CONSUMER FIRST ALERT: How to protect yourself as data breaches hit record levels

Updated: Jan. 30, 2022 at 6:00 AM CST
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GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) - A new report shows 2021 was a record-breaking year for data breaches.

The annual Data Breach Report comes from the non-profit Identity Theft Resource Center. President and CEO Eva Velasquez says the number of breaches increased more than 68 percent from 2020.

“No industry and no entity is immune to a data breach or a cyber attack. Even our government agencies,” says Velasquez. “When we look at actual fraud that occurs, particularly at state level, that really just exploded. Identity crimes, particularly with unemployment identity theft, were at an all-time high.”

The ITRC has been tracking trends for 16 years. The attacks have become more sophisticated.

“The reason that you’ve heard ransomware is the buzzword, it’s because ransomware related to data breaches have doubled in each of the past two years,” says Velasquez. “It is absolutely growing at this exponential rate.”

Cyber criminals are using phishing attacks on employees.

“Some of these phishing emails are so sophisticated it is impossible to tell the difference. They’re properly branded, the language is clean, in line with we always tell people. You must adopt this sort of zero-trust attitude. If you didn’t initiate the contact, then you don’t know where it’s coming from,” says Velasquez.

Nearly 300 million people have had personal information exposed in attacks. Fewer than half of those people changed passwords on the affected account.

“There’s a bit of fatigue here. Breach fatigue. But the message people need to understand is this is the world we live in. Are you exhausted that you have to lock your car every time you leave it? Close your windows? Arm your security system if you have one in your home? Yes. It’s not a fun activity, but it is how the world works now. Data is one of the drivers. We’re all creating data. We have sensitive data and that’s part of keeping ourselves safe,” says Velasquez.

The ITRC pushes businesses to be upfront when it happens.

“We really want to compel businesses without naming and shaming to be more transparent and allow the individuals who are impacted to understand what the action steps are that they need to take, and the best ways they can do that is to be very clear about exactly, precisely what data was compromised about those folks,” says Velasquez.

The ITRC offers free support at

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