As the world becomes increasingly dependent on technology, our reliance on data becomes ever more critical. The use of data has opened avenues for cybercriminals across the globe, targeting individuals, companies and even government organizations.
A recent study found that 74% of Americans are worried about having personal data, credit card or financial information stolen by computer hackers, while only 33% worry about getting mugged.
The worry for individuals is high, and data theft is a financial worry for companies too, with the average cost of online security breaches rising 20% from 2014 to 2021. Organizations across the globe are upgrading their data security protocols to protect against increasingly intelligent cyberattacks.
This report takes a dive into the statistics of data theft to look at the most affected countries and the most significant data breaches in history, while also providing tips on taking action to protect yourself.
Countries with the most data breaches from 2013 to 2021
Even though businesses and governments around the world are increasing cybersecurity resources, as you can see, vast numbers of breaches are still happening across the globe. From 2013 to 2021, the United States alone has amassed nearly 6.5 billion breaches – that's 1,955,082 per 100,000 people. The U.S. is a cybercrime hotspot due to the high population and its status as a hub for data-dependent companies, but these stats highlight that despite that data security within the U.S. still has vast room for improvement.
To make data breaches comparable across all countries, we ranked them by data breaches per 100,000 people. With almost 25% fewer breaches than the US, the Republic of Korea follows in second place with 467,957 per 100,000. Following in third is Canada, with 273,976 breaches per 100,000.
Average cost of data breaches worldwide from 2020 to 2021, by country or region (in million U.S. dollars)
With the COVID-19 pandemic, along with other external factors to combat, many avenues have been left open for cyberattacks in 2020 and 2021. So much so, in fact, that the average global cost of a data breach has risen 9.8% from 2020 to 2021.
Several countries and regions sit above the line for the average cost of a data breach ($4.24 million) with the U.S. and Canada ranking the highest.
States with the largest cybercrime losses
Using 2020 data published by the FBI, we've compiled a list of the top 10 and bottom five states in the U.S. for cybercrime losses. Understandably, larger states have seen more considerable total losses, but even the losses per capita are higher than those of states in the bottom five. Losses per capita are calculated by dividing total losses by the state population.
With tech giants based in California, it’s no surprise that this tops the charts for data theft, with losses totalling $621,452,320. South Dakota has lost the least to cybercrime, losing a total of $3,208,241.
Top 10 biggest data breaches and leaks
The stats suggest every one of us has likely had our email address or mobile number stolen or leaked at some point. There have been data breaches for companies big and small too — but which companies have been affected the worst by data breaches?
Above is a list of the biggest data breaches in history. Breaches of this size don't happen often, but they affect a huge number of victims when they do. Interestingly, the companies involved in the list all rely on data but cover a variety of industries.
As these companies operate in different industries, a wide range of personal data has been breached — some a lot more private than others. From passport numbers to security questions, a vast array of personal data has been revealed to cybercriminals.
So how does company data theft affect the everyday person? Here are two cases of how losing data can be traumatic, showing why it's essential to protect your information.
490,000 Myspace songs lost but later recovered:
After a botched server migration, the once-popular network site MySpace lost half a million songs uploaded between 2008 and 2010 — a shocking experience for those that had gone to the effort of creating and uploading music. Thankfully, this story doesn't end all bad.
As part of a research project, an anonymous academic group studying music at the time had downloaded 1.3 terabytes of music and backed up the songs. When the news broke out of the data loss, the group offered to send over the files.
Celebrity Twitter hack:
In July 2020, Twitter suffered one of the most significant hacks in its history, even though it only affected 130 accounts. Those 130 accounts packed quite a punch, belonging to the likes of Joe Biden, Bill Gates, Elon Musk, Uber and Apple, who accumulatively have more than 178 million followers. The hackers posted links to a Bitcoin address on their victims’ accounts, offering a time-limited double investment scam. Twitter reported it as a phishing attack, the tweets were deleted, and the issue was later resolved, but the unanswered question is: what personal information did the hackers access?
Top tips to protect yourself against a data breach or loss
There are things you can do with your personal computing devices to avoid breaches or losing your data. As the figures above suggest, we should all be considering our data security. Here are nine tips on how to keep your data safe. ·
- Invest in good-quality antivirus software for your internet devices
- Back up your files to an external SSD and to the cloud
- Create obscure passwords using various symbols, characters, and capitalizations
- Use multi-factor authentication where possible
- Make sure your home broadband is secure; you can discuss this with your provider
- Keep your software regularly updated
- Always check a company's security guidelines when asked for information; for example, your bank would never ask you to confirm your details over email
- If using shared devices, protect or encrypt confidential files and information
- Be mindful of devices connected to your broadband, and check their security settings (speakers, smart devices, etc.)