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  • According to the Identity Theft Resource Center’s (ITRC) First Half 2021 Data Breach Analysis, data compromises are up 38 percent over the first quarter of 2021. If this trend from the data breach statistics continues, 2021 will set an all-time high for data compromises.
  • While data compromises are up, the number of individuals impacted is down 20 percent quarter-over-quarter. If the current trajectory holds, 2021 will see the fewest number of impacted individuals since 2016.
  • Phishing and Ransomware remain the top two root causes of data compromises for the second quarter and the first half of the year. However, supply chain attacks continue to increase in volume, scale and complexity.
  • To learn about recent data breaches, or to see the ITRC’s data breach statistics in our latest report, consumers and businesses should visit the ITRC’s data breach tracking tool, notified.
  • For more information, or if someone believes they are the victim of identity theft, consumers can contact the ITRC toll-free at 888.400.5530 or via live-chat on the company website www.idtheftcenter.org.

First Half 2021

Welcome to the Identity Theft Resource Center’s (ITRC) Weekly Breach Breakdown for July 9, 2021. Our podcast is possible thanks to support from Experian. Each week we look at the most recent events and trends related to data security and privacy. This week we look at the ITRC’s data breach statistics and trends for the second quarter of this year and what they tell us about how we may end 2021.

How the ITRC Reports Data

First, here’s a brief reminder of how the ITRC reports data. We only include information from U.S. data events that are publicly-reported. We report 1) data compromises, which includes data breaches, data exposures (think cloud databases with no security), and 2) data leaks, generally public information that is aggregated and used for a purpose other than that for which it was intended (think scraping information from social media sites that are sold for marketing lists or used for phishing attacks).

Key Takeaways from the ITRC’s First Half 2021 Data Breach Analysis

Now, let’s look at the key takeaways from this week’s ITRC First Half 2021 Data Breach Analysis:

  • According to the ITRC’s data breach statistics, data compromises are up 38 percent over the first quarter of 2021, putting us on a trajectory to end 2021 with a record level of compromises. Every month this year (except May) has seen data compromises higher than the month before. If this trend continues, we will exceed the all-time high number of compromises set in 2017 of 1,632 publicly-reported data events.
  • However, the number of people impacted by data compromises is down 20 percent quarter-over-quarter. That means we could end 2021 with fewer than 250 million victims of identity compromises, which continues a trend away from the mass collection of individual information that started in 2018.
  • The data breach statistics show we are on pace to have the highest number of data compromises ever in the same year that we could see the fewest number of people impacted since the all-time high was set in 2016.
  • Data compromises are rising or flat pretty much across the board, with half of the sectors tracked by the ITRC showing increases.
  • Manufacturing & Utilities and Professional Services are seeing significant increases while Healthcare and Retail are seeing data compromises drop. This shift reflects the broader trend of cybercriminals focusing their attention on critical infrastructure entities, so important they cannot be allowed to remain offline, and targets considered to be not as well defended. It is all in hopes of securing larger ransomware payments.
  • Phishing and Ransomware remain the #1 and #2 root causes of data compromises for the second quarter (Q2) and the first half of the year. However, supply chain attacks continue to increase in volume, scale and complexity. Attacks against vendors that give criminals access to many companies through a single data or security breach increased 19 percent in Q2. The 58 supply chain attacks through June 30, 2021 compares to the 70 malware-related compromises for the year so far. These data breach statistics indicate that third-party risks are poised to surpass malware as the third most common root cause of data events by the end of this year.
  • Just two days after the end of the second quarter, a major supply chain attack was launched against the cybersecurity provider Kaseya. Cybercriminals demanded a record $70 million in ransom to restore the operations of more than 1,500 companies impacted by the attack. It’s not known if any personal information has been compromised. However, we know this early third quarter (Q3) attack is an indication that cybercriminals are launching ever more sophisticated attacks that command larger and larger ransom payments.

Contact the ITRC

If you have questions about how to keep your personal information private or secure, visit www.idtheftcenter.org, where you will find helpful tips, and where you can download our First Half 2021 Data Breach Analysis to see our data breach statistics.

If you think you have been the victim of an identity crime or a data breach and you need help figuring out what to do next, you can speak with an expert advisor on the phone (888.400.5530), chat live on the web or exchange emails during our normal business hours (6 a.m. to 5 p.m. PST). Just visit www.idtheftcenter.org to get started.

Thanks again to Experian for supporting the ITRC and this podcast. Be sure to check out our sister podcast, The Fraudian Slip. We will be back next week with another episode of the Weekly Breach Breakdown. 

  • According to a new study, 74 percent of the participants were not aware of the breaches where there was documented evidence their information was compromised. 
  • While the study also found that most victims blamed themselves, researchers say the fault for data breaches almost always lies with poor cybersecurity practices by the company that lost control of the information, not with the victims of the breach. 
  • However, the reuse of passwords is also to blame. Participants admitted to using the same or similar passwords on multiple accounts. 
  • While researchers say notice of data breach letters are a great idea in theory, they believe the letters are generally not helpful in practice because poor communication by companies can make them hard to understand. 
  • To learn about recent data breaches, consumers and businesses should visit the Identity Theft Resource Center’s (ITRC) data breach tracking tool, notified
  • For more information, or if someone believes they are the victim of identity theft, consumers can contact the ITRC toll-free at 888.400.5530 or via live-chat on the company website www.idtheftcenter.org

No Darkness but Ignorance 

Welcome to the Identity Theft Resource Center’s (ITRC) Weekly Breach Breakdown for June 25, 2021. Our podcast is possible thanks to support from Experian. Each week we look at the most recent events and trends related to data security and privacy. This week, we will talk about some new research that tackles an issue we’ve been pondering at the ITRC for a while now: What do people do when they receive a notice of data breach letter? 

