Security Market Segment LS
Tuesday, 09 October 2018 19:59

Over 4 billion data records breached in six months: security report

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Over 4 billion data records breached in six months: security report Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

More than four billion data records were compromised by data breaches worldwide in the first half of 2018, with six social media breaches accounting for more than 56% of the records compromised, according to a new global security report.

The latest breach level index released by digital security company Gemalto reveals 945 data breaches led to 4.5 billion data records being compromised worldwide in the first half of 2018 – and of the 945 breaches, 189 (20% of all breaches) had an unknown or unaccounted number of compromised data records.

The report also reveals that compared to the corresponding period in 2017, the number of lost, stolen or compromised records increased by 133%, though the total number of breaches slightly decreased over the same period, which Gemalto says signals an increase in the severity of each incident.

Gemalto’s Breach Level Index is a global database that tracks data breaches and measures their severity based on multiple characteristics, including the number of records compromised, the type of data, the source of the breach, how the data was used, and whether or not the data was encrypted.

And by assigning a severity score to each breach, the Breach Level Index provides a comparative list of breaches, distinguishing data breaches that are not serious versus those that are “truly impactful”.

According to the Breach Level Index, almost 15 billion data records have been exposed since 2013, when the index began benchmarking publicly disclosed data breaches.

During the first six months of 2018, more than 25 million records were compromised or exposed every day, or 291 records every second, including medical, credit card and/or financial data or personally identifiable information.

“This is particularly concerning, since only one percent of the stolen, lost or compromised data records were protected by encryption to render the information useless, a percent-and-a-half drop compared to the first six months of 2017,” the report says.

"Obviously, this year social media has been the top industry and threat vector for the compromise of personal data, a trend we can expect to continue with more and more sectors leveraging these platforms to reach key audiences, especially political teams gearing up for major elections," said Jason Hart, vice president and chief technology officer for data protection at Gemalto.

"We also expect to see more data breaches reported by European Union countries bound by the new General Data Protection Regulation and in Australia with the new Notifiable Data Breaches law. We should be careful not to misconstrue this as an increase in overall incidents in these areas but rather as a more accurate reflection of what is actually going on."

The Gemalto report also reveals:

Primary sources of data breaches

Malicious outsiders caused the largest percentage of data breaches (56%), a slight decrease of almost 7% over the second half of 2017, and accounted for over 80% of all stolen, compromised or lost records. Accidental loss accounted for over 879 million (9%) of the records lost this half, the second most common cause of data breaches representing over one third of incidents. The number of records and incidents involved in malicious insider attacks fell by 50%  this half, compared to the corresponding time period in 2017.

Leading types of data breaches

Identity theft continues to be the leading type of data breach, as it has been since Gemalto first started tracking in 2013. While the number of identity theft breaches increased by 13% over the second half of 2017 to just over 64%, the number of records stolen through these incidents increased by 539%, representing over 87%  of all records stolen.

Financial access incidents show a disturbing trend in the escalation of severity. Though overall incident numbers are on the decline — H1 2017 vs. H1 2018 showed 171 incidents for H1 2017 and 123 for H1 2018 — the number of records breached increased from 2.7 million in H1 2017 to 359 million in H1 2018.

Industries most affected by data breaches

Most sectors saw an increase in the number of incidents compared to the previous half – the exceptions were government, professional services, retail and technology, though both government and retail saw an increase in the number of records breached through fewer events.

Healthcare continues to lead in number of incidents (27%). The largest such incident, 211 LA County, exposed 3.5 million records through accidental loss.

Social media ranks top for number of records breached (56%) due to the high-profile customer data compromises at Facebook and Twitter, involving 2.2 billion and 336 million respectively.

Geographic distribution of data breaches

North America still accounts for the majority of all breaches and the number of compromised records, 59% and 72% respectively. The US is still far and away the most popular target for attacks, representing more than 57% of global breaches and accounting for 72% of all records stolen, though overall incidents are down 17% over the prior half.

With the implementation of the Notifiable Data Breaches law, the number of incidents in Australia increased dramatically from 18 to 308 as could be expected.

Europe saw 36% fewer incidents but a 28% increase in the number of records breached indicating growing severity of attacks. The UK remains the most breached country in the region. With the General Data Protection Regulation in full effect for the second half of 2018, the number of reported incidents could begin to rise.

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Peter Dinham

Peter Dinham is a co-founder of iTWire and a 35-year veteran journalist and corporate communications consultant. He has worked as a journalist in all forms of media – newspapers/magazines, radio, television, press agency and now, online – including with the Canberra Times, The Examiner (Tasmania), the ABC and AAP-Reuters. As a freelance journalist he also had articles published in Australian and overseas magazines. He worked in the corporate communications/public relations sector, in-house with an airline, and as a senior executive in Australia of the world’s largest communications consultancy, Burson-Marsteller. He also ran his own communications consultancy and was a co-founder in Australia of the global photographic agency, the Image Bank (now Getty Images).

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