In fact, according to the Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC), more than 85 million personal records were exposed over the last 12 months. If each record belonged to a different American citizen, that would be tantamount to about 26 percent of the United States’ population having their information compromised in the last year. This means that one in four U.S. residents could potentially be exposed to id theft when their personal, sensitive data was taken.
The ITRC also reported that 783 breaches occurred over the course of last year, 76 percent of which occurred at major retail chains. This long string of large-scale data breaches has left some consumers worried about their security in 2015 and others numb to any new information.
Were you able to keep up with all the attacks? Check out our review of the biggest and most significant breaches of 2014 for information on the attacks and suggestions on how you can help protect your identity.
- Home Depot: In September, Home Depot suffered a massive data breach in which 56 million customer credit card numbers and 53 million email addresses were stolen from point of sale terminals in their stores across the country. Home Depot officials warned customers to be on the lookout for phishing attacks, which typically involve emails urging consumers to click on links containing active malware.
- JPMorgan: The JPMorgan breach was one of the largest in history, and hackers gained access to customer names, email addresses and phone numbers. Around 80 million American households were affected by the breach, as well as 7 million small to medium-sized businesses. Customers’ banking information remained secure, although they were opened to phishing attacks and other id theft scams. What made this breach so significant, though, was that JPMorgan was widely considered to have one of the most sophisticated cyber security systems in the world, prompting questions about what went wrong and what other institutions can do to prevent such a serious attack.
- Michaels: The craft supply store confirmed that it was breached in January 2014. The attack was executed on the company’s point of sale system, and resulted in 3 million customer debit and credit card numbers being stolen. Aaron Brothers Art and Framing, a subsidiary of Michaels, was also impacted and suffered a loss of 400,000 customer payment records. This was Michaels’ second data breach in three years.
- P.F. Chang’s: The Chinese food restaurant chain announced its breach in August, reporting that 33 of its locations had been attacked. Hackers apparently used malware to steal card data from customers over an eight-month period of time.
- Sony: Sony Pictures was hacked in November, and personal information about former and current employees was leaked. That information included Social Security numbers, email and home addresses, telephone numbers and medical information, all of which left Sony employees vulnerable to identity theft.
- USPS: The U.S. Postal Service had data from 800,000 of its employees stolen in a hack, which some believed to have been perpetrated by the Chinese government. Attackers stole both Social Security numbers and postal addresses from company records.
Cyber-criminals continue to invent new ways to infiltrate even the most heavily fortified systems, so it’s important as consumers for to take steps to help in protecting their identity. Data breaches will likely remain a problem in 2015, so it’s important to protect yourself by checking your credit card statements regularly for activity, and also keeping an eye on your credit report so you’re aware of changes. The sooner a crime is detected, the quicker you can remedy the situation. Don’t wait to protect your information until a breach is announced at your favorite store. Instead, get started today.