In Twelfth Night, Shakespeare wrote what was almost certainly a throw-away line: “There is no darkness but ignorance.” The line, referring to a character who was tricked into believing he only thought his jail cell was dark, was actually a reflection of Shakespeare’s belief that education and knowledge solves most ills. 

So, it is true today when it comes to the impacts of data breaches and the actions people take when they learn their identities have been compromised. That is to say, most people don’t know how many times they have been breached. When they learn their information is in the wild, they don’t do much about it. 

Many Consumers Are Unaware When Their Information is Involved in a Breach 

Researchers from the University of Michigan School of Information, along with colleagues at Georgetown University and Germany’s Karlsrhue Institute of Technology, published a study this week that found participants were not aware of 74 percent of the breaches where there was documented evidence their information was compromised. 

The researchers also found that most of the 413 study participants blamed themselves for becoming a victim of a data breach. Only 14 percent said the responsibility for the compromise was with other actors. Victims cited their own use of the same password for multiple accounts, keeping the same email for a long time and signing up for “sketchy” accounts as some of the personal behaviors they believe contributed to their information being breached. 

Researchers Say Victims Are Not Usually at Fault  

However, the researchers point out that the fault for data breaches almost always lies with poor cybersecurity practices by the company that lost control of the information, not with the victims of the breach.  

This study supports the conclusions of a smaller report from the Carnagie Melon University’s CyLab from May 2020. That study of data breach victims focused on what happened when consumers received a notice of data breach letter. The short answer is “not much.” 

Reuse of Passwords is Also to Blame  

In the Carnagie Melon study, two-thirds of the participants who received data breach notices of compromised email accounts did not change their passwords. Only 13 percent of the breach victims who did change their passwords did so within the first three months following the breach announcement. What is most concerning is the updated passwords were often weaker than the previous passwords that were compromised. 

As in the University of Michigan study, participants admitted to using the same or similar passwords on multiple accounts. The Carnagie Melon cohort had an average of 30 other passwords that were like the breached password. On average, those who changed a breached password changed less than three of the 30 similar passwords. 

Notice of Data Breach Letters May Not Be Very Helpful  

One other common element of the two studies: both sets of researchers believe that notice of data breach letters are a great idea in theory, but are generally not helpful in practice. They believe poor communication practices by companies render the notices difficult to understand and don’t offer any practical advice. 

Contact the ITRC 

That’s not a problem at the ITRC. If you have questions about how to keep your personal information private and secure, visit www.idtheftcenter.org where you’ll find helpful tips. You can also sign-up to receive our regular email updates on identity scams and compromises. Look out for our analysis of data breaches in the first half of 2021 that will be released on July 7.  

If you think you have been the victim of an identity crime or a data breach and you need help figuring out what to do next, you can speak with an expert advisor on the phone, chat live on the web or exchange emails during our normal business hours (6 a.m.-5 p.m. PST). Just visit www.idtheftcenter.org to get started.  

Thanks again to Experian for supporting the ITRC and this podcast. Be sure to check out our sister podcast, The Fraudian Slip. We will be back next week with another episode of the Weekly Breach Breakdown. 


  • Application Programming Interfaces (APIs), software that allows two different applications to talk to each other and work together, is becoming more popular. Its use is up 61 percent in 2020 over 2019. However, so are API attacks – a 211 percent rise in 2020.
  • API flaws are at the root of the SolarWinds and Microsoft attacks and the Peloton data breach. API attacks also led to personal information from Facebook and LinkedIn being scraped.
  • To prevent API attacks, businesses with their own API developers should implement stronger testing protocols and security. Businesses that hire API development companies should insist on the highest level of testing and security. Consumers are encouraged to ask organizations they do business with how they protect personal information.
  • To learn about recent data breaches, consumers and businesses should visit the Identity Theft Resource Center’s (ITRC) data breach tracking tool, notified.
  • For more information, or if someone believes they are the victim of identity theft, consumers can contact the ITRC toll-free at 888.400.5530 or via live-chat on the company website www.idtheftcenter.org. Coming later this month, people can talk after-hours, weekends and on holidays with our new automated chatbot, ViViAN.

Alphabet Soup

Welcome to the Identity Theft Resource Center’s (ITRC) Weekly Breach Breakdownfor June 4, 2021. Each week, we look at the most recent and interesting events and trends related to data security and privacy. This week we are going to talk about an emerging threat to data security. By default, it’s personal information that most people are unaware even exists. It’s part of the alphabet soup of tech terms that can seem like a cure for insomnia.

Application Program Interfaces (APIs)

We are talking about API attacks. In fact, some of the biggest security events of 2020 and 2021 resulted from these kinds of attacks. So, what is an API, and how can it cause so much trouble?

API is short for Application Programming Interface. In English, that means the software that allows two different applications to talk to each other and work together. Think of when someone goes to a travel website to see which airline has the lowest price and best schedule for their vacation. It’s an API that connects the travel site to the airline’s system to get them the information they need. One may never see or interact with an API, but it’s there working in the background.

APIs Are Growing in Popularity

There’s nothing particularly complex about most APIs, which means they are not subjected to many of the rigorous testing protocols required for other software. Meanwhile, the use of APIs is growing – 61 percent in 2020 over 2019, and the growth rate in 2021 is projected to be 71 percent, according to trade publication Dev Ops Digest. Compare that to the growth in malicious API transactions in 2020 – a 211 percent increase.

