Identity theft is on its way to a record year

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People are safer than businesses, but they’re still vulnerable to trickle-down issues

There seems to be no end in sight when it comes to identity theft. The Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC), a nonprofit organization established to support victims of identity crime, has just released its U.S. data breach findings for the first half of 2021. If what the organization found is true, it’s troubling to say the least -- particularly for businesses.

According to the data breach analysis, publicly reported data breaches shot up by 38% in the second quarter of 2021 alone. Fortunately, the number of individuals impacted -- 52.8 million -- dropped by 20% from the first quarter to the second quarter. 

“The lesson here for businesses is that no organization is too small to be attacked – directly or indirectly in a supply chain attack – and cybercriminals are increasingly organized and strategic in who they attack and what information they want to steal,” James E. Lee, COO of the ITRC, told ConsumerAffairs.

If things continue at the same rate for the rest of the year, the increase in data breaches in 2021 will end with a record-setting number of compromises, exceeding the current all-time record of 1,632 set in 2017. However, the silver lining to that cloud is that the number of people impacted by data compromises would be the lowest since 2014.

Businesses need to do more to protect their customers’ data

Most identity theft cases can be chalked up to phishing attacks, ransomware attacks, and supply chain attacks. While those attacks have created problems for businesses and continue to increase, consumers still need to be concerned even if they’re not being directly targeted. 

“The effects of these hacks will trickle down and have far-reaching consequences for individuals; disruption when it comes to accessing services, a potential increase in the cost of goods as companies increase prices to foot ransom bills, and the likelihood that customer data will be exploited,” Madeleine Hodson, Chief Editor of PrivacySharks, told ConsumerAffairs.

James E. Lee, Chief Operating Officer of the ITRC, agreed with Hodson, saying that businesses need to step up for the sake of their customers’ security. 

“While we are happy that the number of individuals impacted is down, the risk of an identity crime still exists and has real consequences. Businesses need to take actions to make sure they are not collecting too much information since cybercriminals cannot take what organizations do not have,” he told ConsumerAffairs. 

“There is nothing a consumer can do to prevent a data breach, that’s why good cyber-hygiene practices like multifactor authentication and strong, unique passphrases are essential.” 

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