Data Breaches Exposed 18 Billion Records In First Half Of 2021

1,767 reported breaches in six months is a huge number... but it's actually down from previous years.
Adam Rowe

The business world saw a total of 1,767 publicly reported data breaches across the first six months of 2021, accounting for the exposure of 18.8 billion records.

The number of breaches has actually dropped by 24% since the previous year, according to a new study.  That's right, folks, attacks have dropped down to a mere “alarming” pace, experts say.

Here's all the industry-wide statistics to know, along with more insight on why our high level of online attacks is here to stay.

18.8 Billion Accounts Exposed

The data comes from Risk Based Security's 2021 Mid Year Data Breach report, which collates all publicly disclosed data compromise events that were reported between January 1 and June 30, comparing them to those from the same time period in earlier years.

By their accounting, the number of breaches in 2021's first half is down 24% from the same time in 2020. The number of records exposed has dropped as well — 27.8 billion records were exposed in H1 2020 alone.

That said, these more recent attacks are still very much something to worry about.

“Ransomware attacks continue at an alarming pace, inflicting serious damage on the victim organizations that rely on their services,” Inga Goddijn, Executive Vice President at Risk Based Security, comments. “The slow pace of reporting brought on by lengthy incident investigations has not improved, and attackers continue to find new opportunities to take advantage of changing circumstances.”

One more interesting fact from the study: The healthcare sector remains hackers' biggest target.

Healthcare Breaches on the Rise

Healthcare businesses accounted for the most breaches in the first half of 2021, according to Risk Based Security's findings.

They aren't alone in pointing this out, either. Egress' 2021 Insider Data Breach Survey found that the healthcare sector experienced a 51% increase in the total number of records exposed in comparison with 2019.

Ransomware is also on the rise, according to the same report, with payments to hackers up a shocking 337% from 2019 to 2020.

Can Working From Home Boost Risk?

It's unclear whether the shift to remote work due to the COVID 19 pandemic has been responsible for any of the data breaches, though it's tough to imagine the rapid and unexpected shift in policy back in March 2020 didn't leave organizations more exposed then normal.

Organizations have sinced stocked up on all the security precautions they need, from VPNs to remote work software to organization-wide password management tools, which could account for the drop in breaches between the first halves of 2020 and 2021.

But in the end, phishing is the biggest concern — and that's true whether employees are working at home or in the office. Don't click that suspicious email link, or your team might wind up on the data breach list covering the rest of the year.

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Adam is a writer at Tech.co and has worked as a tech writer, blogger and copy editor for the last decade. He's also a Forbes Contributor on the publishing industry (and Digital Book World 2018 award finalist) and has appeared in publications including Popular Mechanics and IDG Connect. When not glued to TechMeme, he loves obsessing over 1970s sci-fi art.

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