2012: A year of data insecurity


It's been a rough year for data security, and that's putting it as mildly as we possibly can. Hackers of all varieties have been relentless, and their methods have become more insidious than ever. The number of breaches recorded annually is soaring, but experts say this number likely reflects a small fraction of the total breaches committed--most of which remain undisclosed.

As of Nov. 6, there were 370 recorded data breaches in which an individual's social security number, financial record, medical record or driver's license number was put at risk, according to the non-profit ID Theft Resource Center.

Countless other network and database intrusions exposed information of other kinds, and using slightly different criteria than the ITRC, the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse records 598 breaches so far this year. 

Banks across the country, from Citibank to Wells Fargo to TD Bank, have been among the hardest hit by hackers, but in most of these cases, the total number of records exposed remains unknown. Hospitals and other healthcare organizations have also been prime targets, drawing one-third of the attacks recorded by the ITRC.

It's not really possible--or fair--to rank order breaches because so many go unpublicized, and among those that are made public, little information is provided. What's more, the magnitude of damage from a breach depends on a wide variety of factors, not the least of which is an organization's timeliness and responsiveness in handling it. That said, here are some real doozies from 2012: