Recently the California Attorney General’s office released its report pertaining to data breaches in California and the results are quite disturbing. More than 2.5 million Californians were victims of the 131 reported data breaches that occurred in California in 2012. Similar results would be expected in the rest of the states. Sensitive information that was stolen included names, Social security numbers, credit card numbers, bank account numbers, medical information and insurance information, all of which could be used to make the victims of the data breaches victims of identity theft. The worst part of this sad fact is that to a great extent this problem could have been avoided by simply encrypting the data. Encryption is easy to put in place and is quite effective against data breaches, yet companies, state and federal agencies still do not use it sufficiently. NASA had two major data breaches in the past year and still does not encrypt its data.
So what does this mean to you and me? First, it means that regardless of how careful we are in taking steps to protect the security of our personal information, we are only as safe as the companies and governmental agencies with which we do business that have the worst security measures in place. That makes it even more important that you take steps such as putting on a credit freeze to prevent your credit from being misused by someone who may get access to your Social Security number. You can get information as to how to put on a credit freeze by going to the Scamicide archives or my book ” 50 Ways to Protect Your Identity in a Digital Age.” You also should use encryption programs, security software and anti malware software and make sure that you keep these programs updated. As for the companies and governmental agencies with which we do business, it is up to us to demand our legislators enact legislation requiring encryption of data by anyone holding such personal information. There is even more that can and should be done, but this would be a good start.