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For roughly one out of two adult Americans, somewhere on the planet there’s a total stranger who knows more personal things about them than even their own mothers. And we’re not talking about the NSA or Dr. Phil.
CNNMoney had the Ponemon Institute tally up the number of hacked accounts in the USA over the past year. Based on Ponemon Institute research and numbers from the Identity Theft Resource Center, which conducts training and presentations on best practices and risk reduction for business and consumers, 432 million accounts have been hacked. There’s no knowing the exact number because says CNNMoney companies like AOL and eBay “aren’t fully transparent about the details of their cyber breaches.”
In his piece on money.cnn.com, Jose.Pagliery details the breaches that have taken place in the last year, how the nature and perception of hackers has changed, and the effect of ongoing breaches on the public. The following has been edited to fit our format. You can find the complete article by clicking on this link.
Each record typically includes personal information, such as your name, debit or credit card, email, phone number, birthday, password, security questions and physical address.
It’s enough to get hunted down by an abusive ex-spouse. It makes you an easier target for scams. And even if only basic information about you is stolen, that can easily be paired with stolen credit card data, empowering impostors.
Cyberattacks are growing so numerous that we’re becoming numb to them. Researchers at IT company Unisys say we’re now experiencing “data-breach fatigue.” Even the most recent numbers make for a dizzying list:
- 70 million Target customers’ personal information, plus 40 million credit and debit cards
- 33 million Adobe user credentials, plus 3.2 million stolen credit and debit cards
- 4.6 million Snapchat users’ account data
- 3 million payment cards used at Michaels
- 1.1 million cards from Neiman Marcus
- “A significant number” of AOL’s 120 million account holders
- Potentially all of eBay’s 148 million customers’ credentials
Why does this keep happening? Shopping, banking and socializing are now chiefly digital endeavors for many people. Stores rely on the Internet to conduct and process all transactions. As a result, your data is everywhere: on your phone, laptop, work PC, website servers and countless retailers’ computer networks.
Second, hacks are getting more sophisticated. Offensive hacking weapons are numerous and cheap. And hackers have learned to quietly roam inside corporate networks for years before setting off any alarms.
Remember the 1990s caricature of a typical hacker? Pierced, Goth and malcontent? Forget it. The age of small time rabble rousing has given way to large-scale theft with targeted, militaristic precision.
“Now attackers are very focused,” said Brendan Hannigan, who leads the security systems division at IBM. “There are teams of them, and they create malware to attack specific organizations.”
It doesn’t help that the security of the entire Internet relies on a few underfunded volunteers. Or that so many people use outdated software, such as Windows XP, which no longer receives security updates. That leads to pervasive problems like the Heartbleed bug or the recent Internet Explorer flaw that allowed attackers to take over your computer.
“It’s becoming more acute,” said Larry Ponemon, head of the Ponemon Institute. “If you’re not a data breach victim, you’re not paying attention.”