So, you put on the radio (anyone still have one of those old-fashioned things?), switch on the tv, or visit your favourite news website and you see it: another data breach has snaffled all the headlines.
Reported data breaches are becoming ever more common. I say reported because I’m not convinced that they necessarily occur vastly more often than in the past, but I do think that they garner more common inches in the rags and more electrons on the interwebs than they ever did.
That said, the nature of data breaches is shifting.
Not so long ago they affected large companies. Hackers, or organised criminals as they more likely are, were targeting big business with the intention of gathering data from which they could profit in some way. It wasn’t great for those affected of course but at least we could go to bed at night and not worry about our own data falling into the wrong hands.
Nowadays of course the situation is somewhat different. Personal data is being hoovered up via data breaches, either as a side effect or by deliberate design. It’s not just hackers that are stealing that data either, but post-Snowden observations have been covered plenty well enough elsewhere.
The trend which sees the average man or woman in the street become a direct victim of the data breach is an alarming one as it potentially affects so many people.
To put things into perspective, it has emerged today that up to 27 million South Koreans may have had their personal data compromised by a gang that snaffled up website registrations from a variety of sites, including gambling sites, ringtone sites and games sites.
All in, it looks like up to 220 million records may have been stolen by around 16 people who used that info to fraudulently acquire in-game currency and other virtual items for cash.
Worse yet, breached accounts, along with the associated passwords and resident registration numbers, may have been used by third parties as part of a mortgage fraud ring. The guy behind all of this, known simply as Kim, is also said to have sold personal information on to others too.
It’s not the first time this has happened in South Korea either – in 2011 some 35 million people had their personal information exposed after a breach at Cyworld, a local social network. That figure represents almost the entire population of the country.
Whilst south Korea may not be Ireland, Britain or the US, it would still be naive to think that it couldn’t happen in one of those countries, and on a similar scale.
Because for most people it’s not so much if but when.
So what are you doing to lessen the risk of your company being the next victim of the next big data breach? How are you protecting your own personal information on your local computer? What about your online accounts, of which you likely have many? Are they all protected by unique complex passwords? Are they all trustworthy?
Hopefully you are as secure as you can be already but it is worth returning to Mr Snowden. Whatever you may think of him and the way he has leaked certain sensitive information, there is no denying the fact that he has taught us all one thing: if someone wants your data badly enough, they’ll find a way.