, the more they can successfully represent that person.”

The report also warns that if hackers get ahold of an email address, they can easily hack an account. The worst kind of hack is that of medical files.

Pam Dixon, executive director of the World Privacy Forum said, “Medical identity theft is a very serious form of identity theft and there’s no real way to prevent it after a data breach.”

Medical records are popular among hackers since they can use the information to commit insurance fraud.

“You’ll go to your doctor and suddenly there’s all this new, fake, and incorrect information in your health file. That can create some serious problems,” Dixon said.

Security experts say that “every adult in the U.S. and millions of children should expect they have been hacked at least once.”

Levin said, “You have to assume the worst, that all of your personal information is out there already, so you are incredibly vulnerable. That’s why it’s so important for people to act differently. You must minimize your risk and monitor your accounts. Constant vigilance is the only defense.”