API Flaws Becoming More Common in Security and Data Breaches

With poor software testing practices and a rapid development pace, flaws in APIs are climbing up the list of underlying causes of data and security breaches. Consider some recent research findings from API security firm SALT:

  • Ninety-one (91) percent of respondents suffered a security incident in their APIs in 2020.
  • Fifty-four (54) percent of those API attacks were tied to software flaws; 46 percent of the attacks succeeded because a malicious transaction was recognized as being legitimate.
  • Eighty-two (82) percent of organizations lack confidence in knowing which APIs expose personal information.
  • One hundred (100) percent of Salt Security’s customers that suffered API attacks in 2020 had standard cybersecurity tools like web application firewalls in place, but they did not prevent the attack.

API flaws are at the root of the SolarWinds and Microsoft attacks and the Peloton data breach. APIs were also exploited to scrape personal information from Facebook and LinkedIn.

How Can Businesses and Consumers Protect Themselves from API Attacks?

What can be done to minimize the risk of API attacks? Businesses that have their own API developers need to implement stronger testing protocols and security. Businesses that hire API development companies should insist on the highest level of testing and security.

Consumers should ask organizations with whom they do business how they protect personal information, including their cybersecurity and data protection programs.

Contact the ITRC

If anyone has questions about keeping their personal information secure, they can visit www.idtheftcenter.org, where they will find helpful tips. People can also sign-up to receive our regular email updates on identity scams and compromises and download our latest report on how identity crimes impact individuals.

If someone thinks they have been the victim of an identity crime or a data breach and needs help figuring out what to do next, they should contact us. Victims can speak with an expert advisor on the phone, chat live on the web or exchange emails during our normal business hours (6 a.m.-5 p.m. PST). On June 4, people can talk after-hours, weekends and holidays with our new automated chatbot, ViViAN. Just visit www.idtheftcenter.org to get started. 

Be sure to check out our sister podcast, The Fraudian Slip. We will be back next week with another episode of the Weekly Breach Breakdown.

  • With data breaches on the rise last 30 days to 45 days, it has been one of the most intense periods seen in a while because of the pace, scope and impact of the crimes.
  • GEICO suffered a data breach impacting 132,000 people and could lead to unemployment fraud; the Pennsylvania Department of Health and ParkMobile both had data incidents due to third-party providers; and Peloton had a problem with third-party software, allowing other users to see people’s personal information.
  • Researchers guessed up to 80 percent of iPhone and iPad users would take advantage of Apple’s new anti-tracking privacy feature. However, based on early downloads of the iOS update, 96 percent of users are using the new feature to opt-out of app-tracking.
  • To learn about recent data breaches, consumers and businesses should visit the Identity Theft Resource Center’s (ITRC) new data breach tracking tool, notified
  • For more information, or if someone believes they are the victim of identity theft, consumers can contact the ITRC toll-free at 888.400.5530 or via live-chat on the company website www.idtheftcenter.org.

Too Fast, Too Furious

Welcome to the Identity Theft Resource Center’s (ITRC) Weekly Breach Breakdown for May 14, 2021. Each week, we look at the most recent and interesting events and trends related to data security and privacy. This week we’re highlighting data breaches on the rise the past 30 days in one of the most intense periods of cyberattacks and data breaches we’ve seen in a while.

With all due respect to Vin Diesel and the rest of the cast of the Fast and Furious movie franchise, we’re calling this week’s episode “Too Fast, Too Furious” because of the pace, scope and impact of identity compromising events over the past 45 days – some of which are still ongoing. We also have a quick update on the impact of the recent privacy tools added to iPhones and iPads.

ITRC’s Notable Breaches for April

In the ITRC’s most recent monthly report of data breaches, we highlighted three major events:

  • GEICO’s breach of driver’s license data that impacted 132,000 customers;
  • The contact tracing service hired by the Pennsylvania Department of Health failing to secure the COVID-related personal health information of Keystone state residents; and,
  • Twenty-one (21) million users of the ParkMobile app having their information exposed thanks to a vulnerability in third-party software.

Each of these is unique in some ways but also reflective of broader trends.

GEICO

In the case of GEICO, when announcing the data breach at the nation’s second-largest auto insurance company, officials said the stolen data was being used as part of unemployment insurance fraud schemes. Pandemic-related benefits fraud is estimated to be closing in on $100 billion. The ITRC is on pace to surpass the total number of unemployment identity fraud victims we helped in 2020 by the end of May 2021.

Pennsylvania Dept. of Health & ParkMobile

The events involving the Pennsylvania Department of Health and the ParkMobile parking app are two variations of the same issue: problems with third-party suppliers. In the case of the Pennsylvania Department of Health, the vendor supplying COVID-19 contact tracing services didn’t secure the personal information of 72,000 people. With ParkMoble, a third-party software issue exposed user’s personal information. Issues with supply chains are an escalating trend when it comes to data compromises, especially cyberattacks where threat actors can steal the data of multiple companies in a single attack.

Peloton

More recently, an issue with third-party software also allowed users of the popular Peloton exercise bikes to see the personal information of other users. The flaw was found by an independent cybersecurity researcher who reported the issue to Peloton, which did not initially respond to his information. Ultimately, Peloton fixed the issue early this month, but not before opening three million subscribers to having their information exposed. Peloton has since acknowledged they have fixed the problem, and there is no evidence of anyone stealing the user information.

Update on the New Apple Privacy Feature

Finally, an update on how many people are taking up Apple’s offer to block mobile app owners from collecting and selling user data without first getting consent. Researchers guessed before the launch of the new anti-tracking privacy feature that as many as 80 percent of iPhone and iPad users would take advantage of the blocking technology.

