A simple step can hinder thieves

Back Article Jul 1, 2013 By Bill Sessa

Last year, 2.5 million Californians were victims of security breaches that revealed their personal information to unauthorized people, according to the state Attorney General.

More dramatic than the number of people victimized is the conclusion that 1.4 million of those people would have been protected if merchants and businesses had taken the simple step to encrypt the data, inserting a digital key that locks access to information as it is transmitted.

Since 2003, California businesses have been required to notify consumers if someone breaches their data system and intercepts personal information. Forty-six states have followed suit. Those businesses are now also required to report any data breach that affects more than 500 people to the California Attorney General. The report, released this summer, is based on those first reports. 

An average of 22,500 people were affected by each of the 131 incidents reported, although some were larger and five affected 100,000 or more people, according to the report. Retail stores accounted for the most incidents (26 percent of the cases), followed by finance and insurance (23 percent) and healthcare (15 percent).

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