Data Breaches Could Reach All-Time High by End of 2021: ITRC

NBC 7 Responds looks at the growing number of data breaches and how criminals are trying to use the information

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Data breaches are on the rise. Criminals are attacking companies and hoping to get personal information, that they can use to turn a profit.

"We're seeing a significant rise in the number of data compromises," said James Lee of the Identity Theft Resource Center. "We're now on a path that takes us to an all-time high by the end of the year."

In the second quarter of 2021, the ITRC said it saw a 38% increase in data compromises from the first quarter. Lee says the type of information taken varies by an attack.

"It's sensitive information at times like your social security number or a payment card, could be an account number," Lee said. "They want your logins and passwords so they can use that to compromise other accounts."

A major way criminals are trying to make money through cyberattacks is by using ransomware. This type of attack requires them to get inside a company or organization's computer systems, then encrypt it until a ransom is paid to unlock it.

"Back in 2018, a large ransomware payment was somewhere between $5,000 and $10,000," Lee said. "Today, it's in the millions of dollars."

Even though attacks are up by a lot, the ITRC says the number of people attacked individually is dropping. By the end of 2021, the report estimates 250 million people will have their data compromised, compared to 310 million people last year.

"They're using individual data to attack a business now as opposed to using individual data to attack an individual," Lee said. "Every consumer still has to be concerned about their own personal cybersecurity and their own personal data privacy."

Lee says there are many ways to try and step up your security online.

  1. Password management: Use different passwords for each account, especially work and personal accounts
  2. Use long passwords: Lee says you should focus on making long passwords instead of only complicated ones. Longer passwords are harder for someone to break by brute force attacks.
  3. Use a password manager: Some browsers have password managers built into them, and other software is available to manage your passwords as well.
  4. Multi-factor identification: On accounts with private information, such as bank accounts or social media platforms, turn on the option for Two-Factor Authentication. Whenever you log in for the first time, you will be asked for a code sent to a secure app on another device.
  5. Freeze your credit: To prevent someone from opening accounts in your name, go to the three major credit bureaus and freeze your credit. Lee says it's a good habit to get into so you stop criminals from using your information.
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