The actual numbers based on early downloads of the iOS update is 96 percent of users are saying no to app-tracking. That’s a giant obscene gesture to companies that rely on third-party data for marketing and advertising and the platforms that collect and sell user information. Now here is the next question: Who will follow Apple’s lead in addressing the privacy and cybersecurity concerns of consumers?

Contact the ITRC

If anyone has questions about keeping their personal information private and how to protect it, data breaches on the rise or on the new Apple privacy update, they can visit www.idtheftcenter.org. They will find helpful tips on these and many other topics. People can also sign-up to receive our regular email updates on identity scams and compromises.

If someone thinks they have been the victim of an identity crime or a data breach and needs help figuring out what to do next, they should contact us. Victims can speak with an expert advisor on the phone, chat live on the web or exchange emails during our normal business hours (6 a.m.-5 p.m. PST). Visit www.idtheftcenter.org to get started. 

Be sure to listen next week to our sister podcast – The Fraudian Slip – when we’ll talk to the Chief Privacy Officer of Synchrony, a leading financial services company. We will be back in two weeks with another episode of the Weekly Breach Breakdown.

  • A recent GEICO data breach led to fraudsters gaining access to nearly 132,000 GEICO customer’s driver’s license numbers. GEICO says they believe threat actors could use the information to apply for unemployment benefits fraudulently.
  • The Pennsylvania Department of Health’s third-party contact tracing vendor, Insight Global, failed to secure phone numbers, email addresses and personal information like gender, age, sexual orientation, COVID-19 diagnosis and exposure status of more than 72,000 Pennsylvania residents. Third-party breaches continue to be a growing trend.
  • Like the Pennsylvania Department of Health, ParkMobile Parking App also suffered a supply chain attack. The ParkMobile data incident exposed the non-sensitive information of 21 million users, putting them at risk of falling victim to social engineering.
  • For more information about April data breaches, consumers and businesses should visit the Identity Theft Resource Center’s (ITRC) data breach tracking tool, notified.  
  • If you believe you are a victim of identity theft from a data breach, contact the ITRC toll-free at 888.400.5530 or through live-chat on the company website www.idtheftcenter.org.

Notable April Data Breaches

Of all the data breaches the Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC) tracked in April, three stand out: GEICO, Pennsylvania Department of Health and the ParkMobile Group. All three data events are notable for unique reasons. In one, the company is very detailed in how criminals are misusing the information and what people should look out for; another event includes a contact tracing service failing to secure the private information of some residents in Pennsylvania – re-affirming a trend identified by the ITRC; the third compromise led to the exposure of data for 21 million people – stemming from a supply chain attack.

GEICO

A security bug led to threat actors stealing personally identifiable information (PII) from approximately 132,000 GEICO customers between January 21 and March 1. According to the GEICO data breach notice, fraudsters used the information they acquired about customers elsewhere to obtain unauthorized access to people’s driver’s license numbers through the online sales system of their website. GEICO says that they believe the information from the breach could be used to apply for unemployment benefits fraudulently. Unemployment benefits fraud continues to impact consumers all over the U.S. There could be over $200 billion lost to the fraud. The ITRC has received over 1,400 cases of unemployment benefits fraud in 2020 and 2021, compared to only 12 cases in 2019.

The GEICO data breach is notable because the insurance company is very detailed in how the information could be used and what people need to keep an eye on. It is not often the ITRC sees this level of detail in a data breach notice.

Pennsylvania Department of Health

Insight Global, a company that has provided COVID-19 contact tracing services for the Pennsylvania Department of Health since 2020, failed to secure the private information of more than 72,000 people.  According to WSKG, a health department spokesman said they recently learned workers at Insight Global disregarded security protocols established in the contract and created unauthorized documents outside the state’s secure data system.

The information exposed in the Pennsylvania Department of Health data compromise includes phone numbers, email addresses and personal information such as gender, age, sexual orientation, COVID-19 diagnosis and exposure status. The Pennsylvania Department of Health does not know how many people may have viewed or downloaded the documents. Officials say notifications will be mailed to all affected Pennsylvania residents.

The Pennsylvania Department of Health data compromise is the latest third-party exposure to occur. According to the ITRC’s Q1 2021 Data Breach Report, there’s been a 42 percent increase in supply chain attacks, including 27 at third-party vendors impacting 137 U.S. organizations, and 19 supply chain attacks in Q4 2020.

ParkMobile Group

The parking app, ParkMobile, also suffered a data compromise due to a vulnerability in third-party software, affecting 21 million people. According to the ParkMobile notification letter, they became aware of the vulnerability and launched an investigation, which is still ongoing. Information exposed includes license plate numbers, email addresses, phone numbers, mailing addresses and vehicle nicknames. According to KrebsOnSecurity, the data appeared for sale on a Russian-language crime forum.

Anyone who uses the ParkMobile parking app, used by cities and universities across the U.S., could be at risk of falling victim to social engineering. While no sensitive information was exposed, if hackers get enough information about people, they can put all of the information they have gathered together to commit identity fraud.

What to Do if These Breaches Impact You

Anyone who receives a data breach notification letter should follow the advice offered by the company. The ITRC recommends immediately changing your password by switching to a 12+-character passphrase, changing the passwords of other accounts with the same password as the breached account, considering using a password manager and keeping an eye out for phishing attempts claiming to be from the breached company.  

GEICO encourages its customers to check their account statements and credit reports regularly for any suspicious activity.

The Pennsylvania Department of Health has set up a hotline (855.535.1787) for those concerned about the security of their information.

notified

For more information about April data breaches, or other data breaches, consumers and businesses should visit the ITRC’s data breach tracking tool, notified, free to consumers. 

