• The Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC) unveiled its 15th annual data breach report, which revealed a 19 percent decrease in breaches and a 66 percent decrease in individuals impacted. 
  • The ITRC 2020 Data Breach Report identifies a trend that cybercriminals are less interested in stealing large amounts of consumers’ personal information. 
  • Threat actors are now more interested in taking advantage of bad consumer behaviors to attack businesses using stolen credentials like logins and passwords.  
  • The report also states an increase in ransomware attacks, supply chain attacks and unsecured databases. 
  • For more information on the latest data breach information, visit the ITRC’s interactive data breach tracking tool, notified. It is updated daily and free to consumers.   
  • Consumers and victims can receive free support and guidance from a knowledgeable live-advisor by calling 888.400.5530 or visiting idtheftcenter.org to live-chat. 

Each January, the Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC) releases its annual data breach report, breaking down the numbers, trends, attack methods and much more. For the last 15 years, the ITRC has tracked publicly-reported data breaches in an effort to make businesses and consumers aware of the latest information. While parts of the ITRC’s 2020 Data Breach Report reveal encouraging statistics, some worrisome trends also exist. 

The Number of Data Breaches and People Impacted Decrease 

After a 17 percent increase in data breaches in 2019 (1,473), the number decreased by 19 percent in 2020 (1,108). Even better, the number of individuals impacted dropped by 66 percent. In years past, the ITRC saw data breaches on the rise. However, there is a reason for the decline in breaches and consumers impacted.  

A Shift in the Cybercriminals Tactics 

The ITRC 2020 Data Breach Report shows the continuation of one trend from 2019. Cybercriminals are less interested in stealing large amounts of consumers’ personal information. Instead, threat actors are more interested in taking advantage of bad consumer behaviors to attack businesses using stolen credentials like logins and passwords. It is why ransomware and phishing attacks directed at organizations are now the preferred data theft method by cyberthieves.   

The shift comes as no surprise to the ITRC. One ransomware attack can generate as much revenue in minutes as hundreds of individual identity theft attempts over months or years. Coveware reports that the average ransomware payout has grown from less than $10,000 per event in Q3 2018 to more than $233,000 per occurrence in Q4 2020.    

Other Notable Findings 

There were other notable findings in the report: 

  • Supply chain attacks are becoming increasingly popular with attackers since they can access the information of larger organizations or multiple organizations through a single, third-party vendor. Often, the attacked organization is smaller, with fewer security measures than the companies they serve.   
  • Unemployment benefits fraud hit consumers hard in 2020 and could continue well into 2021. Organized cybercriminals used stolen credentials and other identifying information to apply for unemployment benefits through state websites. In fact, Washington and Maryland each reported more than $500 million in fraudulent benefit claims and California more than $11 billion in 2020. The U.S. Department of Labor estimated the total identity-related fraud at more than $26 billion in all 50 states and the District of Columbia during that same timeframe. The unemployment benefits fraud attacks are another example of it being easier and more profitable to commit a cybercrime using stolen, legitimate credentials than hacking into a company’s computer network.  
  • Case studies on Blackbaud and Vertafore break down what happened in each data compromise and how it happened. For more information on these case studies, download the ITRC 2020 Data Breach Report 

Staying One Step Ahead of the Cybercriminals 

While it is encouraging to see the number of data breaches and the number of people impacted by them decline, businesses and consumers should understand that this problem is not going awayCybercriminals are just shifting their tactics to find a new way to attack businesses and consumers. People need to adapt their practices to stay one step ahead of the threat actors.  

What You Can Do 

Ransomware attacks, stolen credentials and unsecured databases affect consumers and businesses in many different ways. Here are what businesses and consumers can do to protect themselves from each threat: 

  • Ransomware attacks  While ransomware attacks do not typically affect consumers, businesses should 1) frequently back up their systems, 2) patch any software flaws as soon as they are noticed, and 3) refuse to pay any ransomware demands.  
  • Stolen credentials – To protect themselves, consumers should 1) not reuse any passwords, 2) switch to a 12-character unique passphrase, 3) use a password manager if needed, 4) use multi-factor authentication when possible, and 5) consider creating online accounts so cybercriminals cannot open one in your name. 
  • Unsecured databases  It is a misconception that cloud service providers are responsible for cybersecurity. To prevent leaving a database unsecured, businesses should 1) properly configure cybersecurity tools for cloud environments and 2) apply the same level of effort to protecting cloud environments as an on-premise system and data assets. 

To download the ITRC 2020 Data Breach Reportclick here. 

To learn more about the latest data breaches, visit the ITRC’s interactive data breach tracking tool, notified. It is updated daily and free to consumers.   

For anyone that has been a victim 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.  

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