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Hackers are targeting vendors of companies for third-party data breach efforts. This trend rose in 2018, with over 4 million records exposed do to criminal efforts focused on vendor security.

Data breaches often occur at the hand, or keyboards, of hackers. Criminals can infiltrate insecure systems and steal personal data owned or stored by a company. The size of company and amount of personal identifying information (PII) they store factor in to the level of risk for consumers presented by the breach. One of the more newsworthy data breaches of 2018 was Marriot International, which exposed hundreds of millions of guest information including passport numbers. Hackers targeted Marriot because of the potential payoff of lots of lucrative PII, versus targeting many companies that might result in more – but smaller – payoffs. Now hackers are reevaluating their strategy and getting smarter about where they exert their efforts.

This new strategy comes in the form of targeting vendors for third-party data breach. Instead of going after one large company’s data, they go after a vendor who works with multiple large companies and collects even more PII. Third-party vendors – like email servers, payment platforms and web plugins – often work with a multitude of companies ranging in purpose or product offered. Therefore by compromising a third-party’s security measures, a hacker gains access to even more PII from a wide variety of consumers.

This attack on third-parties and subcontractors became a trend in 2018. Of the third-party data breaches that were reported in 2018, 4,823,234 records were exposed four times more compared to 2017 third-party breaches. In 2019, eSentire (a cybersecurity firm) commissioned a study to determine how concerned companies are regarding vendor risk given the trend in data breach.

According to the study, 81 percent of respondents said they had an effective third-party risk policy and 74 percent are confident in their vendors’ protections. However, only 35 percent said managing vendor risk was a priority and 20 percent said they trust vendors to uphold privacy standards blindly. The reality is of the respondents surveyed, 44 percent of them (or their employer) had experienced a data breach involving a vendor in the last 12 months. To make matters worse, only 15 percent were notified of the breach by the responsible vendor.

There is a clear disconnect between the effort put forth into managing vendor security and the amount of trust companies put in their vendors. Companies need to start evaluating vendor relationships and security practices more thoroughly to ensure the safety of consumers. On the opposite end, consumers need to remember that the safety of their data ultimately resides with them and take the utmost precautions with their personal information.

If you are a victim of data breach, or have concerns over a recent data breach and your identity, Breach Clarity can help you identify your potential risk and suggest preventative steps. You can also contact ITRC for free assistance regarding your case. Speak with an expert advisor over the phone (888.400.5530) or through LiveChat.


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 from ITRC.