Organizations that need comprehensive breach information for business planning or due diligence can access as many as 90 data points through one of the three paid notified subscriptions. Subscriptions help ensure the ITRC’s identity crime services stay free.    

Contact the ITRC

If you believe you are the victim of an identity crime or your identity has been compromised in a data breach, you can speak with an ITRC expert advisor at no cost by phone (888.400.5530) or live-chat. Just go to www.idtheftcer.org to get started. 

  • Facebook and LinkedIn recently suffered data incidents that led to personal information like full names, emails and phone numbers being posted in identity marketplaces where cybercriminals buy and sell data.
  • While some have called the recent data leaks “data breaches,” technically and legally, they are not in the U.S. Rather, it is a legitimate and legal technique called “scraping.”
  • Even though these events are not data breaches, the Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC) is creating an additional category of identity data compromises called “data leaks” to keep track of and report these kinds of events.
  • The Facebook and LinkedIn data leaks serve as good reminders to never post information online that you wouldn’t want people you don’t know or trust to see.
  • To learn about recent data breaches, consumers and businesses should visit the ITRC’s new data breach tracking tool, notified. 
  • For more information, or if someone believes they are the victim of identity theft, consumers can contact the ITRC toll-free at 888.400.5530 or via live-chat on the company website www.idtheftcenter.org.

Data Breaches, Exposures, and Leaks! Oh, My!

Welcome to the Identity Theft Resource Center’s (ITRC) Weekly Breach Breakdown for April 23, 2021. Each week, we look at the most recent and interesting events and trends related to data security and privacy. In the movie version of The Wizard of Oz, Dorothy Gale of Kansas, along with the Scarecrow and Tin Man, are following the Yellow Brick Road through a dark and scary forest on their way to the Emerald City. They fear that wild animals are present as they chant “Lions…and Tigers…and Bears! Oh, my!” just before they meet the Cowardly Lion. Apply that principle to data security, and you get the title of today’s episode – “Data Breaches, Exposures, and Leaks! Oh, My!

Facebook and LinkedIn’s Recent Data Leaks

People may have seen media coverage about the recent data leaks at Facebook and LinkedIn. Personal information like full names, emails and phone numbers posted to user profiles were found in the identity marketplaces where cybercriminals buy and sell data.

In the case of Facebook, which would be the third-largest country in the world behind China and India if it were a Nation/State, the information on some half-a-billion people was exposed. Approximately 30 million live in the U.S. An even larger number of LinkedIn users were impacted by a similar event. To date, 837 million profiles have been exposed.

Facebook and LinkedIn Events Not Considered Data Breaches

These two recent data leaks have created quite the controversy in data privacy and security circles. People may have noticed that the ITRC has not referred to these events as data breaches. It’s because they technically and legally are not, at least under U.S. law. European Data Protection authorities have launched an investigation into both companies for potential violations of privacy laws. However, in the U.S., it’s a lot more complicated.

If you are a Facebook or LinkedIn user, you voluntarily provide the information posted to those and other social media websites. The companies try to limit the ability to copy user’s data. However, depending on how you configure your privacy settings, that information is, in fact, available for viewing by anyone. And if it can be seen, it can be misused.

Facebook and LinkedIn Suffered “Scraping”

There is a legitimate technique known as “scraping,” where companies copy large amounts of information that otherwise would require manual entry into a database. It is perfectly legal and typically involves getting permission and being transparent about how the data is used.

There are still some grey areas when it comes to private information being posted publicly on websites. In fact, there is a case pending before the U.S. Supreme Court directly on this question of copying information from LinkedIn. Lower courts have said publicly posted information is fair game for scraping even if LinkedIn’s terms and conditions say it is not.

Facebook and LinkedIn Events Fall Between the Cracks of Current Laws

What makes the recent data leaks at Facebook and LinkedIn so troubling is that they fall between the cracks of existing laws. If a criminal gained access to a company’s customer records that included names, addresses, phone numbers and email addresses, that would be a crime and considered a data breach.

Copying the same information posted voluntarily and publicly is not considered illegal today. Also, the current laws did not envision the ability to copy millions of unrelated records and combine them into a single database that could be used to commit identity fraud.

The ITRC to Create “Data Leak” Category of Identity Data Compromises

Even though these recent data leaks are not data breaches, the ITRC is creating an additional category of identity data compromises to keep track of and report these kinds of events. We’re going to call this new category “data leaks.”

It is also a good time to issue a reminder. Be careful what you post online. If you don’t want people you don’t know or trust to see your private information, don’t post it online.

Contact the ITRC

If anyone has questions about keeping their personal information private and how to protect it, they can visit www.idtheftcenter.org, where they will find helpful tips on these and many other topics. 

If someone thinks they have been the victim of an identity crime or a data breach – like the recent data leaks – and needs help figuring out what to do next, they should contact us. People can speak with an expert advisor on the phone, chat live on the web or exchange emails during our normal business hours (6 a.m.-5 p.m. PST). Visit www.idtheftcenter.org to get started. 

 Be sure to check out the most recent episode of our sister podcast, The Fraudian Slip. We will be back next week with another episode of the Weekly Breach Breakdown. 

While the number of data compromises is only up slightly (12 percent increase in Q1 2021), individuals impacted is on a steep rise due to more supply chain attacks in 2021 

SAN DIEGO, April 7, 2021 – Today, the Identity Theft Resource Center® (ITRC), a nationally recognized nonprofit organization established to support victims of identity crime, released its U.S. data breach findings for the first quarter of 2021. 

