NEWS

2007: Four-fold Increase in Personal Information Breaches

By Matthew Harwood

Personal information was under increasing attack in 2007, reports The Register, as the number of information breaches quadrupled.

The San Diego-based Identity Theft Resource Center reckons more than 79m records were exposed in the US up to 18 December. The figures represent a fourfold increase on the organisation's estimate of 20m lost records in 2006. Increased reporting of breaches as well as greater volumes of data are among the factors accounting for the rise, AP reports.

Data handling has probably always been poor, but information security breach disclosure laws have pushed the issue out into the open.

Meanwhile, Attrition.org reckons 162m customer records were compromised worldwide in the year up to 21 December, compared to 49m lost records in 2006.

As the Associated Press reports, half the total of each group's increase in personal information breaches can be attributed to TJX Cos, the owner of discount stores such as T.J. Maxx and Marshalls. Hackers managed to intercept wireless transfers from two Marshalls stores in Miami, which then provided an entry way into TJX's central database.

The disparity between the Identity Theft Resource Center's numbers and Attrition.org's numbers are due to different data sets. For their study, the Identity Theft Resource Center used the number of potentially compromised credit cards publicly acknowledged by TJX, which stands at 46 million. Attrition.org, on the other hand, used the number of potentially compromised credit cards listed in a  lawsuit against TJX filed by major banks. According to officials from Visa and Mastercard deposed for the lawsuit, 94 million credit card numbers may have been compromised.

Other significant personal information breaches of 2007 include the lost of two data discs by the British government with the personal details of over 25 million of its citizens, "a hacker attack of a U.S.-based online broker's database, and a con that spilled resume contact information from a U.S. online jobs site."

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