The Pew Research Center reported today that more than 18 percent of Americans who are online have had personal information stolen.
The number is up from the 11 percent who reported similar problems the year before. This data includes Social Security numbers, bank account information and credit card data, Pew said.
In addition to the more critical financial data that was stolen, 21 percent of the respondents said that one of their social media accounts was hacked, resulting in it being taken over without their permission. On the bright side, this number remained steady from 2013.
There was a definite link between age and online vulnerability. Those surveyed between the ages of 18 and 29 were less likely to have data stolen, 15 percent, compared with those between 30 and 64 years of age, of whom 20 percent reported having information stolen. Unfortunately, both age groups suffered an increase in 2014. In 2013, only 7 percent of the younger group reported the theft of confidential data. For those between 50 and 64 years of age, in 2013 the report rate was 11 percent.
Interestingly, those ages 65 and older saw the amount of data stolen was significantly lower, with only 13 percent reporting a theft. Pew did not have a reason for this lower number.
The increase in security breaches should not come as a major surprise. In late 2013 there were several well-known cases of retailers, such as Target, being hacked during which data was stolen from millions of customers. There there was last week's revelation of the Heartbleed security flaw.
"The bug, which affects a widely used encryption technology that is intended to protect online transactions and accounts, went undetected for more than two years. Security researchers are unsure whether or not hackers have been exploiting the problem, but the scope of the problem is estimated to affect up to 66% of active sites on the Internet," the Pew report stated.
The large amount of media coverage the Target data breach and Heartbleed attacks received, along with the fact that more people than ever are using the Internet in a way that could lead to data theft, has helped raise people's awareness.
"When we look at how broad measures of concern among adults have changed over the past five years, we find that Internet users have become more worried about the amount of personal information available about them online -- 50% reported this concern in January 2014, up from 33% in 2009," the report said.