According to the ITRC’s analysis, publicly-reported U.S. data compromises in Q1 2021 are up 12 percent (363) from Q4 2020. The number of individuals impacted is up 564 percent (51 million in Q1 2021 versus eight million in Q4 2020). A primary reason for the gap in compromises and impacts is a 42 percent rise in the number of supply chain attacks compared to Q4 2020, a trend discussed in the ITRC’s 2020 Data Breach Report.  

One hundred and thirty-seven (137) organizations reported being impacted by supply chain attacks in Q1 2021 at 27 different third-party vendors, including IT provider Accellion. The publicly-reported supply chain attacks affected seven million people. Nineteen supply chain attack-related compromises were reported in Q4 2020. Other conclusions from the Q1 2021 report include

  • Phishing and ransomware attacks continue to be the primary root causes of data compromises.  
  • The increase in data compromises and impacted individuals was also influenced by 59 data events reported in early Q1 2021 that occurred in late December 2020.  
  • The 2020 supply chain and ransomware attack against IT provider Blackbaud continues to result in new data breach notices; 62 new notices in Q1 2021 that impacted approximately 146,000 additional individuals. More than 12.8 million people at 555 organizations have now been affected by the attack first reported in mid-2020. 
  • The report reinforces the trends highlighted by the ITRC, the FBI, and various security vendors that point to a rise in cybercrimes focused on stealing company resources using personal information.  

Download the ITRC’s 2021 Q1 Data Breach Analysis and Key Takeaways  

“While the number of data compromises is only up slightly, the rise in supply chain attacks is troubling,” said Eva Velasquez, president and CEO of the Identity Theft Resource Center. “Supply chain, phishing, and ransomware attacks reflect a broader trend that cybercriminals want to exploit multiple organizations through a single point-of-attack. The most important action people can take to help protect themselves is to exercise good cyber-hygiene habits.”  

The FBI’s most recent Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) Report shows phishing as the number one complaint for individuals and businesses in 2020. According to the report, $1.8 billion in business losses was directly attributed to Business Email Compromise, a form of phishing.  

For more information about recent data breaches, or any of the data breaches discussed in the Q1 2021 Date Breach Report, consumers and businesses should visit the ITRC’s new data breach tracking tool, notified.  

For consumers who have been victims of a data breach, the ITRC recommends downloading its free ID Theft Help app to manage the various aspects of an individual’s data breach case.  

Anyone can receive free support and guidance from a knowledgeable live-advisor by calling 888.400.5530 or visiting www.idtheftcenter.org to live-chat.  

About the Identity Theft Resource Center   

Founded in 1999, the Identity Theft Resource Center® (ITRC) is a non-profit organization established to empower and guide consumers, victims, business and government to minimize risk and mitigate the impact of identity compromise and crime. Through public and private support, the ITRC provides no-cost victim assistance and consumer education through its website live-chat idtheftcenter.org, toll-free phone number 888.400.5530, and ID Theft Help app. The ITRC also equips consumers and businesses with information about recent data breaches through its data breach tracking tool, notified.    

Media Contact  

Identity Theft Resource Center  
Alex Achten  
Earned & Owned Media Specialist  
888.400.5530 Ext. 3611  
media@idtheftcenter.org   


  • According to a report from Javelin Strategies, traditional identity theft is declining. However, what one might think of as identity theft is being replaced by identity fraud.
  • trend identified by the Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC) in 2020. Cybercriminals continue to move away from mass data breaches of consumer information to more targeted attacks like phishing, ransomware and supply chain attacks.
  • There is no reason for consumers to panic. One record exposed is one too many, but one can’t determine the risk represented by a data breach based on the size of the breach. Knowing what records are exposed is far more important than how many records are compromised.
  • To learn about recent data breaches, consumers and businesses should visit the ITRC’s new data breach tracking tool, notified. 
  • For more information, or if someone believes they are the victim of identity theft, consumers can contact the ITRC toll-free at 888.400.5530 or via live-chat on the company website www.idtheftcenter.org.

The Path is Smooth That Leadeth on to Danger

Welcome to the Identity Theft Resource Center’s (ITRC) Weekly Breach Breakdown for April 2, 2021. Each week, we look at the most recent and interesting events and trends related to data security and privacy. Last week we talked about the FBI’s most recent cybercrime report that shows an exponential increase in cybercrime and the losses associate with it. This week we look at how people can assess what that really means for them or their business.

In his poem, Adonis and Venus, Shakespeare wrote, “The path is smooth that leadeth on to danger.” That is the title of this week’s episode, reflecting how our desire for convenience often leads to risky behaviors.

Traditional Identity Theft is on the Decline

Let’s start with a good and bad news trend. A report from Javelin Strategies is the latest to show that “traditional identity theft” is declining. That’s good news. However, here is the “but” people may be expecting: what we think of as identity theft is being replaced by identity fraud.

Identity Fraud Cases Are on the Rise

What does that mean? It’s part of the general trend we’ve discussed where cybercriminals move away from mass data breaches of consumer information to more targeted attacks. Phishing, ransomware and supply chain attacks are good examples of the kinds of exploits that allow criminals to hit a company. The criminals reap hundreds of thousands of dollars from a single organization instead of the old-school way of attacking thousands of consumers.

However, less risk to individuals is not the same as low or no risk. In fact, the whole concept of identity fraud is based on using consumer behaviors to lure people into a scam. Maybe it’s a text that says someone’s Amazon account has been frozen, and the user needs to click on a link to verify their password to unlock it – and they do. They have just given them their login and password, which regulars of the podcast know are 10x more valuable to a data thief than a consumer’s credit card information.

