Take a look at any of the websites that track data breaches and one thing is clear: Data breaches are now occurring much more frequently than in previous years, even though organizations have increased cybersecurity budgets and are committing more resources to breach prevention.
Since records of data breaches fist started being kept by the Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC) in 2005, there have been 6,619 data breaches and more than 881 million records have been exposed or stolen.
2014 was a particularly bad year for data breaches, with 783 data exposure or data loss incidents tracked by the ITRC. In 2015, 781 incidents were reported, although the scale of some of those incidents were notable. 2015 saw the colossal data breach at Anthem Inc., which resulted in the theft of a huge amount of health plan data. 78.8 million individuals were affected by that breach. In total, 169 million people were affected by data breaches in 2015 according to ITRC figures.
However, 2016 has seen an incredible 809 data breaches reported so far. Even if the year needed today, 2016 would be a record-breaking year and there are still six weeks to go before the year is out. If data breaches continue at the current rate, this year is likely to end up with a breach count 25% higher than 2015.
ITRC figures show that no industry sector is immune to attack from hackers and other cybercriminals, although the most commonly targeted industries are business, healthcare, finance, the government/military, and education.
Business sector data breaches account for almost 49% of the 2016 total, with the healthcare sector in second place with 36.2% of data breaches. Education is in third place with 8.9% of breaches, closely following by the government/military with 6.9% of the total and the finance and banking industry which accounts for 4.2% of all reported breaches.
However, it is the healthcare industry that stands out in terms of the number of exposed or stolen records. 48.4% of exposed or stolen records came from incidents affecting the healthcare industry. More than 14 million healthcare records have been exposed or stolen so far in 2016.
It should be noted that organizations are now disclosing data breaches due to changes in legislation that forces them to notify individuals of breaches of sensitive information. There is also pressure from the public to report the exposure of sensitive data.
That said, the breach figures strongly suggest that cybercriminal activity is on the increase and more data breaches are now occurring than ever before. More must therefore be done to counter the threat and better protect networks and data.