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2013: “The Year of the Mega Breach”

AdobeIt feels like this blog reported more internet security exploits in 2013 than ever before, and if we go by the number of “mega breaches”, it’s a fact.

For example, popular companies like LivingSocial and Evernote lost the data of 50 million users each, although Adobe (creators of Photoshop) took the ignoble crown of “most lost users” with 150 million breached records. Ouch

These three examples, along with five other high-profile hacks, all hemorrhaged more than 10 million records each – the threshold for the unwanted classification of “mega breach”.

These breaches, along with 245 others* meant that a total of 552 million identities were stolen from companies in 2013 alone. That’s a 14th of the popular of the Earth, or nearly a quarter of all internet-enabled people. Scary!

Interestingly, while a lot of viruses and hacks are traditionally attributed to people in developing nations, such as citizens of eastern Europe or Asia, the majority of online malicious attacks actually originated from inside the USA. The country with the world’s largest GDP was responsible for 20.3% of all malicious activity on the web. Will this statistic put an end to the idea that poverty and lack of opportunity increases cyber crime?

What can we do?

Unfortunately for us computer users, there’s nothing we can do to stop big companies from being hacked and our data being stolen.

Some people suggest that if a website doesn’t need your real information, enter dummy data (e.g. putting your address as 123 Fake Street) so if your account is hacked, you don’t lose any of your real information.

Other people advise you to separate your “real” email, the one that you give to family and friends, from an “online sign-up address”, which you only use for signing up to online services. This means if the companies are hacked, your personal account isn’t part of the criminal’s windfall.

The best option if you’re concerned about your data, however, is just to not sign-up for websites that you don’t intend on using. If the companies don’t have your information in the first place, they can’t lose it.

Whatever precautions you take, the most important thing is to be aware of phishing emails – messages that try to get your information from you. Lots of hackers steal email information from websites and then contact the hacked person, pretending to be a bank or another familiar service, in an attempt to trick information from them.

The message will claim that to stay safe online, the user has to enter their login details/bank information/email password in an online form. Of course, none of this is official, and all of which will result in a criminal getting your information.

Stay safe by never opening links in emails that you weren’t expecting. If you think you need to visit the website, go there directly, rather than clicking in an email.

* as recorded by the Symantec Global Intelligence Network

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One Response to 2013: “The Year of the Mega Breach”

  1. If big brands can get hacked, imagine how at-risk smaller companies/sites might be! While these brands should be doing everything they can to protect our data we clearly can’t always rely on their measures alone.

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