Maybe someone gets an email from Google or Microsoft claiming their payment card is about to expire. All the user needs to click on is a link to log in and update their information. However, the email and login webpage are deep fakes, and the user just shared their login, password and credit card information with criminals.

All of these phishing techniques are predicated on our behaviors as humans, the need to instantly address any issue that appears by text or email in the most convenient way possible.

While different research reports come up with different identity fraud case totals, they all agree it is on the rise, and the dollar value starts with a B, as in billions. Right now, one might be thinking, “Well, that’s just great. Do I panic now or panic later?”

No Reason for Consumers to Panic

First, there is no reason to panic at all. People may have seen a media headline that talked about more records being exposed in data breaches in 2020 than in the past 15 years combined. While that is attention-grabbing, it’s not particularly meaningful.

One record exposed is one too many, but the reality is one can’t determine the risk represented by a data breach based on the size of the breach. Someone’s date of birth and Social Security number are two records. They may have been exposed thousands of times over the past 15 years, but they are still only two data points, and they don’t change.  However, the risk associated with each data point is very different.

Knowing what records are exposed is far more important than how many records are compromised. Knowing how to protect your own information is the most important information, and that’s where the ITRC can help.

Contact the ITRC

If anyone has questions about keeping their personal information private and how to protect it, they can visit www.idtheftcenter.org, where they will find helpful tips on these and many other topics. 

If someone thinks they have been the victim of an identity crime or a data breach and needs help figuring out what to do next, they should contact us. People can speak with an expert advisor on the phone, chat live on the web, or exchange emails during our normal business hours (6 a.m.-5 p.m. PST). Visit www.idtheftcenter.org to get started.  

Be sure to check out the most recent episode of our sister podcast, The Fraudian Slip. We will be back next week with another episode of the Weekly Breach Breakdown.  

  • While there were only a handful of supply chain attacks in 2020, there have already been three high-profile attacks in 2021 with the Accellion data breach, the SITA data breach and the Microsoft Exchange server attack.  
  • The Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC) began to see a rise in supply chain cyberattacks in the second half of 2020 with the Blackbaud data breach and the SolarWinds cyberattack.  
  • For more information on these incidents and the recent rise in supply chain attacks, listen to the ITRC’s Weekly Breach Breakdown podcast. 
  • To learn about recent data breaches, consumers and businesses should visit the ITRC’s new data breach tracking tool, notified.   
  • For more information, or if someone believes they are the victim of identity theft, consumers can contact the ITRC toll-free at 888.400.5530 or via live-chat on the company website www.idtheftcenter.org

Don’t Shoot the Messenger

Welcome to the Identity Theft Resource Center’s (ITRC) Weekly Breach Breakdown for March 12, 2021. Each week, we look at the most recent and interesting events and trends related to data security and privacy. We’ve focused for the past two episodes on data privacy and how state laws are giving consumers more rights and businesses more obligations to keep personal information safe and secure. This week, we talk about the challenges of doing just that – protecting data – while supply chain attacks are on the rise 

In Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra, a messenger is sent to inform the Egyptian Queen that her lover has married another, prompting a threat to treat his eyes as the Ptolemaic version of tennis balls. In response, the messenger reminds Cleopatra that “I that do bring the news made not the match.” Today, we would say the title to this week’s episode is – “Don’t shoot the messenger.” 

Yet, this is where many businesses find themselves now as they send out data breach notices to customers – even though they did not cause the problem. A vendor did. 

A Look Back at the Blackbaud Data Breach 

People might recall that one of the highest-profile cyberattacks in 2020 involved a company known as Blackbaud. The company, an IT provider to nonprofits, healthcare and education institutions, was breached and the data of more than 500 companies and 12 million individuals were held for ransom. People might also recall that these kinds of attacks where a cybercriminal can get the information of many companies from a single vendor is known as a supply chain attack. 

The ITRC’s 2020 Data Breach Report Studies the Blackbaud Data Breach

Supply Chain Attacks on the Rise  

There were only a handful of supply chain attacks in all of 2020. However, so far in 2021, there have been three high-profile attacks – two in the last two weeks. One of the events involves one of the biggest names in technology: Microsoft. 

This cluster of attacks reinforces a trend the ITRC saw take hold toward the second half of 2020 with the Blackbaud breach. It was followed by the block-buster cyberattack against the IT services company SolarWinds, which impacted cabinet-level agencies in the U.S. government and an undetermined number of private sector companies (believed to be in the thousands). 

Accellion Data Breach 

While the SolarWinds attack appears to be the work of cybercriminals seeking intelligence information for the Russian government (not consumer data to sell), the ransomware group that attacked software provider Accellion wanted information that it could hold hostage or sell outright. It did not want information from Accellion, but from the customers whose information could be stolen from Accellion’s tech platform. 

The criminals went to the time and expense of reverse-engineering the 20-year-old Accellion platform and found new flaws, as well as old ones. They unpatched ones that allowed criminals to extract information from high-profile clients – including law firms, telecommunications companies, universities, grocery store chains and government agencies in the U.S. and other countries. 

SITA Data Breach 

We don’t know how a supply chain cyberattack against tech provider SITA was executed. However, we know that the company processes the frequent flier information of 90 percent of the world’s airlines. The company describes the cyberattack as “highly sophisticated,” and member airlines have started informing their frequent fliers of the breach.  

Microsoft Exchange Server Attack 

The third supply chain cyberattack in this most recent string is also the most dangerous. A cybercriminal group based in China was able to exploit flaws in Microsoft Exchange servers. The kinds that run the ubiquitous Outlook email software inside organizations. The threat actors inserted backdoors into company email systems that could be used to take control of the email system from outside the network where the server resides. 

