1 billion data records were stolen last year, thanks to poor security

That's a 49 percent increase in data breaches and a 78 percent rise in data theft.
Written by Zack Whittaker, Contributor

New research suggests more than 1 billion data records were stolen from more than 1,500 individual data breaches last year.

The latest findings from Gemalto, an enterprise security firm, represent a significant year-over-year increase in both corporate breaches and data theft.

Data breaches were up by 49 percent, while the theft or loss of data records were up by 78 percent on the year prior.

Security came into prime focus last year after a spate of high-profile attacks on banks and retailers. Banking giant JPMorgan Chase, and retailer Target were named two of the largest breaches in US history. But concerns over data security were carried into the new year with an attack on health insurance provider Anthem, with up to 80 million records taken.

The motives, according to the report, were identity theft-related, rather than a financial motivation. The kinds of attacks that go after personal information, like credit cards and Social Security addresses, made up one-third of the most severe cases of breaches, a ranking based on the firm's threat level index.

"We're clearly seeing a shift in the tactics of cybercriminals, with long-term identity theft becoming more of a goal than the immediacy of stealing a credit card number," Gemalto executive Tsion Gonen said in prepared remarks.

These kinds of attacks can lead to the creation of "false identities for criminal enterprises," or a host of other crimes, Gonen said. "As data breaches become more personal, we're starting to see that the universe of risk exposure for the average person is expanding."

The Obama administration is fighting back against data breaches and theft. On Tuesday, the government announced a new early-warning cyber-threat center, with the hope of coordinating better intelligence sharing between various federal agencies.

The president is expected Friday to announce a new executive order, which aims to help private businesses share information that might help prevent cyberattacks against them and other institutions.

Editorial standards