Hackers have exposed the personal information of 110 million Americans - roughly half of the nation's adults - in the last 12 months alone. That massive number, tallied for CNNMoney by Ponemon Institute researchers, is made even more mind-boggling by the amount of hacked accounts: up to 432 million.
The exact number of exposed accounts is hard to pin down, because some companies -- such as AOL (AOL) and eBay (EBAY, Fortune 500) -- aren't fully transparent about the details of their cyber breaches.
The damage is real. Each record typically includes personal information, such as your name, debit or credit card, email, phone number, birthday, password, security questions and physical address.
It's enough to get hunted down by an abusive ex-spouse. It makes you an easier target for scams. And even if only basic information about you is stolen, that can easily be paired with stolen credit card data, empowering impostors.
Cyberattacks are growing so numerous that we're becoming numb to them. Researchers at IT company Unisys (UIS) say we're now experiencing "data-breach fatigue." Even the most recent numbers make for a dizzying list:
- 70 million Target customers' personal information, plus 40 million credit and debit cards
- 33 million Adobe user credentials, plus 3.2 million stolen credit and debit cards
- 4.6 million Snapchat users' account data
- 3 million payment cards used at Michaels
- 1.1 million cards from Neiman Marcus
- "A significant number" of AOL's 120 million account holders
- Potentially all of eBay's 148 million customers' credentials
First, we're increasingly moving our lives online. Shopping, banking and socializing are now chiefly digital endeavors for many people. Stores rely on the Internet to conduct and process all transactions. As a result, your data is everywhere: on your phone, laptop, work PC, website servers and countless retailers' computer networks.
Second, hacks are getting more sophisticated. Offensive hacking weapons are numerous and cheap. And hackers have learned to quietly roam inside corporate networks for years before setting off any alarms.
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