Data insecurity reaches new heights

Next year can bring a new generation of services and technologies designed to protect consumers. Moreover, these new services will be of particular interest to the financial industry. While consumers may have grown numb to news about massive data breaches, the cost of protecting banking industries’ interests by issuing new cards, alerting consumers to the breaches and settling fraud claims is enormous.

More than 200 million data records were stolen by hackers in the first quarter of 2014, according to SafeNet, a major data-protection firm. In the absence of a comprehensive national registry of Internet-enabled identity theft and fraud, it’s anybody’s guess how many individuals and small businesses have had credit and bank accounts hacked.

According to Javelin Research’s 2014 Identity Fraud Report, 13.1 million individuals fell prey to identity fraud in 2013 — and fraudsters got away with about $18 billion. Javelin figures that 88 percent of this sum came from fraud on existing credit-card accounts; it notes that data breaches provide the greatest risk for identify fraud.

One can barely imagine the scope of identity fraud in 2014, which has been named “The Year of the Data Breach” by Infosecurity Magazine.

We know, from its earnings report, that Target spent $148 million coping with the effects of the December 2013 data breach that snared information on more than 40 million customers.

We also know that the data breach at JPMorgan Chase, the nation’s largest bank, yielded the personal information of some 76 million households and 7 million small businesses, and that Home Depot’s servers disgorged data on 56 million customers.

The United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team estimates that more than 1,000 U.S. businesses have been affected by point-of-service malware. And on the last day of October, the makers of Drupal software, a popular website-management suite, announced that upwards of 10 million sites using their software were most likely compromised by hackers.

How are consumers responding to what seems to be an ever-growing threat? Numerous polls say they are “very concerned,” especially right after announcements of a new mega-breaches. Yet the majority of consumers are doing little to protect themselves, be it changing passwords or checking credit records. Pollsters are surmising this inaction is a result of so-called “data-breach fatigue.” Data thefts are being reported with such regularity that consumers have started accepting them as part of the “new normal,” one of the costs of doing business on the Internet.

Of course, as we have been forecasting, career opportunities will be robust in this arena. The security guard of the future has the technical acumen to meet these complex cyber threats. 

But the opportunities don’t lie solely with traditional avenues of training and career development, and the big company names that look for workers in those circles. This trend line is so broad and ongoing, that entrepreneurs with tech savvy skills and vision will find healthy niches to fill standing side by side with the familiar corporate entities.  

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