“The reported number of data breaches jumped 60 percent in 2016, mostly by hackers. See tips on how to protect yourself.
Data breaches, mostly by hackers, are skyrocketing, according to a new report from the state Attorney General.
In 2016, the personal records of 1.6 million New Yorkers were exposed as data breaches jumped 60 percent over the previous year. Social Security and financial information were the primary targets.
‘In 2016, New Yorkers were the victims of one of the highest data exposure rates in our state’s history,” said Attorney General Eric Schneiderman in an announcement about the data. “The total annual number of reported security breaches increased by 60% and the number of exposed personal records tripled. Hacking is increasingly prevalent – making it all the more important for companies and citizens alike to take precaution when sharing and storing personal data. It’s on all of us to guard against those who try to use our personal information for harm – as these breaches too often jeopardize the financial health of New Yorkers and cost the public and private sectors billions of dollars.’
Four times out of 1o, the data breach was because someone hacked in from outside. Another 14 percent of the time, the breach was by a skimming device. Only 1.48 percent of the time was it due to theft of something like a phone or computer.
It wasn’t always personally and maliciously targeted, though. This past year, employee negligence, namely the inadvertent exposure of records, accounted for 24 percent of breaches.
And what personal records were most exposed?
The most frequently acquired information in 2016 was Social Security numbers and financial account information, which together accounted for 81 percent of breaches in New York. Other records such as driver’s license numbers (8 percent), date of birth (7 percent) and password/account information (2 percent) together accounted for 1,284,037 of exposed personal records in 2016.
While they get big headlines, mega-breaches were not all that common in 2016, Schneiderman’s office said.
On October 12, 2016, Newkirk Products, Inc., a business associate of Capital District Physicians’ Health Plan, Inc., CDPHP Universal Benefits, Inc., and Capital District Physicians’ Healthcare Network, Inc., reported exposing the personal health information of 761,782 New Yorkers. The next largest breach, reported on January 13, 2016, was at HSBC bank. It exposed the financial, personal, and social security information of 251,201 New Yorkers. Additionally, breaches at Eddie Bauer and Emblem Health reportedly affected 60,205 and 55,664 New Yorkers in August and November, respectively.
The Attorney General’s Office suggests that consumers guard against threats in these ways:
- Create Strong Passwords for Online Accounts and Update Them Frequently. Use different passwords for different accounts, especially for websites where you have disseminated sensitive information, such as credit card or Social Security numbers.
- Carefully Monitor Credit Card and Debit Card Statements Each Month. If you find any abnormal transactions, contact your bank or credit card agency immediately.
- Do Not Write Down or Store Passwords Electronically. If you do, be extremely careful of where you store passwords. Be aware that any passwords stored electronically (such as in a word processing document or cell phone’s notepad) can be easily stolen and provide fraudsters with one-stop shopping for all your sensitive information. If you hand-write passwords, do not store them in plain sight.
- Do Not Post Any Sensitive Information on Social Media. Information such as birthdays, addresses, and phone numbers can be used by fraudsters to authenticate account information. Practice data minimization techniques. Don’t overshare.
- Always Be Aware of the Current Threat Landscape. Stay up to date on media reports of data security breaches and consumer advisories.”