Data breaches rose 25 per cent to 320 incidents in single quarter, SafeNet figures find

183 million customer records leaked

SafeNet's latest Breach Level Index (BLI) report has underlined the bleak picture of global data breaches, with 320 reported compromises between July and September leaking a total 183 million customer records.

Peering into the numbers, several things stand out - breaches rose by 25 per cent compared to the same period in 2013 and the overwhelming majority came to light in a single month, August, presumably nothing more than a quirk.

Two thirds of the breaches recorded were in the US, ahead of 16 per cent in Europe, 10 per cent in Asia-Pacific, 7 per cent in the Middle-East and Africa and 1 per cent in South America, a breakdown that probably accords to a large extent with disclosure laws in these locations.

To put that into numbers, the US suffered 199 breaches, the UK 33, Canada 14, Australia 11, and Israel 10. Already something looks suspicious about that list - all have relatively tough disclosure regulations or laws which suggests that other countries are probably suffering incidents that are not being made public.

At a time when US retail breaches have received widespread attention, the sector was pushed into a surprising second place by finance, which accounted for 42 per cent of compromised records (33 incidents) to the former's 31 per cent (47 incidents). Technology, online and social media was third with 20 per cent (38 incidents).

"Consumers' heads must be spinning as criminals are easily getting access to their credit card, banking and personal information at every turn," said SafeNet chief strategy officer, Tsion Gonen.

"Companies should assume a breach and plan accordingly. They need to implement technologies and programmes that minimise the impact of a breach on top of the traditional prevention. As it is, these technologies are just not being used by to the fullest extent by either consumers or companies."

One major story during the period that had no impact on the numbers was the claim that the Russian CyberVors gang had access to as many as 1.2 billion customer credentials. While potentially vast in scale, these would have been stolen over a long period of time and aren't considered to be customer records in most methodologies because individuals were not personally identifiable.

One issue breach measurements highlight is the different way that financial data (which must be encrypted) and personal data (which is rarely encrypted) are still handled by the majority of businesses. Once hackers have their hands on personal data such as name, address, or personal files such as photographs, the damage is near permanent.

It's not surprising that a growing number of consumers have become cynical that banks and businesses have been protecting their own interests rather than that of their customers.

"Once your personal photos or private messages have been accessed and leaked online, there's no fixing that. Those items will be forever in cyberspace for your future employers, friends and family to access," said Gonen.

"What is surprising is that again only 1 percent of breached records had been encrypted. Now is the time for customers to demand that their personal information be encrypted by companies."

SafeNet launched the BLI launched in early 2014 covering 2013 as the first year to be assessed, which just happened to be an historic high for the phenomenon of breaches. Measurements like this could in time become a standard way of assessing popular security and its challenges.

European card security firm Gemalto announced that it was buying the firm in August.

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