More than 100,000 organizations worldwide could be impacted by the cyberattack, including at least 30,000 in the U.S. Government officials and Microsoft leaders have all encouraged organizations operating Exchange servers to patch their servers immediately. They have also made a series of tools available to help users determine if the attack has impacted them. 

Fortunately, these issues do not involve the cloud-based Microsoft 365 services used by individuals and small businesses that include Outlook email. 

Contact the ITRC 

If anyone has questions about keeping their personal information private and how to protect it, they can visit www.idtheftcenter.org, where they will find helpful tips on these and many other topics. That includes small businesses, too. 

If someone thinks they have been the victim of an identity crime or a data breach and needs help figuring out what to do next, they should contact us. People can speak with an expert advisor on the phone, chat live on the web, or exchange emails during our normal business hours (6 a.m.-5 p.m. PST). Visit www.idtheftcenter.org to get started. 

Be sure to check out the most recent episode of our sister podcast, The Fraudian Slip. We will be back next week with another episode of the Weekly Breach Breakdown. 


  • The Identity Theft Resource Center’s (ITRC) 2020 Data Breach Report shows 62 percent of cyberattacks that led to data breaches in 2020 involved phishing and ransomware.  
  • Google and Stanford University study reveals that people with more than one device are more likely to be struck by a phishing attempt. It also says that Australia is the most targeted country for phishing attacks
  • Proofpoint Security study says people who had personal data exposed in a third-party breach were five times more likely to be targeted by phishing or malware. 
  • All three reports make the same point about the rise in phishing attacks – a data breach does not mean someone’s identity has been misused. It means people impacted are at increased risk of becoming an identity crime victim. 
  • For information about recent data breaches, consumers and businesses should visit the ITRC’s new data breach tracking tool, notified
  • For more information, or if someone believes they are the victim of identity theft, consumers can contact the ITRC toll-free at 888.400.5530 or via live-chat on the company website www.idtheftcenter.org.  

Welcome to the Identity Theft Resource Center’s (ITRC) Weekly Breach Breakdown for February 12, 2021. Each week, we look at the most recent and interesting events and trends related to data security and privacy. This week we talk about what seems to be the average cybercriminals’ favorite pastime – phishing and the rise in phishing attacks. Phishing with a ph. In Troilus & Cressida, Shakespeare’s incredibly complex play about the Trojan War, the main character compares the great lengths some people go to deceive the search for the other kind of fishing that gives rise to our episode title: 

Whiles others fish with craft for great opinion, 

I with great truth catch mere simplicity 

ITRC 2020 Data Breach Report & the Rise in Phishing Attacks 

Two weeks ago, the ITRC released our annual data breach analysis, which pointed out that 62 percent of cyberattacks that led to data breaches in 2020 involved phishing and ransomware. Phishing was in the number one position because it is a simple attack to execute. 

Google and Stanford University Study Reveals New Phishing Attack Findings 

This week, Google and Stanford University released a new study that looked at the 1.2 billion phishing emails aimed at Gmail users during a five-month period in 2020. Among the findings: 

  • People are more at risk of a phishing attempt if they have more than one device. If someone only has a desktop or laptop, or only has a smartphone, they are less likely to be a target. The conclusion is if someone has multiple devices, they have more of an online presence. It is the same if someone sends a lot of emails – they are five times more likely to be phished if they do. 
  • Older users are targeted more frequently than younger people. Someone between the ages of 55-64-years-old is 1.6 times more likely to be the target of a phishing scheme than someone who is 18-24-years-old. One potential reason is that the older someone gets, the bigger their footprint, which makes them easier to find. 

People in Australia are More Likely to be Targeted by a Phishing Attack 

Who in the world do you think is the most targeted country? This will surprise you. While U.S. residents send more emails by volume than any other country, people in Australia are more likely to be targeted for a phishing attack than anyone else. In fact, the odds are nearly double that they will be phish bait down under.  

The U.S is number 16 when it comes to the likelihood of being targeted on a country adjusted basis. This is the point where we need to ask once again – why is there a rise in phishing attacks? 

Third-Party Breaches and Their Impact on the Rise in Phishing Attacks 

Proofpoint Security reported this week a 14 percent increase in malicious phishing emails in 2020 over the previous year. Here is the truly staggering statistic: People who had personal data exposed in a third-party breach were five times more likely to be targeted by phishing or malware, according to the report, which highlights just how damaging these types of data breaches can be, even in the long run. 

What the Reports Mean for Consumers  

The report comes on the heels of the announcement of the release in an identity marketplace of the largest set of logins and passwords ever compiled. Around 3.2 billion credentials were stolen in previous data breaches and bundled in a single file. All of these reports – from the ITRC, Google and Stanford University, and Proofpoint make the same point – a data breach does not mean someone’s identity has been misused. It means people those impacted are at increased risk of becoming an identity crime victim. 

To quote Proofpoint: 

“Our results suggest that data breaches expose users to lasting harms due to the lack of viable remediation options.” 

Contact the ITRC 

If anyone has questions about protecting their information from data breaches and data exposures before they happen, visit www.idtheftcenter.org, where there are helpful tips on phishing attacks and many other topics – including the 2020 Data Breach Report

If someone believes they have already been the victim of an identity crime or a data breach and needs help figuring out what to do next, contact us to speak with an expert advisor on the phone (888.400.5530), chat live on the web or exchange emails during our normal business hours (6 a.m.-5 p.m. PST). Just visit www.idtheftcenter.org to get started.  

Be sure to check out the most recent episode of our sister podcast – The Fraudian Slip – with a special guest from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). We will be back next week for another Weekly Breach Breakdown.