Data breaches are on the rise. According to the Identity Theft Resource Center in San Diego, the number of incidents and total records exposed this year have 2015 on track to be even worse than 2014 — which had a record 783 known breaches in the United States that affected 85,611,528 records.
But that record is in jeopardy as the organization tracked 400 breaches that have left 117,576,693 records vulnerable from January through June. Now more than ever, all consumers need to protect themselves — and stop relying on companies, hospitals, or even the government to keep their identities safe.
These are the worst data breaches so far in 2015.
Hackers Hit the Government
Nobody is safe. Hackers hit the United States government in late 2014 and early 2015, stealing the Social Security numbers, health records, criminal backgrounds, and financial histories of some 25 million current and former federal employees. Many victims were among those whose records sat in a database after they had applied for security clearances with the Office of Personnel Management, but some were simply family members and friends of those who applied.
Office of Personnel Management Director Katherine Archuleta resigned in the wake of the scandal. House of Representatives intelligent committee member Adam Schiff (D-CA) applauded the change in leadership at “an agency that not only poorly defended sensitive data of millions of Americans but struggled to respond to repeated intrusions,” according to the Washington Times. He added that “this change in leadership is also an acknowledgement that we cannot simply place blame on the hackers, but need to take responsibility for the protection of personal information that is so obvious a target.”
The Attack Anthem
In February, health insurer Anthem Blue Cross was hit by hackers, who may have accessed up to 80 million patient records in one of the largest breaches in history. “Anthem Blue Cross was the target of a very sophisticated external cyber attack,” the company wrote in an email after the incident. “These attackers gained unauthorized access to Anthem’s IT system and have obtained personal information from our current and former members such as their names, birthdays, medical IDs/Social Security numbers, street addresses, email addresses and employment information, including income data.”
The company said that there was no indication that medical records were “targeted or compromised,” but whenever such sensitive data may be involved, it brings a breach to a whole other level. When financial and personal records are exposed, it is unfortunate and can hurt people’s lives. But medical information being exposed is much more troubling: If certain revelations become public, they can ruin people’s lives.
Hackers vs. Cheaters at Ashley Madison
Some 37 million users of the only dating/adultery website Ashley Madison are now wondering if their marriage is about to end in divorce. The online network caters to people trying to discreetly cheat on their spouses. “Life is short. Have an affair,” according to one of the site’s slogans.
A hacker group, which calls itself The Impact Team, has taken umbrage to this salacious business model. They called the users “cheating dirtbags,” according to the Washington Post, and told Ashley Madison’s parent company that it must take the site “offline permanently in all forms, or we will release all customer records, including profiles with all the customers’ secret sexual fantasies and matching credit card transactions, real names and addresses, and employee documents and emails.”
Some users’ details have already been leaked, but it remains to be seen exactly how this will all play out.