The number of serious global data breaches last year jumped 62 percent to 253 from the previous year, resulting in the leakage of more than 552 million units of personal identities, including passwords of bank accounts and social security information, according to the latest global cyber security report released by Symantec on Thursday. Both the number of cases and leaked information were record highs.
The report said each of the eight largest data breaches reported last year resulted in the loss of more than tens of millions of personal data records, while only a single data breach reached that threshold in 2012.
“It’s a year of mega data breach,” said Victor Law, a senior executive at Symantec, a US computer security solutions provider, at a media briefing. “Each of the eight mega cases is equivalent to 50 smaller attacks.”
Law warned internet users to beware of enticing promotional offerings on social media sites such as Facebook, especially when using smartphones—they may be intended to steal the users’ personal information.
The report said fake offerings accounted 81 percent of cybercrimes on social media websites, up from 56 percent in 2012. Of all the cases of leakage, only 7 percent occurred in the retail sector last year, but 30 percent of the 552 million data leakages were from websites in the sector.
Large-scale data breaches often took place just before or after important holidays, such as Christmas, when more people were shopping online and visiting social network websites, Law said.
The report also showed about 38 percent of smartphone users fell victim to cybercrime as a result of using their devices in the past year.
Only 33 percent of smartphone users installed anti-virus apps on their devices, compared with 70 percent for personal computers, it said.
In Hong Kong, the marketing and media sectors saw the most number of spam and phishing attacks while telecommunications was the top industry attacked by malware.
About 60 percent of companies in the city are suffering from spam attacks, Symantec said, adding that personal assistants and media-related personnel are most likely to be victims of targeted attacks as they hold sensitive information but have weak protection against cybercrimes.
The report suggests that business owners should have tailored policies and procedures to protect sensitive data while consumers must be cautious when handling unexpected emails and be wary of online offers that seem too good to be true.
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