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The Crimes, They are a Changin’
Welcome to the Identity Theft Resource Center’s (ITRC’s) Weekly Breach Breakdown for October 8th, 2021. Our podcast is possible thanks to support from Experian. Each week we look at the most recent events and trends related to data security and privacy. We also use a lot of literary references – especially Shakespeare around here. Today, though, we turn to a different classic for inspiration – Bob Dylan - in honor of Cybersecurity Awareness Month. This is time each year when we focus on protecting ourselves and others from the wide variety of identity attacks. That’s why we’re calling today’s episode…The crimes, they are a changin’.
When the ITRC was founded nearly 22 years ago, the root cause of most data breaches and data crimes involved paper. Digital data theft didn’t arrive until the mid-2000s and even then, it was usually because someone’s laptop or external hard drive was stolen.
Not so today. Where physical attacks and human errors were once the leading cause of data compromises – today it is far and away cyberattacks. So common are cyberattacks today, the number of data breaches and exposures associated them so far this year exceeds all forms of data compromises in 2020.
Phishing is the leading attack vector that leads to data breaches. The login and password credentials stolen in these email, text, and website-related attacks are then often used by cybercriminals to access company networks & databases that are held hostage in a ransomware assault – the second most common cause of data compromises.
Malware is the third leading cause of identity related data breaches and often used to exploit software flaws or penetrate networks as part of a ransomware attack or just good old fashioned data theft. And caught in the cross-hairs of all these cyberattacks are consumers – people whose data is held in trust by organizations that are the targets of cybercriminals.
We often think of data breaches and ransomware only impacting big businesses whose names we recognize.
But, later this month, the ITRC will issue a new report on the impact of identity crimes on small businesses and solopreneurs – the tens of millions of businesses with no or just a handful of employees. Without giving away too much today, the research shows more than half of all small businesses have experienced one or more data breaches, security breaches, or both.
So, how do you protect yourself – at your work and at home - from cyberattacks? Essential the actions are the same. Regular listeners already know the basics to a good cyber defense: make good back-ups of your information, update or patch your software as fast as you can, and practice good password hygiene – no using the same password at work & home and each account gets a unique, 12+ character password.
There are two additional actions that will reduce your cyber risk you should consider:
First: Collect and maintain less information. If you are a business, once you complete a transaction, get rid of the personal data you no longer need. The same is true for consumers. Don’t keep sensitive information you no longer need. Cyberthieves can’t steal what you don’t have.
Second: If you a business leader, train your teams like you’re voting in Chicago – early and often. If you’re a consumer, you can use some routine training, too. Why is this important? Because cybercriminals are always improving their attack methods and inventing new ones. We need to make sure we know what to do to stay safe from identity scams and cyber risks and that takes training and education.
Thanks for listening.
Contact the ITRC
If you think you have been the victim of an identity crime or a data breach and you need help figuring out what to do next, you can speak with an ITRC expert advisor on the phone (888.400.5530), chat live on the web or exchange emails during our normal business hours (6 a.m.-5 p.m. PST). Just visit www.idtheftcenter.org to get started.
Thanks again to Experian for supporting the ITRC and this podcast. Be sure to join us next week for another episode of the Weekly Breach Breakdown.
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