The state of California received 131 reports of data breaches last year as firms are failing to adopt best practices for data security.
A report from Attorney General Kamala Harris found that around 2.5 million citizens had their data put at risk from the leaks, many of which would have been preventable had companies used basic security practices.
According to the report, 1.4 million people would have been protected from the breaches had the firms handling their data simply encrypted the information before moving it offsite. Lack of encryption was blamed for 28 percent of the reported leaks.
“Data breaches are a serious threat to individuals' privacy, finances and even personal security,” said Harris. “Companies and government agencies must do more to protect people by protecting data.”
The study found that each reported data breach exposed on average around 22,500 users, while the five largest breaches leaked the data of more than 100,000 people. Retailers reported the most leaks, accounting for 26 percent of breaches.
According to the study, more than half of all data breaches – 55 percent – were the work of outside attackers, while the remaining 45 percent were inside leaks perpetrated by malicious or careless employees.
Of particular interest to hackers was social security data. The study found that 56 percent of the reported breaches involved social security numbers.
The state of California is among a growing group of government agencies calling for greater scrutiny on data breaches. The European Commission recently proposed a set of tighter standards that would force companies to disclose data breaches to government officials.
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