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Legal, Regulatory, and Privacy Issues

Data breach downturn is a silver lining in 2020

The number of Americans affected by data leaks is nearly 80% lower this year than in 2018, according to the ITRC

Summary

After rising significantly last year, the number of U.S. data breaches has dramatically reversed course so far in 2020, bringing the number of breaches even lower than it was at this time two years ago.

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After rising significantly last year, the number of U.S. data breaches has dramatically reversed course so far in 2020, bringing the number of breaches even lower than it was at this time two years ago.

ITRC 2020 data breach study

Adding to the positive news is that the number of U.S. individuals impacted by data breaches has declined even more precipitously, with a big drop in 2019, and an even larger decline so far this year.

The data comes from the Identity Theft Resource Center’s latest quarterly report, covering the first three quarters (January through September) of each year.

Year-to-date comparisons show that the number of publicly reported U.S. data breaches rose 23% in the first three quarters last year, from 964 breaches in 2018 to 1,190 in 2019. But so far this year, the data show just 846 breaches, bringing the number 12% below the 2018 figure.

“If data breaches continue at this pace for the remainder of 2020, we could see our lowest number of breaches since 2015,” said Eva Velasquez, president and CEO of the Identity Theft Resource Center.

See related: COVID fallouts highlight need for robust data privacy laws

Meanwhile, the number of individuals touched by breaches is on a steep decline. The January through September reading for 2018 was 1.371 billion Americans. (Each time an individual’s data is involved in a breach, they are counted as an impacted individual, so those impacted by more than one breach are counted more than once.)

After the first three quarters of 2019, the number of impacted individuals had dropped to 897 million, for a 35% decrease. But 2020 has so far registered substantially lower still, at just 292 million individuals. That’s 67% below last year, and 79% lower than in 2018.

The ITRC has been tracking publicly reported data breaches and the number of exposed records since 2005, confirming the data by the breached entities themselves, various media sources or notification lists from government agencies. Its latest quarterly report was released Oct. 14.

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