A guest post by Eva Velasquez, CEO, Identity Theft Resource Center

While some things change, some things stay the same. At least, that can be the sentiment about data breaches and hacking events. As new laws around the country have been enacted to help consumers protect themselves against identity theft, to require notification of stolen information, and to aid law enforcement in tackling this crime, the numbers of data breaches continue to rise.

The Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC) tracks data breaches each year, and their 2017 mid-year report showed some surprising news. The US is already on track to surpass all previous years’ number of data breaches, meaning that if the current rate continues, 2017 will see a 39 percent increase over last year. In 2016, a record-setting 1,093 breaches were reported, but 2017 is already in line to post over 1,500 data breaches.

According to the ITRC’s mid-year report, “Since 2005, the ITRC has identified data breaches in five industry sectors: financial (including banking and credit); health/medical; government/military, education and business. So far in 2017, the business sector continues to top the list at 54.7 percent of the total breaches, followed by the healthcare/medical industry at 22.6 percent. The education sector ranks third at 11.3 percent of the total breaches followed by the banking/credit/financial industry at 5.8 percent and the government/military at 5.6 percent.”

One possible reason for the increase is the mandatory reporting for the medical industry that is required to comply with notifications about privacy violations where patient records are concerned.

Interestingly, this year’s report discloses that Social Security numbers (SSN) continue to be the most sought-after piece of identifying information, which is particularly bad news for consumers. Only a few short years ago, credit card and debit card numbers were typically targeted in data breaches, but SSNs carry a much longer payoff since they cannot be canceled or easily changed. “Card not present alerts” from financial institutions have made the work of stopping a fraudulent transaction easier than ever, and with the availability of SSN identifiers, hackers are turning their attention to the more permanent data.

Another key finding for the first half of 2017 is that hacking attempts are the most common and damaging method of a data breach attack, including phishing and ransomware/malware. This should serve as a warning to both consumers and businesses: before a breach response is necessary there is a need for more awareness and training in order to avoid phishing attempts, as well as a need for better anti-virus protocols like software, updates, and security scans in order to keep malicious software from installing and running.

ID Experts proudly provides financial support to the Identity Theft Resource Center