Data breaches increase by a third as staff continue to work from home

A developer working from home
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The number of data breaches within organizations has increased by a third as employees continue to work remotely as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to the Verizon Business 2021 Data Breach Investigations Report, of 29,207 incidents analyzed, 5,258 were confirmed breaches, a third more than last year. The report said breach data showed 61% of breaches involved credential data, while 85% of breaches involved a human element.

In financial and insurance industries, 83% of data compromised in breaches was personal data, while in professional, scientific, and technical services only 49% was personal.

The report also found that North America is often the target of financially motivated actors searching for money or easily monetizable data. Social engineering, hacking and malware continue to be the primary methods used by cyber criminals in this region.

As more people worked from home, phishing and ransomware attacks increased by 11% and 6%, respectively.

Tami Erwin, CEO of Verizon Business, said that the COVID-19 pandemic has profoundly impacted many of the security challenges organizations are currently facing.

“As the number of companies switching business-critical functions to the cloud increases, the potential threat to their operations may become more pronounced, as malicious actors look to exploit human vulnerabilities and leverage an increased dependency on digital infrastructures,” she said.


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Niamh Muldoon, global data protection officer at OneLogin, told IT Pro that cyber threats are growing in frequency, particularly as most of us are working remotely.

“We cannot forget though, the people and teams working hard every day to protect our businesses which are already under significant financial pressures in today’s tough economic environment. Indeed, our recent IAMokay Mental Health Survey, which included 250 tech leaders across the globe, revealed that more than 77% of respondents believed the pandemic has increased their work-related stress. When asked about their workload, 86% of respondents reported their workload increased during the pandemic,” she said.

“The stress that our security teams bear should not be neglected. All organizations must ensure they are looking out for the mental health and wellbeing of these teams if they hope to effectively defend themselves from bad actors. One critical step an organization can take to prevent breaches as well as reduce stress and strain on security operations teams is to streamline access control.”

Rene Millman

Rene Millman is a freelance writer and broadcaster who covers cybersecurity, AI, IoT, and the cloud. He also works as a contributing analyst at GigaOm and has previously worked as an analyst for Gartner covering the infrastructure market. He has made numerous television appearances to give his views and expertise on technology trends and companies that affect and shape our lives. You can follow Rene Millman on Twitter.