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Lost records down even though breach incidents soared

Conflicting findings from Verizon report puzzle security watchers

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The number of records lost to security breaches last year decreased dramatically, even though incidents of breaches actually increased.

The latest Global Data Breach Investigations Report from Verizon Business found the number of breached records fell from 144 million in 2009 to only four million last year. Yet the much reduced figure covers 760 data breaches, the largest caseload to date, and far higher than the 141 breaches analysed in 2009.

The conflicting figures have left security watchers scratching their heads. One possible explanation is that earlier editions of the report took in the effects of the infamous TJX Maxx and Heartland security breaches, which effectively skewed the figures upwards.

Verizon reckons the focus is moving away from large scale breaches to smaller, opportunistic attacks. Physical attacks - including manipulating common credit-card devices such as ATMs, petrol pumps and point of sale terminals - are all on the rise, playing a role in 29 per cent of the cases investigated.

Hacking (50 per cent) and malware (49 per cent) were the most prominent types of attack, with external criminal hackers (rather than corrupt insiders) blamed for 92 per cent of scams.

The US Secret Service collaborated with Verizon in preparing the report, which this year also involved input from the National High Tech Crime Unit of the Netherlands Policy Agency (KLPD). Verizon's annual study is considered among the best of its type in the industry. ®

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