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4.2 Billion Records Exposed in Data Breaches in 2016: Report

2016 was a record year for data breaches, as the number of exposed records exceeded 4.2 billion, nearly four times than the previously set record.

The latest release of Risk Based Security’s annual Data Breach QuickView report shows that there were 4,149 data breaches reported during 2016, down from the 4,326 data breaches reported in 2015. The number of exposed records, however, reached an all-time high that might not be easily equaled: 4.281 billion. The previous record was established in 2013 at 1.106 billion.

Over half of the compromised records came from Myspace and Yahoo last year. The former confirmed in May that over 400 million accounts were compromised in a data breach that took place in 2013, while the latter revealed two different hacking incidents, a 2014 one, which resulted in 500 million compromised accounts, and a 2013 one, with over 1 billion compromised accounts.

However, these weren’t the only popular services to have suffered massive data breaches that were reported last year: Mail.Ru (25 million compromised records), LinkedIn (167 million), Tumblr (65 million), VK (170 million), VerticalScope (45 million), and Last.fm (43 million) are also on the list. In fact, the top 10 breaches in 2016 exposed a total of more than 3 billion records.

According to Risk Based Security’s report (PDF), no less than 94 breaches in 2016 had exposed one million or more records. However, 50.4% of the data breaches reported last year exposed only between one and 10,000 records, while 37.2% of them exposed less than 1,000 records.

Business (80.9% of the number of records exposed) and Government (5.6%) sectors were hit the most in last year’s incidents, with the Medical industry (0.3%) and Education (less than 0.1%) next on the list. A great amount of breaches hit “Unknown” industries (13.1% of the exposed records).

The report also notes that 53.3% of the breaches were the result of hacking operations, and that they accounted for 91.9% of the exposed records. Malware accounted for 4.5% of the data breaches, but only 0.4% of the compromised records were affected. Misconfigured databases and other inadvertent web based disclosures exposed over 253 million records in 2016, the report reveals.

Breaches involving U.S. entities accounted for 47.5% of the breaches last year, and for 68.2% of the exposed records, the firm notes. A report from CyberScout (formerly IDT911) and the Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC) this week revealed that 1,093 breaches were disclosed by organizations in the United States last year, up 40% compared to 2015.

Only 18.3% of the incidents reported last year were the result of insider activity, including accidental, malicious and unknown intent. “56.3% of incidents originating from malicious insiders had no confirmed record count, while 39.3% of incidents originating from insider accidents had no confirmed count,” the report reads.

Email addresses were exposed in 42.6% of the data breaches, with emails and passwords considered the prize targets of these incidents. In fact, the number of impacted passwords skyrocketed last year, reaching 3.2 billion, although it was of only 151 million in 2015.

“With 102 countries reporting at least one data breach in 2016, Risk Based Security’s research suggests that no industry, organization size or geographic location, is immune to a data breach. The total number of reported breaches tracked by Risk Based Security has exceeded 23,700, exposing over 9.2 billion records,” the security firm notes.

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