A data breach occurs any time confidential data is exposed by an unauthorized party, whether it has been accidentally leaked or purposefully stolen. Unfortunately, this can occur within a variety of institutions you rely on every day, from banks to schools to government offices. If your personal information is leaked, you will be more vulnerable to the possibility of identity theft. In fact, you are five times more likely to become a fraud victim if your Social Security number is obtained through a data breach.1
Vulnerability to data breaches
Most businesses and organizations that collect your personal information will store this information electronically. Electronic storage is beneficial in many ways, especially because of its efficiency. However, electronic storage also presents an array of concerns when it comes to cyber security, data breaches and the possibility of identity theft.
The security of your identity can be jeopardized through many different cyber threats, including hackers, viruses and online file sharing.
In 2012, an Internet phishing attack targeted the South Carolina Department of Revenue. The ensuing data breach compromised the Social Security numbers and credit card data of more than 3.8 million taxpayers.
Because electronic information is vulnerable to cyber security threats, you should be very cautious about sharing your personal information, even when it is requested by a perfectly legitimate institution.
For example, doctor’s offices will usually ask you to provide your Social Security number for identification purposes, but this information is not always necessary. Always make sure to ask why an organization, business or government agency needs your information before you provide it.
Even the most careful institutions can never be 100 percent protected from the possibility of a data breach. You can reduce your risk of becoming a victim by controlling when and where your personal information is disclosed.
1 Javelin Strategy & Research: 2012 Identity Fraud Survey Report