Hackers steal 1 billion personal data points - IBM

Cyber crooks are intent on stealing personal information. (Duncan Alfreds, Fin24)
Cyber crooks are intent on stealing personal information. (Duncan Alfreds, Fin24)

Cape Town - Cybercrime is costing businesses a fortune as data leaks hamper business growth, says a study that seeks to quantify the losses.

According to a global study by IBM, a billion pieces of personal data were lost in 2014, leading to a cost of R432 256 000. But cyber thieves have escalated their activities in 2015, already costing businesses R465 412 000, or an increase of 7.67%.

The IBM Q1 Xforce report and earlier Ponemon Institute reports found that all metrics related to the impact of cybercrime had increased significantly.

The cost in lost business increased from R16 332 400 to R19 279 600; the cost of a forensic investigation jumped from R9 332 800 to R12 157 200; even the cost per lost record increased marginally from R1 953 to R2 088.

The trust that consumers place in companies could be seriously eroded by cyber criminals stealing personal information.

Industries at risk

The IBM study found that while SA was relatively young in terms of the country's exposure to internet-based crime, cyber crooks were taking a closer look at the local environment.

Internet thieves have demonstrated their intent to steal personal information. (Duncan Alfreds, Fin24)

"South Africa faces unique challenges, and with global trends flowing down, it is critical that businesses understand their vulnerabilities and make sure they are protected," said the study.

Industries such as health and education faced the most serious risk of data loss, according to the research.

Data loss in the global health sector amounted to R4 506.34 per record, while education came in at R3 723.24, followed by pharmaceuticals (R2 730.48), finance (R2 668.32) and communications (R2 221.44).

"We trust these institutions to have sufficient security in place to protect the consumer. This is where the problem starts. Without handing over our identity to a total stranger we cannot transact. The very legislation that was designed to protect us is actually exposing us to the threat of identity theft," Independent Identity Verification expert Dawid Jacobs recently told Fin24.

"The internet is a very efficient way for the fraudster to operate. They stay anonymous.  More recently people have become victims through dating websites," said Jacobs, referring to the hack of dating website AshleyMadison.com.

That breach saw 37 million records being stolen leading some to speculate about the motives of the hackers as the site specialises in facilitating affairs.

IBM said that in organisations a security conscious culture could go a long way to mitigating cyber breaches.

"All it takes is one careless employee to undo a chief security officer's master plan. That's why every employee must work in partnership with security professionals to ensure the safety of corporate data is built into the culture of the organisation."

* Update:
An earlier version of this story indicated the data was localised for SA.

- Follow Duncan on Twitter

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