Each year, hacking events and data breaches continue to set new records for both the numbers of attacks and the numbers of consumer records that are compromised.
The Identity Theft Resource Center keeps a close eye on the numbers, and along with tools like Verizon’s data breach report, provides crucial information to consumers, lawmakers, and other stakeholders.
One of the findings of the most recent Verizon report is an alarming rise—a 50% increase, in fact—in the number of ransomware attacks over the year before.
As its name implies, ransomware is a form of cybercrime that occurs when hackers hold a computer or network hostage, only agreeing to unlock the system or release its hold on the data if the owners pay up. While this has been a common tactic for some time, in recent years there has been a noticeable increase in “big fish” victims that have a lot to lose from the breach. Victims routinely include hospitals, medical offices, and schools, as those types of businesses have more to lose in a data breach, such as fines for privacy violations and lawsuits related to interruption to care.
There was another interesting finding in Verizon’s study: the method and duration of an attack tend to vary depending on whether the victim is a lone consumer or a corporate entity. When criminals target an individual tech user, the effect tends to be immediate: a box pops up informing you of the situation, telling you how to pay the fine in order to retrieve your decryption key. A business, on the other hand, tends to be a “silent” long-term victim, giving the hacker time to work a virus all the way through the company’s network, hoping to even reach other companies’ computers that are connected to that one in some way. Only after the hacker knows they have complete access do they “lock” the network, potentially ensuring a bigger payday.
While this information looks grim, there was also some good news in the report. Retailers experienced a noticeable decline in attacks that took place at their point-of-sale systems. This method of attack has been responsible for a number of high-profile data breaches, like the ones that affected Target, Home Depot, Wendy’s, and many others. The decline suggests that some of the industry’s defenses are working, as well as speaks to the successful initial rollout of “chip” credit cards.
If you think you may be a victim of identity theft, contact the Identity Theft Resource Center for toll-free, no-cost assistance at (888) 400-5530. For on-the-go assistance, check out the free ID Theft Help App.