Report: Data Breaches on the Rise in NY

By Joe Gullo

Published 07/15 2014 11:49AM

Updated 07/15 2014 01:22PM

ALBANY, N.Y. - A new report by the New York Attorney General's Office found a rise in data breaches across the state.

A press release says the report, Information Exposed: Historical Examination of Data Security in New York State, looked at eight years of security breach data and how it impacted New Yorkers. The report found that security breaches tripled between 2006 and 2013 and cost New Yorkers $1.37 billion in 2013.

Source: New York State Security Breach Reporting Forms (2006-2013).

“As we increasingly share our personal information with stores, restaurants, health care providers and other organizations, we should be able to enjoy the benefits of new technology without putting ourselves at risk. Unfortunately, our expansive look at data breaches found that millions of New Yorkers have been exposed without their knowledge or consent. It’s clear that a broad, concerted public education campaign must take place to ensure that all of us – from large corporations, to small businesses and families – are better protected,” said Attorney General Schneiderman. “Moving forward, I will advocate for collaboration between industry and security experts to ensure that organizations across the state and country have access to the tools needed to secure our data, so we can best address this complex and growing problem.”

The Attorney General's Office says that a wide range of organizations from local family business to large multinational corporations reported breaches to them over the past eight years.

Industry Breaches in NY Since 2006

Source: New York State Security Breach Reporting Forms (2006-2013).

Ways to Protect Yourself

The Attorney General’s Office recommends that organizations follow these simple steps to help protect sensitive personal information against unauthorized disclosures. 

  • Understand Where Your Business Stands: The first step toward an effective data security policy is to understand what information your business requires for its operation, what data have already been collected and stored, how long the data are needed and what steps have been taken to ensure security. Organizations should review how sensitive data are acquired, how sensitive information is being shared with third parties, and what access controls are in place. 
  • Identify and Minimize Data Collection Practices: Put simply, data that do not exist cannot be stolen or lost. Collect only information that you need, store it only for the minimum time that you need it, and deploy data minimization tactics wherever possible. For example, if your company uses a point-of-sale system, ensure that expiration dates are not stored with credit card numbers. Reduce the use of highly sensitive data points, such as Social Security numbers, unless absolutely necessary, and minimize the length of retention for such data.  Delete any information you no longer need.
  • Create an Information Security Plan That Includes Encryption: Creating a comprehensive Information Security Plan is a complex but necessary endeavor. Studies show that entities with an effective plan will articulate not only technical standards but will incorporate training, awareness, and detailed procedural steps in the event of data breaches. Read more about what a comprehensive security plan should include in the report. 
  • Implement an Information Security Plan: Successful implementation of a thoughtfully designed plan can be one of the most effective ways to minimize the risk of a data breach. Elements to consider when implementing a plan include ensuring employees are aware of the plan and conducting regular reviews to ensure the plan continues to conform with evolving best practices. 
  • Take Immediate Action in the Event of a Breach: Remember to investigate all security incidents immediately and thoroughly. In the event of a breach, the law may require you to notify consumers, law enforcement, state Attorney Generals’ offices, credit bureaus and other businesses.
  • Offer Mitigation Products in the Event of a Breach: While not required by law, New Yorkers affected by a data breach should be provided with mitigation services for free. These include credit monitoring, which provides alerts, usually by email, whenever an application for new credit is submitted to a consumer credit reporting agency, and a security freeze, which blocks new credit accounts. The cost of clearing up the consequences of identity theft can easily reach into the thousands of dollars and require hundreds of hours attending to administrative burdens.  

The Attorney General’s Office suggests that consumers guard against threats in the following ways:

  • Create strong passwords for online accounts and update them frequently. Use different passwords for different accounts, especially for websites where you have disseminated sensitive information, such as credit card or Social Security numbers. 
  • Carefully monitor credit card and debit card statements each month. If you find any abnormal transactions, contact your bank or credit card agency immediately. 
  • Do not write down or store passwords electronically. If you do, be extremely careful of where you store passwords. Be aware that any passwords stored electronically (such as in a word processing document or cell phone’s notepad) can be easily stolen and provide fraudsters with one-stop shopping for all your sensitive information. If you hand-write passwords, do not store them in plain sight. 
  • Do not post any sensitive information on social media. Information such as birthdays, addresses, and phone numbers can be used by fraudsters to authenticate account information. Practice data minimization techniques. Don’t overshare.
  • Always be aware of the current threat landscape. Stay up to date on media reports of data security breaches and consumer advisories.  

The Attorney General’s Office recommends taking the following steps if you believe you have been victimized by a data security breach: 

  • User Names and Passwords: For user names and passwords, change them immediately on the relevant account  and monitor the account for unusual activity. If you use the same user name or password on other accounts, change those as well.  
  • Credit Card Numbers: For breaches involving credit card numbers, Social Security numbers and other sensitive numbers, create an Identity Theft Report by filing a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission and printing your Identity Theft Affidavit. You can call the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) at 1-877-438-4338 or complete the form online here. Use the Identity Theft Affidavit to file a police report and create your Identity Theft Report. An Identity Theft Report will help you deal with credit reporting companies, debt collectors and any fraudulent accounts that the identity thief opened in your name.  You may also want to put a fraud alert and/or security freeze on your credit report by notifying each of the credit reporting agencies (Equifax, TransUnion or Experian).  A security freeze remains on your credit file until you remove it or choose to lift it temporarily when applying for credit services. 
Read the full report.

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