After just being bombarded with the endless options of gifts for your loved ones, a simple reminder that the next blitz is just around the corner. And you are a target. 2011 started relatively tame for breaches but when hacktivism and a few other entities decided to take hold, it became a massive year for lost data. From retail to healthcare to government to schools to financial institutions – no one was immune. Household names like Sony, RSA, Lockheed and Sega were all hit. Privacy Rights Clearinghouse reports that 535 security breaches in 2011 exposed 30 million sensitive records to identity thieves and other rip-off artists. Since 2005, 543 million records have been breached – almost double the US population and about 7% of the entire world’s population. Looking at the entire Privacy Rights Clearinghouse list is staggering both in numbers and names.
It might not get better any time soon. Since mobile devices have become fixed appendages and continue to dominate many areas of our lives (phone, entertainment, email, GPS, banking, work, etc), the crooks will look for more ways to infiltrate that love affair. I suspect that mobile financial (payment/banking) apps will get a lot of attention this year as will malware laced apps. Our health information is also at risk. Medical records are being digitized. A 2009 stimulus bill included incentives for doctors and hospitals who embrace electronic health records. The CDC saw a 12% increase from last year – now 57% of office-based physicians use electronic health records. The inadvertent result is that the number of reported breaches is up 32% this year according to Ponemon Institute. That cost the health care industry somewhere in the neighborhood of $6.5 Billion. Now you might think that you have less control over a health provider’s systems than your own mobile device. While mostly true, close to half of those case involved a lost or stolen phone or personal computer. Some sort of human element involved.
It is really up to each of us to practice safe computing and, if you’re knowledgeable, share insight with those who are not tech savvy. Yes, you can be the most cautious internet citizen and still be a victim due to someone else’s mistake, oversight or vulnerability. Even so, it is still important to be aware and do what you can. For centuries we’ve been physically protecting our property, neighbors, towns, identity and anything else important to us. At times, the thieves, enemies and otherwise unwanted still got in and created havoc. Advances and admissions, plus the value of whatever needed protection kept the battle going. It continues today in the digital universe.