According to a Pew Research Center survey conducted in January, nearly one in five Americans reported that they have had private information (such as such as social security and credit card numbers) stolen, an increase of 82 percent from July – that’s less than a year ago.
Since the survey was conducted, it's likely that even more Americans who have been affected by a data breach. The millions of consumers affected by the Target and Niemen Marcus data breaches (as well as any potential breaches still to come from the Heartbleed bug) will push these numbers even higher.
IT Liability: Social Networking Hacks Increased Drastically
Mobile app developers and web marketers should pay particular attention to one area of the Pew Research Center's survey: 21 percent of Americans reported that their email and social media accounts had been hacked.
This trend is likely to continue because, as we argued in our article "Survey: 28% of Companies Have No Mobile Strategy. Make Them Your Customers," many business owners lag behind mobile trends and will soon start investing more money in mobile apps and technology for their businesses. Mobile tech will continue to grow – and mobile liabilities and data breaches will likely increase as well.
Why Has There Been a Dramatic Increase of Data Breach Victims?
The big question underlying this research is why? Why have we seen an increase in data breaches? As an IT professional, you probably have a few guesses already. But let's go over three of the main reasons:
- More Americans going online. In recent years smartphones have become nearly ubiquitous, and older generations who first thought the technology silly have adopted it. Similarly, social media platforms (especially Facebook) have seen their demographics skew older as more and more older Americans have incorporated the Internet into their daily lives.
- Hackers getting better and smarter. This is the scary reason. Hackers, in recent years, have gotten increasingly good at finding ways into businesses. They've started to target third-party contractors and other small businesses that might have access to a larger company's networks. We outlined this third-party threat in "Help Your Clients Understand the Risks of Third-Party Contractors."
- Businesses under-investing in data security. Businesses often don't prioritize data security in the early stages of development. A company like WhatsApp runs into trouble when its code contains data security flaws that they overlooked because so much on focus was put into performance and growth instead of security.
These factors combine to paint a frightening picture of the data security landscape. There are more users and hackers than ever before, but businesses aren't doing enough to protect data.
As an IT consultant, that means you need to pick up the slack and make sure that your clients are protected from growing threats to their data. It also means that in the coming years, you will be exposed to more risk.
As data breaches increase, it becomes more and more likely that you or your clients will be affected by a breach. Errors and Omissions Insurance protects IT businesses from the cost of data breach lawsuits.
To learn more about how much E&O coverage IT professionals need and the risks they are exposed to, check out our IT insurance resources.