• When the Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC) was founded nearly 22 years ago, the root cause of most data breaches and data crimes involved paper. Now, it is far and away cyberattacks.
  • Phishing is the number one attack vector that leads to data breaches, ransomware second and malware third.
  • However, there are ways to protect yourself from cyberattacks. Back up your information, update your software, use strong and unique passphrases, and collect and maintain less information.
  • To learn about recent data breaches, consumers and businesses should visit the ITRC’s data breach tracking tool, notified. 
  • If you believe you are the victim of an identity crime, data breach or want to learn more ways to protect yourself from cyberattacks, contact the ITRC. Call toll-free at 888.400.5530 or live-chat on the company website www.idtheftcenter.org.

The Crimes, They Are Changing

Welcome to the Identity Theft Resource Center’s (ITRC’s)Weekly Breach Breakdown for October 15, 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. We also use a lot of literary references – especially Shakespeare. Today, though, we turn to a different classic for inspiration – Bob Dylan – in honor of Cybersecurity Awareness Month. October is the time each year when you focus on ways to protect yourself from cyberattacks and other identity crimes. That’s why we’re calling today’s episode: The crimes, they are changing.

The Rise in Digital Data Theft

When the ITRC was founded nearly 22 years ago, the root cause of most data breaches and data crimes involved paper. Digital data theft didn’t arrive until the mid-2000s. Even then, it was usually because someone’s laptop or external hard drive was stolen.

Not so today. Physical attacks and human errors were once the leading cause of data compromises. Today it is far and away cyberattacks. In fact, cyberattacks are so common that the number of data breaches and exposures associated with them so far this year exceeds all forms of data compromises in 2020.

Phishing is the leading attack vector that leads to data breaches. The login and password credentials stolen in these email, text and website-related attacks are often used by cybercriminals to access company networks and databases held hostage in a ransomware assault – the second most common cause of data compromises.

Malware is the third leading cause of identity-related data breaches. It is often used to exploit software flaws or penetrate networks as part of a ransomware attack or just good old-fashioned data theft. Caught in the cross-hairs of all these cyberattacks are consumers – people whose data is held in trust by organizations that are the targets of cybercriminals.

The ITRC to Release Inaugural Business Aftermath Report

We often think of data breaches and ransomware only impacting big businesses whose names we recognize. However, later this month, the ITRC will issue a new report on the impact of identity crimes on small businesses and solopreneurs – the tens of millions of companies with zero or just a handful of employees. Without giving away too much right now, the research shows more than half of all small businesses have experienced one or more data breaches, security breaches or both.

Use Good Cyber-Hygiene Habits to Protect Yourself

What are some ways to protect yourself from cyberattacks both at work and at home?  The actions must be the same. Regular listeners already know the basics of a good cyber defense. Make good back-ups of your information, update or patch your software as fast as possible, and practice good password hygiene. Do not use the same password at work and at home. Each account gets a unique, 12+ character password.

There are two additional ways to protect yourself from cyberattacks you should consider:

  1. Collect and maintain less information. If you are a business, get rid of the personal data you no longer need once you complete a transaction. The same is true for consumers. Don’t keep sensitive information you no longer need. Cyberthieves can’t steal what you don’t have.
  2.  If you are a business leader, train your teams like you’re voting in Chicago – early and often. If you’re a consumer, you can use some routine training, too. Why is this important? Cybercriminals are constantly improving their attack methods and inventing new ones. We need to make sure we know what to do to stay safe from identity scams and cyber risks, and that takes training and education.

Contact the ITRC

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

Thanks again to Experian for supporting the ITRC and this podcast. Be sure to join us next week for our sister podcast, The Fraudian Slip, when we talk more about cyber education with Zarmeena Waseem of the National Cybersecurity Alliance and our very own ITRC CEO, Eva Velasquez. We will be back in two weeks with another episode of the Weekly Breach Breakdown.