Data security breaches soared to unprecedented levels in 2007, a trend experts say likely won't turn around anytime soon. That's because as quickly as companies put new security measures in place, hackers are already finding ways to beat those methods.
"More (companies) are experiencing data breaches, and they're responding to them in a reactive way, rather than proactively looking at the company's security and seeing where the holes might be," said Linda Foley, who founded the San Diego-based Identity Theft Resource Center after falling victim to identity theft.
According to Foley's agency, there were 79 million records reported compromised in the U.S. through December 18. That's four times as many as in 2006.
Another group, Attrition.org, figures that more than 162 million records were compromised from the start of the year up until Dec. 21. Unlike Theft Research Center, Attrition looks at breaches around the world.
"It's just the nature of business, that moving forward, more companies are going to have more records, so there will be more records compromised each year," said Attrition's Brian Martin.
More than half the total records for both groups were part of the massive theft of credit card data at TJX Cos., which owns discount stores including T.J. Maxx and Marshalls. Attrition.org figured 94 million records were exposed when hackers intercepted wireless transfers of customer information at two Marshall’s stores in Miami. That allowed the perpetrators to get into TJX's central databases.
Before the breach, which came to light in January, the company had apparently invested millions of dollars in computer security.
The two nonprofit groups suggest 2007 will end up being a record year in terms of the amount of compromised information, not just because of greater data loss, but because of greater reporting of breaches.