With more of our daily activities moved online, the Internet continues to create vulnerabilities for data breaches, security hacks and the growing cases of identity theft. According to an annual survey by the Ponemon Institute, 43 percent of respondents said their company experienced a data breach and 60 percent say their company had more than one data breach in the past two years.
According to the survey, financial services comprised about 19 percent of respondents, followed by health and pharmaceuticals, the public sector, industrial companies and retailers.
Although data breaches are increasing, companies are stepping up by putting in place data breach response plans and teams. 73 percent of companies have such a plan in place according to the study and 72 percent have a team together to handle data breaches. More companies are now buying cyber insurance policies as part of their preparedness plans too—in 2013 only 10 percent of respondents stated that their company purchased a policy, now that number has more than doubled to 26 percent.
While the results of the survey show that companies feel they know a bit more about the risks of a security breach, there is still room for improvement.
The study showed that there was very little change in the training of customer service personnel for handling data breaches, which is concerning as they are the people on the front lines of a breach when customers call with questions. In the 2013 study, “30 percent of respondents said they provided training on how to respond to questions about a data breach incident. This increased slightly to 43 percent of respondents in 2014.”
As companies continue to grapple with the consequences and necessary changes for doing business in the data breach era, some security measures still fall on the shoulders of the consumer. If you’re concerned about guarding yourself online, follow some of these tips:
- Create secure passwords. If you’re creating an account for a website, make sure the password you use is secure. A lot of websites require a certain combination of letters, numbers and characters to ensure that your password would be hard for a hacker to figure out, which is a great step for security. However, if the password creation is entirely up to you, make sure you’re making one that is difficult for others to guess but easy for you to remember. “Combine a personally memorable sentence with some personally memorable tricks to modify that sentence into a password,” computer expert Bob Schneier told CNET.com. If you’re still worried about remembering different passwords, use a password manager program. For even more security, change passwords once every few months to a year depending on what the account is for.
- Protect your email. Any account you make online will most likely be attached to your email address, so in the interest of your own security on the Internet, consider your email address as the foundation of protection. If a hacker has access to your email address, they have access to any accounts connected to it. As a rule, you should use caution when opening emails and any attachments. This is one of the most common ways people unknowingly breach their own security and download viruses or malware.
- Be extra cautious when shopping online. Shopping online is great for convenience, especially in the upcoming holiday season. However, this can be an easy way to make yourself susceptible to identity theft. To make sure your credit card information will stay protected while you’re shopping, you should only use secure websites for any financial transactions. You’ll know if the site you’re using is secure if the URL has the prefix “https.” That little “s” ensures that any data sent to and from this website is encrypted.
It’s important to protect yourself against the growing number of online security breaches to reduce vulnerabilities to ID theft . For additional protection, be sure to invest in a credit monitoring service, which can notify you of certain activities that may indicate fraud. Even if companies could guarantee security that would eliminate the chance that any hacking attempt would be succesful, they can’t protect our identities alone. We as consumers have to close the security gap by following simple security rules and being proactive about our identity protection.