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Hacking reaches stratospheric levels as a billion files were breached in 2014

by Josef Kafka

Hackers are having a whale of a time, according to a new report, with over one billion data breaches in 2014, propelled by attacks on some of the world's biggest companies. The report, the Breach Level Index, by digital security firm Gemalto, provides a sobering look at the real, and growing, online risks for firms everywhere.

Those billion beached files were the result, however, of just over 1,500 cyber-attacks around the world during the year, according to the report, which points out that it's a 49% rise on breaches in 2013. Even more alarming is that it represents a 78% increase in files that were lost or stolen the previous year.

From ordinary users to giant corporations, no one was safe online during 2014. The Breach Level Index, which records hacks as they occur – it shows that more than 2.8 billion records have been lost since 2013 – says the biggest victim of hackers in 2014 was the auction giant eBay, which had a staggering 145 million of its records compromised.

Others included the US retailer Home Depot (109 million files breached), the Korean Credit Card Bureau (104 million) and financial firm JPMorgan Chase (83 million files accessed). The year was rounded out by an enormous attack on Sony Pictures, when all kinds of confidential files, from addresses and phone numbers of actors to social security data, was pinched by hackers. 

Looking at the attacks in 2014 and the type of files the criminals were going after, it emerged that most were aiming for the theft of identity (54% of breaches), over other data, including financial information in the form of credit card and other banking details. It's believed that's because the cyber-criminals are intent on using the identities they steal to open bogus financial accounts as well as for a range of other criminal activities. 

Gemalto identity and data protection executive Tsion Gonen said: "we're starting to see that the universe of risk exposure for the average person is expanding".

Meanwhile, in the first month of 2015, more than 97.5 million files were compromised, according to the index, demonstrating that so far this year, there has been no let-up in hacking attacks. One way that individuals and companies can take the offensive in trying to thwart attacks on their systems is to employ the services of a good private investigator who's skilled in the area. They will be able to properly analyse systems for any potential flaws and monitor them for any usual activity – as well as track down anyone who does launch attacks – thus helping to ensure the overall integrity, and security, of valuable digital assets.

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