It's still an untamed Internet out there. Consumers were hit with a very shaky 2013 in terms of data breaches experienced by some companies that one would think should have been better protected from the trust-violating examples of hacking that compromised the security and privacy of many accounts.
In the state of New York, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman produced a report detailing the growing number, complexity and costs of data breaches within the state. The report analyzes eight years of security breach data and its impact on New Yorkers.
It turns out breaches more than tripled between 2006 and 2013. The numbers during that period show 22.8 million personal records at risk in over 5,000 data breach incidents. The cost fallout was a reported $1.37 billion combined between the public and private sectors. Hackers accounted for 40 percent of these breaches, according to the report.
"As we increasingly share our personal information with stores, restaurants, health care providers and other organizations, we should be able to enjoy the benefits of new technology without putting ourselves at risk," said Schneiderman.
Vowing to take steps to stem the tide of data theft and hacking, Schneiderman took personal responsibility.
"Moving forward, I will advocate for collaboration between industry and security experts to ensure that organizations across the state and country have access to the tools needed to secure our data, so we can best address this complex and growing problem," he added.
Some of the numbers in Schneiderman's report reflect some of these well-publicized data breaches:
In April, for example, hackers broke into LivingSocial's systems and lifted personal info on over 50 million users, who were implored to immediately change their passwords.
In perhaps the best-known security breach, Target Corp. was humiliated by a hack that affected the credit and debit cards of over 70 million customers. It cost Target CEO Gregg Steinhafel his job. The incident, which also revealed that Target security systems were asleep at the switch, resulted in the theft of 40 million credit and debit card numbers and the gathering of nearly 70 million customer names, mailing addresses, phone numbers and email addresses.
In August, hackers even had the gumption to barge into Apple's Developer Website. Although the attack was largely unsuccessful, Apple was forced to shut down the site for three weeks.
For consumers, Schneiderman encourages the creation of strong passwords and frequent updating of them; the careful and frequent monitoring of credit and debit card statements; taking care not to post sensitive and private information on social media or to store passwords on paper documents or unencrypted software programs; and to maintain awareness of reports of data breaches in general, even if they don't seem to affect you.