2016 saw huge glut of data breaches, with 1.4bn files compromised

28 Mar 2017

The deluge of data breaches appears overwhelming to most companies. Image: GaudiLab/Shutterstock

New research into the global damage of security breaches has revealed an extensive cache of stolen data records, totalling 1.4bn.

Trying to quantify the number of data breaches in any particular year might seem like a tall order. Not only are SMEs unprepared for the security challenges that face them, but companies such as Yahoo are seeing hundreds of millions of account details being robbed in an instant.

Digital security agency Gemalto has revealed the true extent of breaches in 2016 with its Breach Level Index.

Future Human

AdultFriendFinder breach hard to ignore

The index is a global database that tracks data breaches and measures their severity based on multiple dimensions, 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.

A severity score is assigned to each breach with 10 being the most impactful, for example, AdultFriendFinder’s leak of 412m records in November last year.

Based on the data obtained, Gemalto showed that there were 1,792 breaches last year, totalling a staggering 1.4bn data records – an 86pc increase compared with 2015.

The most affected area of digital security was identity, with 59pc of all breaches falling under this category, showing an increase of 5pc on 2015.

Account access data breaches followed close behind but, despite a 3pc decrease on 2015, the number of records accessed increased by 336pc.

Sectors hit hardest

Malicious outsiders were found to be the leading source of data breaches, accounting for 68pc of breaches, up from 13pc in 2015.

Despite the number of hacktivist breaches increasing by 31pc in 2016, its prevalence remains quite low overall, accounting for just 3pc of all breaches.

Outside of the tech sector, healthcare was hit the hardest, making up 28pc of all targeted breaches – an increase of 11pc on 2015.

Government also saw a 15pc increase in breaches last year, jumping by 27pc.

However, both education (5pc) and financial companies (12pc) saw their breaches decline in number by 27pc and 23pc, respectively.

Hackers casting net far and wide

Going as far back as 2013, the index has found that 7bn data records have been breached, equating to 3m records leaked each day, or around one every 44 seconds.

“Hackers are casting a wider net and are using easily attainable account and identity information as a starting point for high-value targets,” said Gemalto’s vice-president and CTO, Jason Hart.

“Clearly, fraudsters are also shifting from attacks targeted at financial organisations to infiltrating large databases, such as entertainment and social media sites.”

Click on the infographic below for a larger version.

Gemalto Breach Level Index

Infographic: Gemalto

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic