Hackers behind bulk of the 2,644 data breaches in 2012

For the second year running, hacking was the most frequent source of data breaches, according to a new report based on known incidents in 2012.

There were 2,644 data breaches last year or just over twice the number known to have occurred in 2011, according a new report by Open Security Foundation, which runs the international DataLoss database, and security consultancy Risk Based Security.

Hacking was behind 1802 (68.2 percent) of known breaches for the year, which resulted in 22 percent of the 267 million records that were exposed in 2012.

Conversely, insiders (malicious, accidental, and unknown) were responsible 19.5 percent of data loss incidents, but had a much bigger impact, and were responsible for 66.7 percent of the year’s exposed records.

Malicious insiders were behind 7.1 percent of all breaches, however they were also responsible for the largest breach of the year by exposed records. Over half of the exposed records in 2012 came from Shanghai Roadway, a Chinese unit of Dun & Bradstreet, which the business information giant shuttered after four employees were found to have sold 150 million Chinese customer records for roughly 23 cents each.

Despite the uptick in incidents and the massive Chinese breach, the number of confirmed exposed records in 2012 was a dramatic decrease on 412 million records exposed in 2011.

However, the report’s authors say the 2012 figure should be viewed as a “significant underestimate” because the number of records exposed was not reported in 20.6 percent of breaches.

A snapshot of data types is also interesting to note. Credit card numbers were exposed in 6.4 percent of the incidents, account information in 7.4 percent, medical data in 9.4 percent, date of birth in 11.2 percent, social security number (or equivalent) in 14.4 percent and address in 18.8 percent.

These were overshadowed by name, password, email and other “miscellaneous” data, such as userID that were exposed in over 44 percent of incidents.

Databreaches.net, a blog by the curator of OSF’s DataLossDB, notes that figures in the report differ from others due to different methodologies.

Perhaps the most notable comparison is Verizon’s annual data breach report, based on data from federal law enforcement agencies in Australia, the US and Europe. In 2011, for example, Verizon counted 174 million records exposed in 855 incidents whereas OSF recorded 412 million exposed records in 1,217 incidents.

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