In the last decade, the 10 biggest breaches exposed the data of more than 6.4 billion people. At best, if you were affected, you might be worried about resetting your Words With Friends password (Zynga) or the compromised nature of your food logs (MyFitnessPal). At worst, you might have had to freeze all the activity on your credit report (Experian) or worried over every ounce of personal information sent via email (Yahoo).
More than 38 million records have been exposed since 2010. With no sign of cybersecurity issues slowing down, Security.org surveyed over 1,000 people (hundreds of who had experience with data breaches) to understand how well the public is aware of digital threats. Here’s a peek at their findings.
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Among those polled, 27% had been victimized by a data breach in 2018. When asked to identify the most significant breaches that year, nearly 70% were aware of the Cambridge Analytica scandal involving Facebook, followed by the situations occurring with Marriott International (24%), MyFitnessPal (20%), and Panera Bread (17%).
Data breaches in the media
Unfortunately, out of sight might be out of mind, and some major data breaches may not have garnered mainstream attention. Despite impacting more than 100 million people cumulatively, fewer than 1 in 10 Americans were aware of the breaches involving MyHeritage, SaverSpy, and PumpUp. Nearly 30% of people polled by Security.org even expressed awareness of five data breaches that never occurred.
Considering how many data breaches there were in 2018 (more than 5 billion people had their data exposed in these criminal attacks), you might argue that it’s impossible to keep track of every cybersecurity issue, especially if it doesn’t impact your data. You’ll still want to do something to protect your information from future attacks, though.
To protect themselves, more than half of Americans made their passwords more difficult to guess (59%) after learning of a data breach. Similarly, many were more reluctant to enter their personal information online (nearly 45%), stopped logging into public Wi-Fi servers (about 35%), and stopped downloading unknown files (over 30%).
Millennials, for all the talk of their excitement to adopt new technologies, were a bit slower to adopt certain safety habits to protect their data. Compared to baby boomers (60%) and Gen Xers (62%), millennials were the least likely generation to make their passwords more complex after learning of a breach and were less or least likely to stop downloading unfamiliar files, become more cautious of sharing their financial data online, and request a copy of their credit report.
Generational differences in survey
Making some effort to protect your information, particularly through stronger passwords, can be pivotal in guarding against exposure. Roughly half of the data breaches disclose email addresses and full names. Phone numbers, residential addresses, and account login information are also commonly compromised as a result of a breach. While 1 in 5 people had their financial information leaked in a breach, it’s more common for hackers to attack credit card (nearly 14%) and debit card numbers (about 12%) compared to banking information (almost 6%).
Despite being more likely to learn about a breach of their information from the media, more than 1 in 3 people victimized by a breach acknowledged reducing but not terminating their business with the involved company. Still, more than 2 in 3 Americans affected by breaches trusted the company in question less after being hacked, a feeling that was highest with Facebook, Marriott International, and SunTrust Banks. Around 85% of people who were impacted by a Facebook breach trusted the social media giant less as a result.
An overwhelming majority of Americans (92%) agree the company should be held legally responsible for the financial losses to customers after a data breach. In 2019, Facebook was ordered to pay a $643,000 fine for its role in the Cambridge Analytica scandal.